English 'Bouie' Fisher, celebrated boxing trainer, dies at 83

Posted: July 06, 2011

BOUIE FISHER, one of Philadelphia's greatest boxing trainers, was dying.

But he heard two men talking in his room in Virtua Hospital in Voorhees, N.J., one day last week and opened his eyes.

There was his son James and a surprise visitor - Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins, the man he had brought from the streets of North Philadelphia to a world championship.

Bouie's eyes widened as Hopkins started shadowboxing, to show he still had the style his trainer had taught him. He backed up so Bouie could see his feet, the movement of which is as vital to a fighter's success as his fists.

Bouie nodded his head in satisfaction, closed his eyes and never opened them again. He died Thursday after a 21-month battle with rectal cancer. He was 83 and had been living in Albion, Camden County, but had spent most of his life in North Philadelphia.

"It was a very profound moment," Hopkins said. "I teared up. James teared up. But it made me feel good."

"It was a very touching thing," James Fisher said. "They showed how much they loved each other. It was a scene that could have been scripted by Hollywood."

English "Bouie" Fisher, ranked by the experts as one of the greatest trainers in a city known for decades for its boxing legends, was also a dedicated family man with eight children, each of whom always got his undivided attention and devotion.

Although Hopkins was his most successful boxer, Bouie trained many others and passed on his expertise to those following him in the pursuit of the "sweet science."

"Philadelphia's deserved reputation as perhaps America's foremost boxing city is largely based on the quality of the veteran trainers who honed the skill of so many local fighters who went on to become champions," said Bernard Fernandez, Daily News boxing writer.

"Bouie was one of the last of a diminishing breed, so he will be missed from that perspective. But he also was a gentleman who cared deeply about his family and his fighters. If anything, he was a better human being than he was a trainer, and that is saying something."

The Boxing Writers of America voted Bouie Trainer of the Year in 2001.

He was born in Elliott, S.C., to Joseph L. Fisher and Mary Toney Fisher. He came to Philadelphia with his mother and four brothers when he was 10. He attended Daniel Boone High School.

At age 14, he went to a gym and fell in love with boxing. He fought some amateur bouts but never turned pro. Instead, he eventually turned his attention to training others.

Since his first child was born when he was only 20, Bouie had to make a living. He went to work as a truck driver for the McCloskey construction company in Philadelphia, where he was a member of the Teamsters union.

He began training fighters in the early '50s. His partnership with Hopkins began when Hopkins fought Greg Paige at the Blue Horizon, only the second fight of his pro career. He won.

Hopkins became the undisputed middleweight champ after beating Felix Trinidad with a TKO in the 12th round on Sept. 29, 2001, in New York.

The fighter had a reputation for stubbornness and often questioned everything his trainer told him, "but in the end he always follows the instructions of a man he loves and respects like blood kin," Bernard Fernandez wrote in 2005.

"Bouie is it," Hopkins said at the time. "He's the last link to that legacy. Who else is there? Name five others who have his credentials. Name two. Name one, even. You can't do it."

After Bouie's death, Hopkins said, "He was more like my father than my trainer."

James Fisher said that in growing up in sometimes dangerous North Philadelphia with Bouie as a father, there was nothing to fear. Even during the era of the street gangs, everyone had such respect for his father, the gangs never bothered his children.

"He was a hero in the neighborhood," James said. "It was the way he carried himself. Everything stopped when he came around. Everybody loved him.

"If I can be half the man my father was, I'll be a hell of a person."

Bouie married the former Peggy Ricks in 1948. Besides his son and wife, he is survived by two other sons, Andre and Bernard; five daughters, Bernadette Charles (Bernard's twin), Cecilia Branham, Josephine Fisher, Valerie Fisher and Victoria Fisher, and 15 grandchildren.

Services: 10 a.m. Saturday at Deliverance Evangelical Church, 2001 Lehigh Ave. Friends may call at 8 a.m. Burial will be in Ivy Hill Cemetery.

comments powered by Disqus