Friday, February 11, 2011

James "Asa" Gordon

I was fortunate to have an awesome coach and friend in James Asa Gordon. Asa was one of the top coaches during the early years of American Full Contact Karate (or American Kickboxing). He trained Jerry Rhome, Jerry Trimble, Joe Corley, Richard Hill, Carl McCallup, Jeff Gripper and many other champions in the art of Boxing. Karate fighters seeking to become successful kickboxers came from all over to train at Asa's Gym. Asa started boxing when he was 9 from an old fighter named Leroy. He boxed as a lightweight and his career ended after being injured in World War II. Asa was shot through the right eye and in the right hip. After the war, he focused on coach youth. I trained with Asa from 1984 until he died in 1996. Asa was grandfather I never had (both of mine died before I was born).  1996 was a bad year for me, I went to fight a boxing match in February 1996 right after visiting Asa in the hospital. I lost the fight, got cut over both eyes (8 stitches and 6 stitches) and the next day got the call that Asa passed. 2 months after that I got kicked in the knee during a kickboxing match and got my 1st ACL tear. Before the year was up, I got pneumonia. 1996 was a definitely a dark year, so I hope I didn't depress those of you reading this. Back to the positive. Not only did Asa train top fighters, but he devoted a lifetime to helping youth. He got me into coaching amateur fighters at the Dorvaille Boxing Club. We traveled around the Southeast with young athletes many of whom became national champions and accomplished professionals (the last 2 child proteges to grow into superstar boxers being Roberto and Jorge Ceron). Asa's vision prevented him from driving, so I would pick him up after work, go by Dunkin Donuts to get coffee. We would drink and talk our way through rush hour traffic (for those of you from Atlanta, I'm talking about I-285, Roswell Road heading east at 5!). During those conversations we talked about everything. I learned a lot from him about history (he grew up during the Depression and he fought in WWII), boxing, and life in general. Asa was always dressed in slacks, sharp shoes, and a jacket. He looked like Clark Gable. I asked him why he dressed up even when going to the gym. After experiencing the depression, he swore he'd never be raggedy. He sold men's clothing for years and had great taste. He had a sense of humor and always told it like it was (no matter how abrasive it came out). He helped me to become confident as a fighter and as a person.  His fighting techniques were based on angles and to this day I'm still trying to figure a lot of what he taught me. But if I can give the little bit I got from him to somebody else, then he lives on. Long live Asa!

Me and Asa at Doravaille Boxing in the early 90s.


  1. Richard;
    Nice article about Asa. He was a good guy and started a lot of us in the Atlanta boxing scene. You are his legacy pal. You have some pretty good shoes there to fill!
    Michael S. Morrison

  2. Hi Richard,

    I'm Robert Lee, a former student of Joe Corley at the Buckhead Studio '76-'78. I was very fond of Asa Gordon. He was always nice and cordial to even me. I was just a young kid and from VERY meager means back then (but invested my afterschool job money for the training). It's so nice to hear how close of a relationship you had with him. I always privately dreamed of training downstairs under his tutelage but alas, I joined the Army and so on.

    I'm glad I ran across your article. It was very well written.

    Be well, Brother.

    Robert Lee