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Liberty City's Roosevelt Ivory Is a Throwback to the 5th Street Gym's Bad Old Days

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A week or so ago, Riptide braved the overhyped media maelstrom that was the grand opening of the new 5th Street Gym. A sanitized version of the South Beach boxing den where Muhammad Ali trained, it's now helmed by a Chicago-based ownership group. Ali trainer Angelo Dundee's own share feels like a cheap stamp of authenticity.

As we squeezed through the herd of reporters and pseudo-celebrities, drinking our branded sports drink sample and reading the glossy Ali quotes on the wall, we felt lost. Where's the dust and the grime, the reek of decades-old man-sweat? Where's the profanity and posturing? Why is that guy serving food dressed as a gaucho?

Where in the world is Roosevelt Ivory?

The tall, slick former boxer, a longtime associate of Angelo and his late brother Chris Dundee, drapes himself in jewelry, and linens that match his loafers. He bought the gym in the early-'80s before finally shuttering it in 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. In Miami-Dade County, he's managed to avoid felony convictions each time.

Riptide spoke to 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. The bereaved father refused to have his photo taken. "If people read this and think I'm talking about getting revenge or some such," he explained, "my smiling photo will be 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 17th Avenue and Northwest 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 re-file the case in local court, but she didn't. Ivory has never been charged with being involved with prostitution in Miami-Dade County.

Riptide sojourned to the Liberty City boarding houses to get 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's "in a meeting", but to leave our card and he'd call us.

He never did. But we did get to reminisce with another apparent guard, a lean man in dark shades who gave his name as Chris. "Under the Dundee brothers, that's when it was a real gym," he remarked of the former fight factory. "Nothing's the way it used to be."

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