Where Are They Now: Boone 'Boom Boom' Kirkman, boxer
He was the king of Seattle boxing in the 1960s and '70s, a hard-charging heavyweight who brawled with George Foreman
and lived to tell about it. Today, "Boom Boom", leads a more practical life
reprinted from the Seattle Post article 06/23/05,
written by Dan Raley
RENTON -- The man walks into the Yankee Grill and Roaster near the intersection of Interstate 405 and State Route 167, and he
can't be Boone Kirkman. There's not a mark on him. He's too robust, upright, intact, to have been one of Seattle's most revered
boxers, a heavyweight everyone called "Boom Boom."
Upon closer inspection, there's a hearing aid in his left ear. Yet he's not at
all convinced the acoustic tumor removed and near deafness that resulted
was punch-related. Plus, he just turned 60.
Everyone should look so hearty after getting up in the morning and going the distance for a full six decades.
These days, Kirkman climbs out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and, after taking a shower, drinking coffee and reading the
Post-Intelligencer as routine, arrives at work two hours later. He's a truck driver for Boeing, fighting traffic and nothing more. He
makes deliveries to the Renton plant, Everett plant, Boeing Field and SouthPark, transporting sensitive instruments that balance
jet wings. It's a different sort of roadwork.
"Eight-for-eight and get out the gate", he quips of a busy shift that ends at 3 p.m.
It's been 27 years since his last fight -- a fourth-round knockout victory of the not so aptly named Charles Atlas at the Seattle
Center Arena. There were no belated comebacks and no regrets.
After 75 professional and amateur bouts, Kirkman knows he bailed from the ring at the proper time. He couldn't dodge the fierce
left hook of George Foreman or Ken Norton's pounding right uppercut, but he appears to have sidestepped the sport's worst
"I see all those old fighters who have boxer's dementia," Kirkman said, naming off Floyd Patterson, Al Hostak, Dick Wagner and
the late Harry "Kid"Matthews. "It's kind of scary. I feel pretty lucky. I have my health. I have a good memory and everything. At least
A direct hit with Seattle
Remembering everything that happened, even with the soundest of minds, is a workout.
For more than a dozen years, Kirkman had the Northwest bobbing and weaving with his every punch, if not personally feeling the
effects of each one that rocked his thick frame.
"Boone was a crowd-pleaser, and that's what people liked," said Pat McMurtry, 73, former Tacoma heavyweight boxer and a
referee for several of Kirkman's bouts. "He drew real well, gate-wise. He was good for boxing."
Kirkman gave Seattle a big-league draw before the NBA brought the Sonics to the city, regularly filling the Coliseum with adoring
fans. A crowd of 11,306 showed up in the summer of 1967 for his first important bout against Eddie Machen. Another 13,711
saw him beat Doug Jones a few months later and avenge his first pro defeat. He had 10,072 ringside when he defeated Jimmy
Ellis in '73, 11,039 when he lost to Norton a year later.
Kirkman was so popular, people used to crowd into Renton's Melrose Tavern, which he co-owned, just to watch him skip rope
and hit the speed bag late at night.
"t was fun until about 11:30, when all the weirdoes started coming in," he said.
There were other difficulties: "People used to smoke in the bar and, after I worked out, I could hardly breathe."
He was this engaging kid from Renton, so handsome and humble, with close ties to his family. His father, brother and sister
worked at the Melrose. His niece is a hostess there now, with the place converted into a steakhouse.
Kirkman regularly emerged from his downtown Renton home, yelled "Popsicles!" and then doled out the frozen treats to a dozen
neighborhood kids who came running on cue.
"Boone, in the ring, was an animal," said Dick Francisco, 82, a former heavyweight boxer and long-time trainer who lives on
Whidbey Island. 'He was tough, had the determination and had the killer instinct. Put all of that together, being a gentleman
besides, and that's what champions are made of."
Kirkman became a boxer for resourceful and romantic reasons. He had a few minor scrapes and his older brother, Steve, used
to good-naturedly knock him around, breaking Boone's collarbone once by knocking him into a piano stool; his father, Oehm,
took him to see the local Golden Gloves bouts; and he was mesmerized by the Paul Newman boxing movie, "Someone Up
There Likes Me."
At 14, Kirkman rode the bus after school from Renton to the Cherry Street gym in downtown Seattle. His interest in the sport
lagged after he got cut inside the mouth practically every day, and took off when he started winning Golden Gloves events and
was presented with souvenir jackets, which he still owns, in Portland, Tacoma and Seattle.
On March 26, 1965, he became an overnight sensation by winning the national AAU heavyweight championship in Toledo, Ohio.
He had three fights, three knockouts.
Kirkman signed with flamboyant Seattle fight manager Jack Hurley, probably not an ideal coupling. He had a basic goal in mind.
"I always had it in my heart, that even if I didn't win, I just wanted to have a shot at the title," he said. "My plan was to fight Ali."
