Macon boxer Winters had link to Holyfield

sports@macon.comOctober 22, 2012 

Macon native Jakey Winters will forever hold a place in boxing history.

Winters, who died of colon cancer at the age of 49 a year ago this week, holds the distinction of being the first boxer to knock Evander Holyfield down in a contest. It came about in 1980, when Winters and Holyfield clashed in the semifinals of the Georgia Golden Gloves Championships in Atlanta when both were 18.

That knockdown led to Holyfield taking a bite out of Winters’ shoulder.

“I dropped him with a left hook to the body and doubled up to the head in the second round of a scheduled three-rounder,” Winters said at the time. “At that point, he was hurt and angry. I could see it in his eyes.”

After Holyfield got up, composed himself and withstood another barrage of punches, he grabbed Winters, spit out his mouthpiece and bit Winters’ right shoulder. The bite broke the skin and caused bleeding. Holyfield had a point taken away, and the fight continued with Winters winning on a unanimous decision. It was his second win over Holyfield, as he had also beaten him when both were 9 years of age.

Ironically, Holyfield was later involved in one of the most infamous “biting” incidents in boxing history. On June 27, 1997, in a heavyweight title bout with Mike Tyson, Tyson took a plug out of Holyfield’s right ear after having bit his left ear earlier during their match. The second bite led to his disqualification, giving the title to Holyfield -- one of a record four heavyweight crowns for the “Real Deal.”

Winters, named for middleweight champion Jake LaMotta -- “The Raging Bull” -- was destined to be a fighter. His father, Telum “Stormy” Winters, was a middleweight who compiled a 42-4 record as a professional.

Although he was named for LaMotta, Winters’ favorite boxer was Joe Frazier. Like Frazier, Winters was termed as more of a fighter than a boxer. Winters was a nine-time state champion while posting 102 wins in 112 bouts as an amateur.

Winters had a difficult growing up period, and boxing might have been an escape for him. His parents divorced early in his life, and then his father was killed by a girlfriend when Winters was just five. Then, when he was 18, his mother was shot and killed by her husband.

Jack Cantrell, who was involved in the sport for 35 years from 1963 until 1998 as a boxer, coach/trainer or referee, was Winters’ only coach during Winters’ amateur career.

“(Winters was) the best amateur fighter to come out of Macon,” Cantrell said. “He had a strong intense desire to win, and he brought that to his training sessions. Jakey really trained hard, and, in amateur boxing, when bouts are just three rounds, he was able to overwhelm most of his opponents because of his conditioning. He threw good accurate punches and ran his opponents out of gas. He was in such good condition that he would often fight two bouts back to back on the same day.”

Winters left Macon late in his teens, moving to South Florida, where he worked in the financial industry while also continuing his pro boxing career. He had five bouts as a professional, ending his career with a 4-1 record.

In the final few years of his life, his competitive nature surfaced again, as he became a regular in professional poker tournaments. But he never achieved the success there that he enjoyed in amateur boxing.

Contact Bobby Pope at

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