- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Early in his career, the late heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) drew international headlines when he uttered that remark before his 1964 fight with then champion Sonny Liston.
It was all over by the seventh round when "The Greatest" emerged victorious. But his comment regarding butterfly and bee behavior lives on.
That begs the question--were any bug people ever champion boxers?
Yes, the late James H. Oliver Jr. (1931-2018) was a Golden Gloves champion.
Two years before Oliver died, entomologist Marlin Rice, a past president of the Entomological Society of America, interviewed him for American Entomologist (Volume 62, Issue 4, Winter 2016), pointing out: "James H. Oliver, Jr. is Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Biology Emeritus at Georgia Southern University and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Oliver is widely recognized as an international expert in medical entomology and acarology, especially the biology and cytogenetics of pathogen-transmitting ticks and parasitic mites."
And Oliver was a Golden Gloves state champion.
Rice asked him a series of questions, including:
"Were you a good student?"
Oliver: "No, not very. I was a good school athlete and party guy. [Laughs.]
You went into boxing at the University of Georgia? Were you a good boxer?
Oliver: "Yeah. I won the state championship in my weight—the Golden Gloves."
Did you ever get knocked out boxing?
Did you ever knock out an opponent?
Oliver: Yeah. [Laughs.]
What's the quickest round you ever won?
Oliver: "Probably second or third round. I was so good at it because I was in good physical condition—great physical condition. I had a coach that said the one's that's in the best physical condition and can keep his left jab going all the time and don't try for a knockout—just hammer him [would win]. It was very good advice, because after the second round my opponent would usually get arm weary and I'd block him by keeping my hands up. That's how I won most of my fights, out of pure physical condition, and I was coordinated and fast. So then I found what I wanted to do; I'm not going to be a veterinarian, I'm going to be a boxer—a professional boxer! Well, that wasn't well thought out. [Laughs.] My brother, and he was always a scholar, said, “My god, you can't do that. You're going to have a brain concussion!” “Yeah, but I'm quick.” I was finally talked into not doing that and leaving the University of Georgia. I went to Georgia Southern 'cause it was only 50 miles away from home and I liked teaching as well. So I'll become a high school biology teacher and coach. That was my goal for several years until I decided I don't want to do that." (Read the entire interview here.)
So, yes, at least one entomologist was a boxing champion. Another professional boxer went into pest control following his retirement. Mike "Irish Mike" Jameson fought the likes of Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield and Randall “Tex” Cobbs before fighting bugs, landing a job as a pest control inspector with Clark Pest Control, Lodi, Calif., according to a feature story on pctonline.com.)
Did they ever say "Float like Lepidoptera, sting like Hymenoptera?"
Well, maybe they said "flutter" instead of "float?"