No Garden party
Kirkman twice was ranked seventh among the world's heavyweights by Ring Magazine, even put on the cover of that publication
in 1968, considered an industry badge of honor.
He was 22-1 with 18 knockouts and full of great hope -- Great White Hope, as boxing's politically incorrect suggested at the time
-- when he stepped into the ring with an undefeated Foreman at New York's MadisonSquareGarden on Nov. 18, 1970.
It was a disaster. The fight lasted just three minutes and 41 seconds, barely two rounds. Kirkman was knocked down three
times. Foreman rushed from his corner at the opening bell to land a first, rather unorthodox, blow.
"He shoved me with one hand and hit me with the other," Kirkman recalled. "I landed on my butt in the middle of the ring. You
see old fight films of a guy looking up at the lights. That was me."
The outcome was such a letdown, coupled with a collarbone injury suffered in a subsequent training session, that Kirkman
didn't fight for two more years. He parted badly with Hurley. They had argued over sparring partners; three had been offered and
rejected in New York, with the fight manager settling for someone else, concerned about cost-cutting measures. Money issues
were brought up.
"A basketball player gets more in fines for a punch than I got," Kirkman said.
The loser's cut had been $80,000, counting gate receipts from a crowd of 18,036 and national closed-circuit TV revenues, with
the Foreman bout serving as the front end of a doubleheader that included a Joe Frazier-Bob Foster fight from Detroit. Kirkman
received less than half of the $80,000 and just $2,500 of the telecast money.
"When Hurley had Boone, he wasn't giving Boone his fullest attention, that's my personal opinion," Francisco said of the
promoter, who died in 1972. "I think if Boone had gotten more of the real Hurley, the vibrant and energetic Hurley, he would have
gone much further."
Kirkman regained momentum and his following with 10 consecutive victories before catastrophe struck again. This was worse
In Dallas in '74, he took on Al Jones. The guy was 4-18. Kirkman knocked him down four times in the first two rounds. Somehow
Kirkman ended up on his back, unconscious, 15 seconds into the third round. It was the only time in his career the lights would
go out completely. It was the biggest upset in boxing that year.
"I came out with my head down and he threw a wild right," he said. "I remember getting hit and falling. When I hit the canvas, it
was like whiplash and that's what knocked me out. I went down for a tune-up fight and I got tuned out."
Kirkman would lose four in a row, counting close ones to Ron Lyle and Randy Neumann, and one more-lopsided one to Norton,
It was enough to cripple his career. Offers started to dwindle, significant paydays to disappear. In '75, he was asked to fight Larry
Holmes in the Philippines, as part of the undercard for the "Thrilla in Manila," featuring the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier
title fight. He normally received $10,000 for a fight. His largest cut had been $25,000. This one guaranteed just $5,000.
"It was embarrassing how much money they offered," he said. "I said it was a joke."
Kirkman finally agreed to take part in an exhibition in Toronto, as one of five guys fighting three rounds each in consecutive
fashion against Foreman, mainly to get another shot at him. He was one of two challengers who went the distance, with
Foreman later confiding that Kirkman had broken one of his ribs that night. The money was decent, too, amounting to $10,000
It was time to move on. He got a job driving a beer truck, joined the Teamsters and pulled on the gloves infrequently. He had just
four more fights, all victories, all at home. He walked away with a 36-6 record, 24 victories coming on knockouts.
Along the way, he trained with Frazier in Philadelphia and had Frazier wander into his Renton bar unannounced one night. He
was introduced to most of the old boxing legends -- Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Tony Zale, HHenry Armstrong and Archie Moore.
His only lament was he didn't get to face Ali, or meet him.
"There were a lot lesser boxers who got a shot at Ali and not me, a lot of guys I could have beat and did beat," Kirkman said.
The last time Kirkman stepped in the ring was 1983, for a fairground exhibition against heavyweight Gerry Cooney in Eugene,
Ore. He took the kids. He was curious to see how it felt to pat a few against a known fighter again. It wasn't good.
Cooney got carried away. A disgusted Kirkman wouldn't come out for a fourth and final round.
"He was in there trying to knock me out," Kirkman said. "I said, 'This is enough, man.' It would have been a different story if I was
six years younger and in better shape."
Climb every mountain
Kirkman never made it to the top of the boxing world. So he turned to the mountains.
Accompanied by his brother, he's climbed Mount Rainier eight times. He climbed Mount St. Helen's three times before the
volcanic eruption, and scaled Mount Baker and MountAdams.
The Kirkmans also have hiked the 94-mile Wonderland Trail, completing it in weekend segments. They'll traverse the 17-mile
ChapmanLakes hike near Leavenworth in July.
Life is invigorating in other ways, too. He had two failed marriages while boxing, the second one producing two kids, Nina, 27,
and Erik, 26. For 20 years, he's been happily married to Terese, an OverlakeMedicalCenter nurse. He understands why.
"My ex-wives wouldn't like to hear this, but Jack Hurley said, 'Do your fighting first. Get married after you're done with fighting.
Concentrate on one thing.' That's what I should have done" he said.
