World Heavyweight Boxing Champion James "Bonecrusher" Smith

Article in The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, SC

May 29, 2016 5:00 AM  By Steve Palisin

Summer reading program gets 1-2 punch in publicity
James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith, Horry County Memorial Library join forces
Father of two librarians out of state right at home using Socastee branch

Boxing Legends Hall of Fame inductions among his Champions for Kids golf benefit

Former heavyweight boxing champion James “Bonecrusher” Smith, seen in a favorite photo of himself, will help promote Horry County Memorial Library’s 2016 Summer Reading Program, which begins June 6 for all ages, children and adults. The public also is welcome to see Smith speak at two county library branches – 10:30 a.m. June 7 in North Myrtle Beach, and 3 p.m. June 8 in Socastee.

One punch line finishes off these phrases: “On your mark, get set, ... ,” “Exercise your mind, ... ,” and “Get in the game, ...”.

If you guessed “read!” then you’ve lit the lamp with a puck in the net, jacked a home run, or swooshed a basketball, and anyone reading ends up a winner.

With the 2015-26 school year in its final week, the clock’s ticking to jump in for Horry County Memorial Library’s Summer Reading Program, through S.C. State Library, this marketed with a sports theme. The program starts June 6, going through July 29, with groups covering all ages: “Listeners,” through age 5; children in kindergarten-grade 5; students in grades 6-12; and adults. It’s free, too, with registration at

Summer reading activities also are available through Myrtle Beach’s Chapin Memorial Library and all four Georgetown County Library branches.

Clifton Boyer, director of Horry County Memorial Library, expressed the honor of having James “Bonecrusher” Smith – who in 1986 became the first college graduate to win a World Boxing Association heavyweight title – partner in this promotion.

“It could be a strange relationship with boxing and libraries,” Boyer said, “because you tend to never put the two together.”

The public also is welcome to see Smith speak at two county library branches – 10:30 a.m. June 7 in North Myrtle Beach, and 3 p.m. June 8 in Socastee.

Boyer said Smith – founder and chairman of Champion For Kids Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Myrtle Beach that mentors youth through boxing – frequents his neighborhood county library branch in Socastee, and that the manager there, Lee Brown, first got to know Smith by helping him with the computers and other library-related questions.

“This started a typical library/patron relationship,” Boyer said, “where customers becomes a regular library user, and over time, you learn more and more about your patrons as they tell you more and more. You learn a great deal from them when they ask you reference questions, because they almost always will give you the background to why they are asking a particular question.”

Boyer also said Smith – who earned a business degree in 1975 from Shaw University in Raleigh, and took up boxing while serving in the Army – approached Brown to see if Champion for Kids and the library could work together to promote each other’s missions.

Smith, born and raised in Magnolia, N.C. – about 50 miles north of Wilmington – reflected on his efforts to make a difference for youth and a sport in which he made a career, and how libraries remain vital links in each community.

Question | So, both of your daughters are librarians?

Answer | My oldest one, 35, is in Maryland, and my baby girl, who’s 28, she’s in Richmond, Va. My former wife is an attorney, and both of us encouraged them to be attorneys, of course. But, ... they finally decided to be librarians.

Q. | How has reading stayed so important through your whole life?

A. | I’ve always stressed the importance of reading, so much so that I wrote a book about three years ago, “M.A.D.: Make A Decision.” ... I encourage people to make good decisions. We all get mad about things sometime, and you want to think about what you want to do, and make sure it’s done the right way.

Q. | Halfway through “The Top of His Game: The Best Sportswriting of W.C. Heinz” (published in 2015 by the Library of America), I just read of some of the neat things that Floyd Patterson did in his post-boxing career. What reading engages your eyes and mind, and how have libraries helped you?

A. | All kinds of stuff, and I read many things on the Internet, too, including interviews. ...

I live in a community with a library that’s not too far away. I go in there and use the computers. ... I spend a lot of time in the library. ... I kind of fell in love with libraries later in life.

Q. | Through your Champions for Kids effort, through mentoring through boxing, and raising money for college scholarships, how special is helping make connections for such a positive influence?

