Bomani Parker stands in front of the punching bag at Polk Street boxing gym in San Francisco. He has been working out for an hour now, practicing punching combinations and working on his footwork. He’s sweating, but breathing evenly as the veteran heavyweight boxer reflects on his hiatus from the ring. After serving a 13 year prison sentence for drug possession, Parker is looking to redeem himself through boxing.
He has spent the last few months getting back into shape and working towards obtaining his boxing license from the California State boxing commission with the help of some friends who have rallied to help him raise money for his license.
“It has been an uphill battle trying to secure a fight,” said Parker, who lives in Richmond. “I’ve passed all the physical exams and health tests needed to get my boxing license with flying colors. Now, I just need an opportunity to show everyone I’m still a great fighter.”
On July 13, Parker’s friend Daryl Henline threw a fundraiser for him in the gallery at Bridge Artspace in Richmond to raise enough money for the license, which costs $1,500. The fundraiser brought Parker’s old friends and family together from as far as San Jose to celebrate his return to the ring. Chicken wings, gourmet sandwiches and wine were served at the event as people donated money at the door and mingled with each other to talk about boxing.
“It seems like people are keeping an eye out for Bomani and they want to know that he is serious about making a comeback,” said Henline. “I’m amazed that Parker can keep his ambition up to get back into the ring at 44, but he’s been working hard to stay in shape. I’m really excited to see him fighting again. Win or lose, it will be a triumph.”
While the fundraiser fell short of its goal with donations totaling $400, Parker was able to connect with his former boxing manager, Ralph McCoy, and other promoters who showed interest in booking Parker for an upcoming fight. Parker hopes to gain a spot on the boxing ticket at San Francisco’s undefeated welterweight boxer Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield’s bout on August 17 at Kezar Pavilion.
“Daryl Henline has given me so much support and I appreciate that he would rent out his gallery space to help me raise money for my license,” said Parker. “I hope to repay [him] when I start fighting again.”
Parker began boxing professionally in 1988 and retired in 1997 after 21 career fights. His honors include a Golden Gloves Championship and boxing for the US Olympic team. Parker is currently still the only American boxer to hold the record with the most defeats against Russia, with a total of six wins and the most defeats against Cuba, with a total of four wins. But in 1997, Parker said, he got into trouble using drugs and ended up serving 13 years in prison for possession of controlled substances. He was released in 2010, and made a conscious effort to turn his life around.
When he isn’t practicing, Parker works with other gym members at Polk Street who are interested in using boxing as a way to stay in shape and as a bouncer at bars like Lush Lounge and Maze Cafe in San Francisco. Parker says the money made doing odd jobs will help him cover costs for equipment purchases and travel expenses.
“I’m looking forward to redeeming myself as a world class boxer and athlete,” said Parker. “I remind people that think I’m too old to box that George Foreman fought Michael Moorer for the World Championship title when he was 45 and won. This is my time.”
Anyone that is interested in donating money to Bomani Parker can contact Daryl Henline at daryl [at] bridgeartspace [dot] com.