As for his longstanding Boeing job, he's content. Occasionally guys at work tease him and throw phantom jabs, reminding him
of his previous life.
On the freeways each day, he's seen more accidents than most. His message there: Quit tailgating.
He's a little gray and bald on top, but otherwise appears robust. Of course, one would never know he broke his collarbone five
times, starting with that childhood shove into the piano stool and repeated in sparring sessions.
This man looks way too healthy to be a former heavyweight fighter, to be Boone Kirkman.
Admittedly, he's not really Boone Kirkman.
"That's not my real name,"; he said. "It's Daniel Victor Kirkman."
On hunting trips as a kid, he would lag behind and draw gentle reminders from his father, leading to a name creation local
boxing fans will never forget.
"He'd say, 'Come on, Dan'l Boone, keep up with me,' "; Kirkman said, smiling at the memory, glad to still have it.
"All my friends called me that, and I've been called that ever since. My sister still calls me 'Danny.' "
Major fights in the boxing career of Renton's Boone Kirkman, who fought professionally from 1966 to 1978, compiling a record of
36-6. Twenty-four of Kirkman's wins came by knockout:
VS. EDDIE MACHEN
Â·Â Date: May 26, 1967
Â·Â Venue: Seattle
Â·Â Result: Kirkman TKO (3)
Â·Â The fight: A crowd of 11,306 watched Kirkman make his hometown debut against an opponent who had once ranked
among the top heavyweight contenders. Midway through the opening round, Machen staggered Kirkman with a three-blow flurry.
But Kirkman trapped Machen against the ropes in the second, scoring consistently with hooks to the body, before unleashing a
right that crossed Machen's eyes and sent him to the canvas. Kirkman finished off Machen in the third with a left hook-right
VS. DOUG JONES
Â·Â Date: Aug. 19, 1967
Â·Â Venue: Seattle
Â·Â Result: Kirkman KO (6)
Â·Â The fight: Kirkman used two uppercuts, a left hook and a big right to defeat a New Yorker who had previously handed
Kirkman his only career defeat. "He (Jones) was helpless," said referee Jimmy Rondeau. "One more punch could have killed
VS. GEORGE FOREMAN
Â·Â Date: Nov. 18, 1970
Â·Â Venue: Mad. Square Garden
Â·Â Result: Foreman KO (2)
Â·Â The fight: Testing himself against a ranked foe for the first time, Kirkman found he was no match for the future heavyweight
champ. Foreman nailed Kirkman with a left hook and a straight right midway through the first round, and then hammered him to
the canvas at the start of the second. In a span of just 3:40, Foreman floored Kirkman three times.
VS. JIMMY ELLIS
Â·Â Date: Dec. 12, 1973
Â·Â Venue: Seattle
Â·Â Result: Kirkman (split)
Â·Â The fight: In front of 10,072 fans, Kirkman recovered from a stunning first-round knockdown and a severe third-round
beating to score a narrow verdict over the Angelo Dundee-trained Ellis, only the second ranked fighter Kirkman had encountered.
VS. AL JONES
Â·Â Date: April 8, 1974
Â·Â Venue: Dallas Sportatorium
Â·Â Result: Jones KO (3)
Â·Â The fight: Kirkman, who had a 34-4 record, knocked Jones down four times in the first two rounds on the same evening
Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run, eclipsing Babe Ruth. Then, 15 seconds into the third, Kirkman ran into a right that
ended the fight. The punch left Kirkman unconscious for five minutes.
VS. KEN NORTON
Â·Â Date: June 25,
Â·Â Venue: Seattle
Â·Â Result: Norton TKO (8)
Â·Â The fight: A partisan crowd of 11,039 agonized as Kirkman paid painfully for his share of the $98,335 purse. Kirkman won
the first round, but Norton dominated thereafter, snapping uppercuts to Kirkman's chin, scoring almost at will. As the bell
clanged ending the seventh round, Norton, who had already beaten Muhammad Ali, dropped Kirkman with a savage blow to the
head, rendering Kirkman incapable of answering the bell for the eighth.
VS. RON LYLE
Â·Â Date: Sept. 17, 1974
Â·Â Venue: Seattle
Â·Â Result: Lyle TKO (8)
Â·Â The fight: Ring physician Alex Grinstein stopped it because of a cut on Kirkman's cheek. If the cut hadn't ended the fight,
Kirkman might have scored an upset over the world's third-ranked heavyweight contender. Through the seventh, two judges had
the fight even, and the third had Lyle ahead by a point.
VS. JOE (KING) ROMAN
Â·Â Date: April 26, 1977
Â·Â Venue: Seattle Center Arena
Â·Â Result: Kirkman (decision)
Â·Â The fight: Returning to the ring after an 18-month absence, Kirkman spent much of the 10-round bout snapping Roman's
head with a series of ponderous punches that delighted the Arena crowd of 5,529, and prevented Roman from mounting any
kind of sustained attack.
Old tough guy Boone Kirkman shows
he's still got the stuff.