Last week, Riptide braved the overhyped media maelstrom that was the grand opening of the new 5th Street Gym. The sanitized version of the South Beach boxing den where Muhammad Ali trained is now helmed by a Chicago-based ownership group. The fact that Ali trainer Angelo Dundee owns a share feels like a cheap stamp of authenticity.
As we squeezed through the herd of reporters and read the glossy Ali quotes on the wall, we felt lost. Where were the dust and the grime, the reek of decades-old man-sweat? Where was the profanity and posturing? Why was that guy serving food dressed as a gaucho?
Where in the world was Roosevelt Ivory?
The tall, slick former boxer, a longtime associate of Angelo and his late brother Chris Dundee, bought the gym in the early '80s before finally shuttering it in 1993. And he has the kind of rap sheet you won't find in any tie-pinned ownership group. Over the last three decades, 64-year-old Ivory has been charged with possession of sawed-off and concealed weapons, assault and battery, domestic violence, and cocaine possession. He's avoided felony convictions each time.
Riptide met Ivory a couple of years back after his son, Roosevelt, Jr. — a violent felon nicknamed "Big" — was gunned down on the streets of Liberty City. He declined to have his picture taken, claiming he'd become "a target."
These days, Ivory, who travels in a white Escalade with apparent bodyguards by his side, runs what's billed as "Roosevelt's Rooming House" in the phone book: a pair of perpetually guarded grated-window homes on NW 17th Avenue at 69th Street. Last year, a tenant named Mattie Lomax claimed in a federal court filing that Ivory had evicted her because she "refused to provide sexual favors" to men he would bring to her room.
A judge ordered Lomax to refile the case in local court, but she didn't. Ivory has never been charged with a crime related to prostitution in Miami-Dade County.
After visiting the 5th Street Gym, Riptide headed to the Liberty City boarding houses for Ivory's take on the Disneyland-ification of his former boxing temple. A grubby lackey, interrupted from his meal of beans, rice, and lemonade in plastic containers, re-emerged from the house with the news that Ivory was "in a meeting."
We left our card, but he never called us.