Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Monday, November 21, 2011

South grad’s moment recalled on Frazier’s death

If you walk into Helen’s Sunrise Cafe across from the West End YMCA in Willoughby — something I do two or three times a week — take a step to the right and look straight at the back wall. There is a large framed poster that will arrest your attention.

It is so big you can’t miss it — probably 3 feet wide and 2 feet high. Across the top it boldly proclaims in large letters “World Heavyweight Championship.”

Below that, in much smaller type, “Sat. Jan. 15, 1972 — The Rivergate.”

There are two pictures of prizefighters with their gloves up, in full boxing mode. Beneath the picture on the left it says, “Champion.” Under the right-hand picture it says, “Challenger.”

And in the middle, in very large letters, “Joe Frazier versus Terry Daniels.”

Yes, that Terry Daniels — outstanding football player at Willoughby South, who went to Southern Methodist to play football but suffered a knee injury that cut short his career on the college gridiron.
So he took up boxing.

He was still a kid when he stepped into the ring against the world heavyweight champion, but he had amassed a bunch of knockouts and could land a wallop as well as take a punch. So he had earned a shot at the biggest boxing crown in the world, against the reigning champ — the best fighter on the planet at the time.

That poster picture of Terry on the back wall at Helen’s tells you a lot. Poised, staring ahead, a mop of hair that made him look like a rock singer but with bulging muscles no Beatle ever sported, he looked as if he was ready and willing to step into the ring and take on the champ.

He had the boyish but rugged looks that make him look like a movie star — more so than any other prizefighter. Well, there was one fighter who thought he was better looking, and you all know who that was.

And he said it best: “Outside of me,” Muhammad Ali once said of Terry Daniels, “he’s the prettiest boxer around.”

I kept thinking back to that championship fight involving a kid once known around here as a football player following the death the other day of the champ he took on, the man known as Smokin’ Joe Frazier, best known for his three monumental battles with Ali, including the Fight of the Century and the Thrilla in Manilla.

What was a local kid doing in the ring against a man whose very name always brings mention of his titanic battles with Ali? Frazier, who died at 67, must have been really tough, right?

Well, yes. But the word “tough” also fits Terry Daniels. So does “fearless.”

If he had any fear when he entered the ring in New Orleans against Frazier, it didn’t show.

Judge for yourself. You can see the entire fight, which lasted the better part of four rounds, in which Terry got knocked down several times but kept getting back up, including the last time when he didn’t want to quit but the ref said he’d better.

The bout, all of it, including the introductions, is online. All you have to do is Google “Terry Daniels” and you can watch every second of his brave performance.

There are a lot of people named Daniels around Willoughby and Mentor — some very prominent people, as a matter of fact.

Terry’s grandfather, Lyle Daniels Sr., better known as “Doc,” was one of the original Daniels Brothers at the fuel oil company on Pelton Road. Doc’s brother, Willard, known as “Pete,” was the other brother.

Pete had only one kid, Frank, the renowned piano player. Doc had about six kids, including Bill, Terry’s dad.

I used to see Terry quite often at Helen’s. Sometimes he was with Bill, sometimes he was alone. His dad brought Terry to speak at a Willoughby Rotary Club luncheon shortly after the big fight.

I often sat down and talked with Terry at the restaurant — just small talk, nothing important, mainly just keeping in touch.

They haven’t seen him for about six months at Helen’s, but my daughter and son-in-law see him often where they live, in one of Willoughby’s older neighborhoods.

Terry often goes out for walks — except now with the aid of a walker.

His old strength may have left him, but he is still as ruggedly handsome as ever. Yes, he and Ali were surely the two prettiest boxers around.


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