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Old 05-15-2012, 05:46 PM   #1
Stoo
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Default Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

Im not expecting any replies to this thread, but it's an interesting read

Quote:
With mixed martial arts in North America being a relatively new sport, there is always speculation on how different people from the past would do if the sport was a lucrative endeavor in their lifetime. Probably the most talked about names thrown out are Bruce Lee or a young Mike Tyson.


But if you talk with anyone who has spent any time around the wrestling community – and that’s both the college wrestling community and the entertainment-style pro community – one name always tops the list: Danny Hodge.


“I wish it had been around when I was young,” said Hodge, now 77, who in 2000 was listed by Sports Illustrated as one of Oklahoma’s greatest athletes of the 20th century.

Hodge is well aware of mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As chairman of the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission, he’s overseen both UFC and Strikeforce events over the past year.

He thought about how great it would have been if there were competitions with almost exactly the same rules back in the Fifties, but none existed. He even recalls seeing something approximating MMA on television more than 40 years ago.

“The first time I saw it was in 1968 in Tokyo,” said Hodge, who was touring Japan at the time as a pro wrestler in an industry where he was and remains a backstage legend. “I saw them doing takedowns. I watched it on television. It was called kickboxing in those days.”

Hodge’s credentials in wrestling read almost like a myth. To some, he’s the Babe Ruth of his sport. Arguably the most physically dominant college wrestler of all time, Hodge went undefeated en route to three NCAA championships at 177 pounds for the University of Oklahoma from 1955 to 1957.

Freshmen weren’t eligible for varsity competition in those days or he’d have likely become the first four-time undefeated champion in history, as he went to the Olympics the first time right out of high school. Hodge still holds the all-time college record with pins on 78 percent of his opponents. Most unprecedented of all, he was never taken down in his entire collegiate career, something even competitors such as Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson can’t boast.

Hodge won a silver medal in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. He was ahead 8-2 in the championship match with seconds remaining; while rolling through on a move, his shoulders touched the ground and it was ruled a pinfall, in what was considered one of the worst referee decisions in international wrestling of its era.

To this day, he’s the only amateur wrestler to be on a Sports Illustrated cover (right before the 1957 NCAA tournament) – something no major MMA name today has been able to achieve. The sport’s awards for the best college wrestler and best prep wrestler each year are called The Hodge Trophy and Junior Hodge Trophy, respectively.

“Do you know what the average time was in my matches for three years in the Big Seven tournament?” he asks before answering himself. “One minute, 33 seconds. Some were a little longer, some were a little shorter.”
But it doesn’t end there. After he finished wrestling in college, he turned to boxing. In one year, he went undefeated as an amateur, going 17-0 with 12 knockouts en route to winning the national Golden Gloves championship in Madison Square Garden when that was still a major sporting event.
Hodge turned pro as a small heavyweight, although that made for a bitter experience.

“I won eight out of ten fights but never got paid,” he said.
Just a few months into his career, his people were in talks about a championship match with then-champion Floyd Patterson, showing how badly he was being rushed because he had a name from wrestling and the Olympics. He took a savage beating from Nino Valdez, a one-time top heavyweight contender, just 13 months after his first amateur boxing match and never fought again.

“Then I went into pro wrestling. Leroy McGuirk [a former NCAA wrestling champion who was a promoter in Oklahoma] gave me an opportunity to make money. In nine months, I was world junior heavyweight champion.”
He became one of the biggest names in the entertainment wrestling world during the 1960s, and was still a major star until having to retire in 1975 after breaking his neck in an automobile accident.

Hodge knew submissions as well, but was best known for his supernatural grip strength. In fact, at 77, he still has it. A few years back, on live television at the NCAA tournament, this man who could be mistaken for anyone’s grandfather grabbed an apple, squeezed, and easily turned it into apple sauce.

In his prime, Hodge would go into hardware stores, ask for the sturdiest pair of pliers, squeeze, and snap the pliers in two.

“I learned hooks [the terminology for submissions in those days] from Strangler Lewis,” he noted. Lewis was the biggest pro wrestling star of the Twenties, a man whom historians and old-timers rank as one of the best legitimate pro wrestlers ever.

Jeff Blatnick, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist in wrestling who analyzes and judges MMA events, noted that Hodge was so strong he could take moves that would not be submission holds for anyone else and apply a level of pressure that they would be for him.

“I was always in shape,” Hodge said. “Being in shape is one of the biggest advantages in sports.’

Watching Matt Hughes dominate the welterweight division for years as someone who largely relied on power wrestling always made those familiar with wrestling wonder: What if you took a guy with far more power, a higher level of wrestling technique, and throw in boxing ability and a guy who today would be a welterweight who had knockout power in the heavyweight division, and include submission ability?

