Boxing Across the Nation: Illinois-“The Drunken Master” Emanuel Augustus
Boxing has been apart of the American sports scene since the 1700s by way of England. It started by infiltrating the larger port towns before eventually working its way into the lexicon of America. Now it showcases some of the most talented combat sports athletes in the world. We will embark on a 50 part saga exploring the best boxers representing the United States. Some states will have more athletes to choose from than others but the journey will be quite the ride. Let’s embark on the journey looking at an interesting fighter or bout from each state. Our 13th entry is the state of Illinois.
Check out the 12 states we have covered by clicking below:
Illinois, the sixth-largest state by population, is the 25th largest state by landmass. The state was also the 21st to join the Union into statehood. With such a dense population, you can bet the state has produced several candidates for this article. Even the state’s former governor, Rod Blagojevich, had a run in the amateur ranks in the Golden Gloves. Former WBC heavyweight champions Oliver McCall and Ken Norton both also call Illinois their birth state. Packey McFarland, born in Chicago, is considered by The Ring Record Book and Boxing Encyclopedia call McFarland (born in 1888) the best fighter to never win a world title. But one name truly stands above the rest. Emanuel Augustus (born Emanuel Burton) known fondly in the boxing world as, “The Drunken Master,” is the ideal example of not letting a boxer’s record fool you.
Emanuel Augustus was born on January 02, 1975, in Chicago, Illinois. Originally born with the surname “Burton,” he later changed it to “Augustus” in 2001 when his parents married. At a young age, Augustus moved to Louisiana in a rough childhood that saw him bounce around in the foster care system. At the age of 17, he found a trainer by the name of Frank James, who operated 14st Street Gym in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the gym, Augustus would go on to meet two of the best friends he could ever hope to have in James Georgetown and LJ Morvant. Georgetown coaches his own stable of fights now and is a matchmaker for several boxing and MMA organizations. Morvant runs his own very successful boxing gym in Baton Rouge, Beat-2-Sleep Gym, where he trains some of the best boxers in the South.
Amateur Boxing Career and Gym-Time Wars
Augustus had the respect of all in his home gym. In an article for The Ring Magazine, Morvant stated, “He was the envy of the gym,” said Morvant, who met Augustus in 1996. “Even though he didn’t get the popularity he deserved here at home, in the gym nobody could beat him. He’d go through the whole gym and still be the man in the middle of the ring just wishing somebody would give him another round. He just never got enough.” His love and desire to compete were obvious when you take a look at his professional globe-trotting adventures. After 27 amateur bouts, Augustus decide it was time to turn pro
Unforgettable Professional Career
“Emanuel was always ready to take a fight because he sparred every day,” said Georgetown. Georgetown, who competed at 154 lbs, had several in-gym sparring wars with Augustus, who competed for the majority of his career at 140 lbs. This mentality and ability to stay in ring shape allowed Augustus to travel the world for many bouts. For example, the second half of 1998 was quite the year for Augustus. From May to September of that year, he fought (in the following order) Mississippi, Denmark, Louisiana, and Norfolk U.K. He went 3-0-1 during the span and won the IBF and WBO Inter-Continental light welterweight title from Jon Thaxton in the United Kingdom.
In 1978, actor Jackie Chan starred in the movie, “Drunken Master.” The movie launched Chan into stardom. You could say the same thing about Emanuel’s style bringing in a cult-like following to him and the sport. Emanuel’s style and flair for the dramatic garnered worldwide attention. Behind the showmanship and dancing laid a fierce competitor always ready for battle. Often Augustus was featured on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights as well as ESPN2’s Tuesday Night Fights. This worldwide exposure shined a spotlight on the Illinois-born Louisiana-raised fighter.
Taking on Floyd Mayweather Jr.
On October 21, 2000, Augustus gave the fighter many consider this generation’s greatest, Floyd Mayweather Jr., all he could handle. During a conference call in 2012, Mayweather gave Augustus a huge amount of respect even 12 years after their bout. When asked who was the toughest opponent he faced to that point in his career, Mayweather stated, “I’m going to rate Emanuel Augustus first compared to all the guys that I’ve faced,” Mayweather said. “He didn’t have the best record in the sport of boxing, he has never won a world title, but he came to fight.”
Fight of the Year with Micky Ward
Never one to turn down a potential battle, Augustus took on a bout with future Hall of Famer Micky Ward just three bouts after facing Mayweather. On July 13, 2001, the two met at the Hampton Beach Casino in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire in a 10-round war, which would win The Ring Magazine’s 2001 Fight of the Year. Morvant said of Augustus in an article for The Ring Magazine, “The man never turned down a fight, took ’em on short notice, and could never tell you who he was fighting,” he said.
“When he was fighting Mayweather and Micky Ward he didn’t know who they were. To me, that’s hilarious because while most guys are studying boxing, he was playing video games. He actually picked up stylistic points from video games. To me, that’s intriguing and separates him from every other boxer. Everybody knew who Floyd was, even back then, except for Emanuel. Everybody knew who Micky Ward was except Emanuel. He’d say, ‘I’m fighting next Friday’ and you’d say, ‘Who you fighting?’ and he’d say, ‘I don’t know.’ [laughs].”
Short-Notice Big Victory
As was customary for Augustus, he took a fight on two-days notice in Toppenish, Washington, to battle highly-ranked fighter, Carlos Wilfredo Vilches. Vilches was 37-1-2 coming into the bout. The huge upset win catapulted Augustus up to the number two rank in the world in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light heavyweight rankings. Unfortunately, Augustus would go on to lose his next four bouts in a row, all by unanimous decision. After the four-fight skid, Augustus had a draw with Alvaro Aguilar then found himself in an IBA World Super Lightweight title bout with Alex Trujillo in April 2004. Augustus took the unanimous decision from Trujillo out-striking him by nearly 70 strikes.
Last Championship to Storied Career
In a career that saw Augustus compete in 614 rounds of action in six countries, Augustus would win his last championship on December 09, 2006, in which he competed for the vacant WBC Continental Americas Super Lightweight Championship. Augustus dominated Russell Stoner Jones in a ten-round battle which saw Augustus earn every single round from all three judges.
The Day That Changed His Life
Monday, October 13, 2014, at 8:00 pm will be a date and time Augustus along with family and friends will never forget. The alleged suspect, Christopher Stills, was said to have been involved in a verbal altercation with his cousin in the 1700th block of Louisiana Ave of Baton Rouge. Shots were fired and Augustus was struck in the head. Though placed on life support, Augustus fought the biggest bout of his life and, for the most part, came out victorious. In 2016 the charges were dropped due to the loan witness passing away. In February 2020 Stills was again arrested, this time for stabbing two people.
Emanuel Augustus is the ideal example of not letting a record fool you about a fighter’s career. “The Drunken Master” is an icon of boxing in Baton Rouge and goes to the boxing gym. If there is one fighter who deserves more appreciation for what he has contributed to the sport, its the Illinois-born Louisiana-raised Emanuel Augustus.
I am a life-long MMA fan who has been a fan since UFC 1. I was born in Illinois but raised in South Louisiana, home of many great mixed martial artists. I started martial arts at the age of 4 and continued into my adult years where I served nearly 10 years in law enforcement. I feel my job is to convey the stories of the MMA fighters we enjoy to watch and share their stories with the world.
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