Trainer Steve Canton hopes Naples’ Freeman Barr Blasts Wyatt Earp kin in comeback fight
By Scott Clair, Naples Daily News, August 31, 2010
Freeman "The Natural" Barr, of Naples, warms up in the ring with his trainer and manager of 16 years, Steve Canton, of Fort Myers, not pictured, before a public sparring session in the parking lot of John Hall's Goal Post Grill and Sports Bar in Port Charlotte on Sunday, August 15, 2010. Barr, a two-time middleweight world champion who had his career sidelined in 2004 by a disease that attacked his lungs, is set to fight a light heavyweight bout in the headlining match of "War on the Peace River" at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda this coming Tuesday. Tristan Spinski/Staff
NAPLES — There probably aren’t enough fingers and toes in all the world to count how many times Fort Myers gym owner Steve Canton stepped into a ring as a boxer’s chief second, or cutman, or manager. The list of champions Canton has worked with runs long, from featherweight king Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson to Hall of Famer Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. But that’s just a fraction of the man’s lifetime bout with the sweet science. When it comes to boxing, Canton has done it all.
Tuesday night’s “War on the Peace River” card featuring Naples light heavyweight Freeman Barr at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center in Punta Gorda, offers evidence of Canton’s impresario ways.
Besides acting as Barr’s manager, trainer and cutman, Canton also served as advisor to matchmaker Lee Anderson and promoter Jeff Brady, a former NFL linebacker, for the six-bout card.
For Barr (28-4, 15 KOs), it will be his first fight since 2006. Sarcoidosis, a disease due to inflammation most frequently found in the lungs, has kept the Bahama-born brawler on the ropes since 2004. In that time, Barr, a former IBO world middleweight champion, has had just three fights, including two knockout victories in 2006.
To face Barr, known as “The Natural,” Canton has brought in Dion Stanley of Kansas City, Mo., purported to be the great- great grandson of gunslinger Wyatt Earp.
“If you think my great-great grandfather made history with the shootout at the OK Corral,” said Stanley (10-3, 7 KOs), “wait ‘til you see my shootout in Punta Gorda with Freeman Barr.”
By day Stanley, 32, is a beer salesman, and Barr, 36, is an electrician. Both would have to live a thousand lifetimes to wear as many hats as the man who will bring them together.
Canton has been involved with the sport, one way or another, for 52 of his 64 years, first lacing up the gloves at the Police Boys Club in Brooklyn. He amassed a 122-3 amateur record, and went undefeated as a pro in 21 fights. It was a pair of brittle hands, his own, that KO'd Canton’s ring career.
Along his journey, Canton served a stint in Las Vegas as a co-host of a popular national boxing radio talk show, and has written articles for various fight publications. By his own account, Canton has either promoted or was a matchmaker for more than 800 fight cards contested throughout the world.
He was a technical adviser for the 1983 film “Tough Enough,” starring Dennis Quaid. In 2009, Canton, who also promoted the first live fight broadcast over the Internet, the first casino boxing in the state of Florida, and the first pay-per-view boxing event in the Caribbean, was inducted into the inaugural class of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame.
All-time great junior welterweight Aaron Pryor once said Canton was the reason he became a fighter.
Still, even with that background, Canton is focused on two things -- Barr’s fight Tuesday night, and finding Barr a fight after that.
“It’s very difficult finding an opponent for someone like Freeman,” Canton said. “World-class fighters and champions don’t want to gamble on losing their position.”
If Barr wins, Canton said the plans are to have other fights in October and December, and then look for a major title shot in 2011.But first Barr has to get by Stanley, winner of his last two fights.
“We prepared well,” Canton said. “Freeman’s in good shape mentally and physically. He’ll look to read (Stanley) for the first two rounds and counter what he sees.
“We’re looking for Freeman to stop him in four or five rounds.”
War on the Peace River
When: Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.
Where: Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda
Fight card: "Silky" Wilky Campfort (4-1) vs. Erix Quinteros, four rounds; "Sweet" Marquis Davis vs. Carlos Rodriguez, middleweights, four rounds; Manny "Shake 'em up" Woods vs. Avery McPhatter, junior middleweights, four rounds; Jesus "Acha" Lule vs. Yuniel Ramos, junior lightweights, four rounds; Daniel Kooij vs. Willie "Blackout" Chisholm, cruiserweights, six rounds; Freeman "The Natural" Barr (28-4) vs. Dion Stanley (10-3), light heavyweights, six rounds
Tickets: $75 elite ringside, $35 reserved ringside, $20 general admission.
Available at the Charlotte Harbor box office and SJC Boxing Gym in Fort Myers, and at http://bradyproductions.com.
Miscellaneous: There will be book signings by NFL great Tom Olivadotti and boxing historian Lee Groves.