A. | We have a lot of young talent in Myrtle Beach and Horry County, but some of these kids are falling by the wayside, and they can use that energy to become a world boxing champion – or whatever goal they set. A message from my youth is that we had to work hard. In my family, we were blessed by having both parents throughout our lives as children. A lot of times now, kids are trying to grow up without one or both parents. That’s difficult; that’s a tough situation. That’s another reason why I want to encourage adults to work things out. With marriage or in any kind of relationship, there are going to be issues, but that means working hard at working those issues out, because the kids are going to suffer if you don’t.

Q. | How exciting is your “Do Right” Golf Challenge benefit for Champions for Kids, coming up June 17-18, especially with your Boxing Legends Hall of Fame project – and inductions for Billy Backus, Bill Clancy, Carlette Ewell, Bruce Foster, Dale “Sunshine” Frye, “Merciless” Ray Mercer, Kelvin Seabrooks, and you?

A. | We’ve been telling a lot of people about this for a number of years, and we’ll have the first inductions, right there at Legends Golf Resort. ... And they can help as mentors to kids in Horry County, because if nobody reaches out and touches them, ... they will never be discovered. That’s another important thing with this hall of fame, to create some legends who will work with them.

Q. | How grateful are you to have the wherewithal to lend your helping hand in so many ways to the community?

A. | The Bible says so much about giving. ... While we’re here on Earth, it’s such a short period of time. Eternity is a long time. I want to make sure eternity is in the right place.

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.

If you read

WHAT: Horry County Memorial Library’s Summer Reading Program, through S.C. State Library

FOR: All ages – “Listeners,” through age 5; children in kindergarten-grade 5; students in grades 6-12; and adults.

WHEN: June 6-July 29

HOW MUCH: Free, with registration at

ALSO: See James “Bonecrusher” Smith, the first college graduate to win a World Boxing Association heavyweight title, speak at two county library branches – 10:30 a.m. June 7 at 910 First Ave. S., North Myrtle Beach; and 3 p.m. June 8 at 141 707-Connector Road, Socastee, between S.C. 707 and S.C. 544, across from Habitat for Humanity ReStore – No reservations necessary.

MORE LIBRARY SYSTEM INFORMATION:, or contact a branch: Aynor (843-358-3324), Bucksport (843-397-1950), Carolina Forest (843-915-5282), Conway (843-915-7323), Green Sea Floyds (843-392-0994), Little River (843-399-5541), Loris (843-756-8101), North Myrtle Beach (843-915-5281), Socastee (843-215-4700), Surfside Beach (843-205-5280 or 843-915-5280), and Bookmobile (843-248-1544).


▪ Myrtle Beach’s Chapin Memorial Library, 400 14th Ave. N., at Kings Highway. 843-918-1275,, or email

▪ Georgetown County Library – Georgetown (main branch, 843-545-3300), Waccamaw Neck (in Litchfield Beach, 843-545-3623), Andrews (843-545-3621), and Carvers Bay (in Hemingway, 843-545-3515).

BENEFIT TEES OFF: Smith’s “Do Right” Golf Challenge, in “Our Father” theme for Father’s Day weekend, benefiting Champion for Kids and the Boxing Legends Hall of Fame Museum project for Myrtle Beach – June 17-18 at Legends Golf Resort, on Legends Drive, west off U.S. 501, across from Tanger Outlets, near Carolina Forest – including inaugural hall-of-fame inductions for Billy Backus, Bill Clancy, Carlette Ewell, Bruce Foster, Dale “Sunshine” Frye, “Merciless” Ray Mercer, Kelvin Seabrooks, and Smith, at 10 a.m. June 18, with golf tourney at 1 p.m. on Moorland Course ($100 per player). More details at 910-658-3408 or

April 9, 2016, 5pm - Bonecrusher will be inducted into the James Kenan High School Hall of Fame, where he graduated. 

April 13, 2016 - Bonecrusher will have Knee Replacement Surgery on his left knee at the V.A. Hospital in Charleston, SC.  His right knee was replaced 2 years ago and is performing well.

