Turovers … by Alan B. Gibson

Posted June 23, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Fryman CardG.psd

A Kentucky Wildcat – Clinton County style

During this strange, pandemic forced stretch of no real sporting activities to report on or even talk about on the local levels, most newspapers are reaching back into the files and bringing back some great local sports memories.

In many cases, younger citizens are hearing about these events for the first time.

Last week’s notes about local football bowl ring owner Tom Allen was a good example of a story that needs to be remembered in local sports lore.

Another such story, or set of stories, came to mind a few weeks ago when I was getting ready to talk to Matt Jones on Kentucky Sports Radio for the Clinton County Day episode.

As I sat at a back desk the day before, trying to think of some obscure sports mentions, because I was sure they would be able to look up the easy ones, I glanced up at a large poster that has hung over that desk since the early 1980s, and my additional obscure fact fell in place.

Covering a local professional boxer, and later his brother, sent me all over the state of Kentucky in the 1980s as I watched, photographed, then wrote about Jeff Fryman’s debut as a lightweight pugilist who, for awhile, looked as if he might be set to make a run at a big title.

Jeff had been a classmate (Class of ‘76) as well as a teammate in basketball and golf, we were close friends.

Already married (to Gail Bowlin), Jeff followed in his father Richard’s footsteps to try his hands at professional boxing, and from the beginning it was clear he had what it took.

Fighting under the nickname of “The Kentucky Wildcat,” Jeff made a name for himself quickly by sending opponent after opponent crashing to the mat, usually early in the fight.

Two of his biggest venues came in back to back fashion when promoter John O’Brien, of the Covington, Kentucky area, promoted a “Big Summer Set Explosion” with Fryman as the main event.

With a 9-0 professional record, Jeff stepped into the ring that night with 2,000 people watching at Pulaski County High School gymnasium for a lightweight battle against the current Ohio Lightweight Jerry Strickland.

In what I then described as a “third round flurry of punches” Fryman sent Strickland stumbling and spinning, forcing the ring referee to stop the fight and raise Jeff’s arm in victory to set his record at 10-0.

Later that night, Greg Fryman, carrying the nickname “The Bluegrass Bomber,” who was Jeff’s younger but bigger brother, made his professional debut as a Jr. Middleweight, earning his first pro victory after a first round right punch sent Percy McCarly to the mat for the 10 count.

Jeff’s biggest fight came next when he and Greg were placed on a three bout card in Rupp Arena to fight before the closed circuit airing of a middleweight championship fight between Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler.

Having been picked up by the Sylvester Stallone Boxing Camp, Tiger Eye Productions, the Fryman brothers were the stars of the night that evening in Rupp Arena.

Greg won his bout with another first round knockout from a flurry of headshots that sent Vern Mitchell to the mat.

Jeff had to go the distance, a “12 round war” that earned him a unanimous decision over Glover Washington, and a trip to center ring to accept the Kentucky Lightweight Boxing Championship belt.

On hand that night to help him put the belt on was another professional athlete from Clinton County, Rex Guffey, who was working as a professional horse racing jockey, and has since retired and returned home to Clinton County.

At that moment, everything looked good for the Fryman brothers and covering them at this game was a blast.

Pre-and post-fight dressing room interviews every night and even a few trips back to the motel after the fights on long road trips made for some memorable events.

I don’t remember how much longer Greg stayed in the ring, but Jeff’s career ended a few fights later one night in Texas in a disaster that went entirely too far.

A cut over the eye left Jeff unable to see at all, and had the referee stopped the fight then, Jeff’s career might have continued to the top.

As it was, the ring looked like a bloodbath when the fight ended, and Jeff’s career ended soon after that.

Still, following the Clinton County Fryman boys and covering their ring wins was one of the more memorable stretches I’ve had in this spot.

Next time you see The Bluegrass Bomber, or The Kentucky Wildcat, thank them for at one time, putting Clinton County sports on the map.

In the meantime – no sports at all stinks!