When Hodge graduated college, he felt compelled to make a living. There were strict rules of amateurism in sports. Once he turned pro in boxing, he was no longer eligible for the Olympics. Even doing entertainment pro wrestling meant he could no longer compete in the sport he dominated.

“Things were different in those days,” he said. “Today, people get paid to train for the Olympics. In my day, they were so strict I couldn’t even let people buy me a meal.”
If he came along 50 years later, he’d be making millions.
“Do I have any regrets? Yes.”
[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfKKb8AlQiw[/ame]



Anyone know what the highlighted part he is talking about?
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

Could he have seen something like a Sanshou match? That would sound like what he's describing.

And Hodge is a legend - I actually got to speak to him last year and the guy's incredible. To be an olympic level athlete in both boxing and wrestling is astounding. And in both he was aggressive - his pinning percentage in wrestling was out of this world. Would have been a beast in MMA.
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

He would've been THAT guy.......
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Old 05-16-2012, 02:21 AM   #4
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Default Re: Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

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Originally Posted by Will Cooling View Post
Could he have seen something like a Sanshou match? That would sound like what he's describing.

And Hodge is a legend - I actually got to speak to him last year and the guy's incredible. To be an olympic level athlete in both boxing and wrestling is astounding. And in both he was aggressive - his pinning percentage in wrestling was out of this world. Would have been a beast in MMA.
Yeah Sanshou would probably be the best bet

He credentials are incredible aint they. Shame there isnt more footage really, be interesting to see. Must have been great to talk to as well with his experiances
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Old 05-16-2012, 12:04 PM   #5
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Default Re: Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

Yeah it was great - when he twigged my accent he started talking about stopping over in London en route to the Helsinki Olympics. Just a natural authority to the man as he talked about his career and why he went into pro-wrestling. The KO percentage he had in amateur boxing was almost as amazing as his pinning average.

The fact he picked pro-wrestling over pro-boxing (after a brief bad experience in the latter) also shows people who get hysterical about MMA destroying boxing are ignorant of history. Its difficult to appreciate in the Wrestlemania-era but before Vinnie McMahon pro-wrestling really did appeal to sports fans on their level.

Last edited by Will Cooling; 05-16-2012 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 05-16-2012, 01:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

Yeah buy he was by all accounts rushed up the ladder too soon and was small for a HW, but that's where the money was I guess. But every interview Ive read he always called wrestling his 1st love. Shame there's no footage that Im aware of as too what he could do with his hands.

And breaking kayfabe (although that came relatively late) and the outlandish characters really hurt wrestling's credibility but it made it work as a spectacle on TV and the bigger arena's. Vince was smart in that aspect. There always were the big characters like Dusty, Wah hoo and Billy Graham, but Vince took it too a new level. Previously they had all been ground into reality, relatively speaking. Also there has been a move to more spot wrestling as opposed to the technical matches you'd see watching old matches on youtube

There's an interview floating around where Ali credits Gorgeous George as being the inspiration for the Louisville Lip persona. I doubt you'd get a boxer admitting as much these days unless it involves a Tyson/Floyd style payday
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Old 05-16-2012, 03:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

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Originally Posted by Stoo View Post
Yeah buy he was by all accounts rushed up the ladder too soon and was small for a HW, but that's where the money was I guess. But every interview Ive read he always called wrestling his 1st love. Shame there's no footage that Im aware of as too what he could do with his hands.

And breaking kayfabe (although that came relatively late) and the outlandish characters really hurt wrestling's credibility but it made it work as a spectacle on TV and the bigger arena's. Vince was smart in that aspect. There always were the big characters like Dusty, Wah hoo and Billy Graham, but Vince took it too a new level. Previously they had all been ground into reality, relatively speaking. Also there has been a move to more spot wrestling as opposed to the technical matches you'd see watching old matches on youtube

There's an interview floating around where Ali credits Gorgeous George as being the inspiration for the Louisville Lip persona. I doubt you'd get a boxer admitting as much these days unless it involves a Tyson/Floyd style payday
Iv got footage of this in my collection. Ali's admitted it many times though. Never realised there were so many undercover Pro 'Wrastling' fans here...

[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eFzjiuSu_A[/ame]
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Old 05-16-2012, 04:08 PM   #8
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Default Re: Danny Hodge: What might’ve been?

I havent really been a fan since they kept putting the belt on Psycho Sid, probably the height of Vince's ''Big man no talent'' phase and the spot matches of the Attitude era.

But I do appreciate the history, it's links with MMA and I'll always enjoy a good match

P.S. No disrespect to J.R., but Gorilla/Vince + Heenan were the men!

[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyZvAPOCEYY[/ame]
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