'Thank you for enriching my life, Cowboy': Altamura on Dwight Ritchie
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Mike Altamura discusses the life and times of the late Dwight Ritchie and his unique approach to boxing...
In a sport that sees people come and go on a frequent basis, Mike Altamura has remained as one of the few global mainstays in the sweet science. The Australian has operated all over the world for decades, helping guide nine fighters to world title success, including Moruti Mthalane and TJ Doheny among others.
Despite success internationally, Altamura has always remained loyal to his roots, helping guide countless Australian to regional and international success. One of those standouts was Dwight Ritchie, who had a bright future ahead of him before being cruelly taken from us in a freak sparring accident with world title contender Michael Zerafa.
Death can be taken in many different ways, however, many would argue that a human being's life should be celebrated when they pass on to the next life. Dwight Ritchie's life and times are definitely those worth celebrating, and Altamura and friends discussed some of the tales of 'The Cowboy' on 'The Fight Game' podcast.
Altamura said: "I remember when I first saw Dwight, he was only about 14 and he battered a Commonwealth Champion I was managing at the time. I told him that he was a beautiful boxer and didn't have to stand and trade, his response was, "I'm a f****** fighter mate!" He spoke with so much conviction, he didn't seem trusting in others, as if he had been through a tough childhood. He had no ego, however, he was a true fighter.
"Dwight as a fighter was such a throwback fighter. He was a fighter, and at one point nobody in the amateurs would fight him. Despite this he stayed in the gym every day for the entire 12 months he was kept on the sidelines. He didn't miss a day. He only had 8 amateur fights but he turned pro quite young, with the idea of winning a national title a dream for Dwight."
As previously stated, and it cannot be stressed enough, Ritchie was really a throwback fighter. A true fighting man, a religious man and an honest man who would fight all comers.
Altamura discussed on 'The Fight Game' podcast some of the simple challenges he faced with Dwight in regards to the modern boxing business.
He said, "When it came to shorts Dwight just wanted old school red shorts with the white stripe. At the start of his career, he wouldn't put a patch on his shorts for sponsorship. If he was in a meeting with a potential $5,000 sponsor it would be a $0 sponsor quite shortly after the meeting started, however, as Dwight matured he began to understand the business and would be able to turn $5,000 into $10,000.
"We live in a world of Instagram boxers now. Just to get Dwight to put a post up about his fights was hard work itself. He wasn't interested in all the social media carry-on, he just wanted to fight. I had to force him just to put up a poster promoting his fight and had to remind him it was in the bout contract!
"One of the biggest things for Dwight was that he would always ask how many rounds the fight was. If he could have boxed a 50 round fight he would have. He was so old school in that way. He had heart and determination which is rarely found in boxing today."
Ritchie's only career goal when turning pro was to become Australian National Champion and Altamura discussed some of the obstacles that he had to overcome to get the fight made for the national title for Dwight.
Altamura said, "When it was talked about him fighting for the Australian title, it was hard to negotiate as Dwight was telling people he would fight for free for it! I had to tell him to leave the management to me, and we did secure him the fight.
"That was a special night. Dwight boxed beautifully and he won the Australian title in convincing fashion against a tough opponent from Queensland and we were all so proud of him that night as we were always proud of him throughout his life."
Ritchie's career success didn't stop there however, he traveled to Japan to win the OPBF middleweight title and then dropped down to super welterweight to win the IBF Australasian title in Melbourne prior to his final fight as a professional against the son of boxing legend Kostya Tszyu, Tim Tszyu in a fight where he fought like the warrior he had always been since his youth. Despite domestic and international success, Dwight always stayed loyal to his faith and his roots.
Dwight Ritchie sadly passed away in November of 2019, and Altamura gave a tribute in his own words.
He said, "I feel deeply for his love, Samara. She’s an amazing woman that made a significant difference in his life. I noticed a seismic shift in Dwight’s temperament a couple of years ago. He matured into a responsible, caring, well-spoken gentleman filled with gratitude.
"A press conference with earlier versions of him could potentially be disastrous, though in recent times he spoke so humbly and eloquently. It was truly inspiring. A proud Yorta Yorta man with a magnetic presence.
"I’m not sure if Jimmy Barnes’ “Working Class Man” will ever sound quite the same again, and I’ve wrestled with the concept of walking away from the industry completely. But I hear the encouragement of “The Fighting Cowboy” echo. “Saddle up, Mikey. She’ll be right.”
"Thank you for enriching my life, Cowboy. I love you, and I will never forget you."