Pictured below: Bonecrusher was the first celebrity to pay tribute to PGA golfer Lee Elder at a reception at the 2015 Masters Tournament. 

Pictured below: Bonecrusher with the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program in Virginia Beach


25th Anniversary of Winning the Championship

December 12, 2011 - Twenty-five years ago today James "Bonecrusher" Smith won the WBA World Heavyweight Boxing Championship against "Terrible" Tim Witherspoon at Madison Square Garden.  Smith took the fight on a seven day notice from promoter Don King.  At the age of 32, James was the first college graduate to win the heavyweight title.

November 5, 2011 - The following Interview with Boxing Writer Rob Tierney appeared on

During the 1980’s, James “Bonecrusher” Smith was a roaming menace in the Heavyweight division for anyone looking to obtain or retain Championship status. He blasted Frank Bruno and Mike Weaver in devastating fashion before whipping Tim Witherspoon inside of one round for the WBA Title. He was one of only two men to make “Iron” Mike wait for the judges’ scorecards during Tyson’s initial championship reign and he emerged as an abrupt, game changing annoyance to Don King’s promotional plans for a Heavyweight unification process. Still, these are not the only things that the “Bonecrusher” will be remembered for when he is finished on this Earth.
In the new millennium, Reverend James “Bonecrusher” Smith is a humanitarian, role model and ordained minister. He gives back not only to his community and the kids that grow up in its streets; he is also a charitable resource and representative to many of Boxing’s elder, retired statesmen. I had a chance to catch up with James earlier this week to talk about boxing, charity and a number of Bonecrusher’s endeavors outside of the ring.

RT: Good Afternoon Champ! What is going on in Bonecrusher world?
JS: Well I have been spending most of my time lately putting together a Boxing Legends Hall of Fame weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina set for next Labor Day weekend.
RT: Why did you decide to put together a Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach? There is already a Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY.
JS: Well I am busting my butt to put together a home for a number of boxing legends who I feel need to be remembered. Many of them aren’t being remembered by Canastota so I wanted to put something together to remember these legends. I think that Myrtle Beach is a great spot to do it because a lot of people visit there every year.
RT: I understand that you just had your first event in September. How did it work out?
JS: We had a lot of success. Gerry Cooney and Ray Mercer showed up. Earnie Shavers did as well. Next year I am hoping to bring Mike Tyson in so he can see what I have put together.
RT: In addition to the Boxing Legends Hall of Fame, I understand that you are involved in a number of programs geared towards helping children.
JS: I have a mentoring program for kids. I have a summer camp in June as well. My goal is to bring in kids from all over the place to see what I have done and allow them to meet and greet some of the great Boxing Legends of our time.
RT: You have been out of the ring for twelve years now. When you look back at your legacy inside the ring, do you have any regrets? Do you feel like there were any stones that were left unturned?
JS: I think I did a good job. I won the WBA Heavyweight Championship of the World on a week’s notice via first round knockout. More importantly, I am here talking to you and I can hear what you have to say and you can hear what I have to say. I am healthy. For that I thank God!
RT: You have beaten the likes of Frank Bruno, Jesse Ferguson and Mike Weaver throughout your career. However, I am assuming that since you captured the Title by whipping Witherspoon that the win over Tim was the crowning achievement of your career?
JS: Absolutely! I avenged an earlier loss with a first round knockout and I earned the WBA Heavyweight Championship of the World. It doesn’t get any better than that.
RT: After decking Witherspoon at the Garden, you faced Mike Tyson for the Unification bout in Las Vegas. Considering that so many Heavyweights succumbed to Tyson’s punching power at that time, do you feel honored knowing that only you and Tony Tucker were able to survive Tyson’s power and last the full twelve rounds during Mike’s initial Championship reign?
JS: I must say that it is bitter sweet. Looking back, I think I was caught up in the hype at the time. I feel like I could have won the fight if I was on the offensive a bit more. However, when considering that so many fighters were unable to stand Mike’s power, I feel a sense of honor knowing that I could.
RT: How do you feel about today’s Heavyweight division? When you were fighting, you had to go through fighters like Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon and Mike Tyson to get to the title. Do you think it would be easier today?
JS: I feel like if I was around today that I would go through anyone of those guys like a hot knife going through butter.
RT: Really? Even the Klitschko brothers?
JS: Like a hot knife going through butter.
RT: Then you must be proud considering that you were able to achieve Championship status during one of Boxing’s most difficult eras?
JS: Absolutely!
RT: Champ, you have fought the likes of Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Tim Witherspoon and Michael Moorer. Which fighter impressed you the most?
JS: I would have to say Larry Holmes.
RT: What about Holmes impressed you the most?
JS: Well, he beat me twice so I must say that he was pretty good.
RT: You are one of the few fighters with a college degree. You have done a number of fundraising events for charity like the “Do Right” initiative and you also have been a strong advocate of Breast Cancer Awareness. Now that we have talked about your accomplishments inside the ring, I must ask what you are most proud of outside of the ring.
JS: I am an ordained Minister. In fact, I plan on saving some souls before I die. We don’t live forever! I need to do right by Jesus now so that I am ready when I see him. I have to make sure that I am helping others get ready so that I am ready myself!
RT: That is Great Champ! Becoming an Ordained Minister is yet another accomplishment on an already impressive life resume of Bonecrusher Smith. Speaking of which, what other ways are you giving back?
JS: I want to help fighters. There are fighters out there, especially former fighters, who need help. I have some great ideas and I want to help fighters in a number of ways. I want to help fighters set up an annuity because I think they deserve it. I have the resources to help them do this. In fact, there is a documentary in the works regarding what I do and fighters can learn more about these opportunities by contacting
RT: Well, thank you James. I am glad to hear that you are continuing to give back to the sport of Boxing because it is a great sport and you are an exemplary representative of the sport.
JS: Thank You!

