Sam Scaff is living a quiet life these days.

He lives in Raceland with his wife Terri and their three dogs and three cats.

But things were a lot different for him in the 1980s when he was in the prime of his professional boxing career. And on a cold December day in 1985 he fought one of the sport’s all-time greats in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

That fight against Mike Tyson is part of a recently released book written by Ted A. Kluck titled Facing Tyson: Fifteen fighters, fifteen stories.

“I wanted to let these fighters tell their stories. Fighters are great story tellers,” said Kluck, a 30-year-old freelance writer who has written for and ESPN the Magazine among other publications. “I wanted to give a different perspective on Mike Tyson, one through the eyes of his opponents.”

Tyson defeated Scaff with a first-round knockout. The fight was called because Scaff’s nose was broken.

“He came out like he was trying to kill me. If I knew what to expect I would have kept a jab in his face, but I didn't know what to expect,” said Scaff, who briefly lived with Tyson in Catskill, N.Y., in trainer Cus D’Amato’s home. “Camille (Ewald, D’Amato’s common-law wife) told us, ‘You fix your own breakfast, your own lunch, you do your own dishes and I’ll do dinner.’ Tyson would joke around a lot when we were doing the dishes, but he kept to himself mostly.”

Kluck said Scaff was distinguishable from a lot of the fighters he talked to for his book.

Scaff, a 1974 Russell graduate who had a professional record of 32-12 and an amateur record of 75-5, came across as an everyday person, Kluck said.

“He had a workmanlike attitude toward boxing. He always kept a day job – he was a pipefitter and boxing was something he always did on the side – which I thought was cool,” Kluck said. “He is a guy who appreciated the sport and gave it his best shot. He had a real grounded perspective with a real life and a real job.”

Kluck said it was clear that boxing gave Scaff plenty of life experiences.

“He was from small-town Kentucky and there was a lot with Sam that I related to,” said Kluck, who now lives in Lansing, Mich. “He got to travel the world and have a lot of neat experiences. He carved out a pretty impressive career for himself.”

In 1986, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when he defeated WBC champion Trevor Berbick. He later took the WBA title from James “Bonecrusher” Smith and the IBF title from Tony Tucker, making him in 1987 the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Leon Spinks.

In 1992, Tyson was convicted by an Indiana jury of raping an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant. After spending three years in prison, Tyson returned to the ring in 1995 and a year later recaptured the WBC and WBA titles with wins over Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon, respectively.

Later that year he lost the WBA title to Evander Holyfield. In the rematch in 1997, Tyson was disqualified in a bizarre fight when he bit off pieces of Holyfield’s ears.

Scaff, who will turn 50 next summer, said he was saddened to see Tyson’s life take turns for the worse.

“I hated to see that. I was hoping he’d keep his head straight and be a true champion,” Scaff said. “I think it’s always the money that gets people and I think that’s what got him.”

Kluck said most of the fighters he spoke with are rooting for Tyson.

“Almost to a man, these guys really wish Mike Tyson well. They want to see him put his life back together,” Kluck said. “I would have guessed differently going into the project, but it was neat to see the close bond these guys have and the mutual respect they have for each other.”

RICK GREENE can be reached at or (606) 326-2664.


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