Many fighters have failed to find a true passion outside of the ring once their careers inside the ring have been finalized. However, this was not the case for Bonecrusher Smith nor will it be the case for him in the future. When James won the Heavyweight Championship over Tim Witherspoon in 1986, he was recognized as the first Heavyweight Champion to hold a college degree. It wasn’t the last time that Smith would be noted for his well roundedness outside of the ring as well as inside of it.
The legacy of Bonecrusher Smith should stand as an example to all athletes who are looking to make their mark as a man as well as an athlete. There are many fighters who will be remembered for what they accomplished inside the ring but few who warrant the overall respect that can be only earned when an individual’s actions outside the ring match or exceed accomplishments earned inside it. The Rev. James Bonecrusher Smith is one of the few men who have achieved both.

Above: James "Bonecrusher" Smith talks about the "Do Right Challenge" with community leaders in Dunn, NC

Above: James "Bonecrusher" Smith winning the WBA Heavyweight Title against "Terrible" Tim Witherspoon

Below: Mike Tyson knocked down by James "Bonecrusher" Smith, the first boxer to take Tyson 12 rounds.


Photo below:  James "Bonecrusher" Smith standing beside Miss USA 2005 after his speech with athletes, coaches, faculty, and supporters of the Virginia University of Lynchburg on February 23,2011.  Virginia University of Lynchburgh president, Dr. Reavis is standing behind Bonecrusher.


Photo below:  James "Bonecrusher" Smith and students at the Academy for Technology & Academics honoring Black History month Wednesday, February 16, 2011 in Conway, SC.



Photo on left below: Rev. James "Bonecrusher" Smith praying for his friend Lori one day after breast cancer surgery at Myrtle Beach Regional Hospital.  Photo on right below: Lori and Susan with the Champ, both ladies live in Myrtle Beach with breast cancer.  Some of the proceeds from the Fantasy Fight Night will go toward the Myrtle Beach "Fight For The Cure".




Pictured Below:  Principal Trevor Strawderman and students of the yearbook staff at North Myrtle Beach High School.

Pictured Below:  Students with Bonecrusher at a West Virginia high school. Teacher Larry Davenport is holding the Championship Belt.






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