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Tales of the Track

Brian Porter Stable 6-29-13Bryan Porter was passing out checks the other day and couldn’t find a payment from a former employer for his newest employee.

The problem was easily solved. Doug Myers is actually Charles Myers. Everyone simply calls him Doug.

Myers is from Louisville, Ky., and arrived in Shakopee with the Bobby Radcliffe barn. When Porter took over the barn a few days ago, Myers decided to stay on as a hotwalker.

Myers is a nephew to former world heavyweight champions Jimmy Ellis, his mother Mary’s brother, and grew up hanging out in the gymnasiums of Louisville, influenced by the boxing world and the horseracing world of his grandfather and father simultaneously.

His father was a jockey who turned to exercise riding at Churchill Downs when he outgrew the job, but he died when Doug was seven, a victim of suspicious circumstances never fully explained. “His billfold was missing when he was found,” Myers said. “They later found it in a garbage can.”

So young Doug grew up with a father figure, the future heavyweight champion of the world. “Jimmy was like a father to me,” he said. “He was like a brother, a best friend.”

Myers accompanied uncle Jimmy to the Louisville boxing gyms where a man known then as Cassius Clay was frequently encountered. Ellis and Clay fought twice as amateurs, each winning once. When they met as professionals, Ellis was stopped in 12 rounds by the same man, known then as Muhammad Ali.

Uncle Jimmy was part of what is regarded as the best heavyweight era of all time, an era that included a pantheon of heavyweight greats: Floyd Patterson, Ali, Joe Frazier, Jerry Quarry, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Oscar Bonavena, George Foreman and George Chuvalo.

Ellis defeated Patterson in a controversial decision. He was knocked out for the first time in a title unification fight with Joe Frazier, having held the World Boxing Association title from 1968 to 1970.

“He took me under his wing with his own kids and tutored me,” said Myers. “To this day I have a lot of respect for that. In a lot of ways he made me who I am today, as far as respecting people and doing the right things. He had a lot to do with making my character.”

His uncle is suffering now from boxing dementia. “He has Alzheimer’s,” said Myers. “But this family intends to care for him. He’s not going into a facility. He doesn’t remember much, but he’s at home and at peace.”

Myers says his own boxing days extended only to amateur cards in Golden Gloves tournaments. “I was a flyweight,” he said. “I could throw punches in bunches.”

Myers has been in and out of horse racing jobs the past 15 years or so, taking an assignment as a groom or hotwalker here and there as the spirit moves him.

He has been hot-walking for Porter since joining the barn a few days ago.

“He seems happy with what he’s doing,” said Porter. “I really like him. He’s a class act. He is very positive and likes to motivate the younger guys. He’ll jump in and help out with something even if it’s not under his job title.”

Myers’ own riding experience extends no further than pleasure riding as a youngster. “Uncle Jimmy bought a Tennessee Walker for his wife, but basically I rode it more than anybody. That horse had five gaits and was about 17 hands. He was a big fellow.”

Ellis used to take the kids trail riding, Myers with them. “Jimmy and my dad were real close, too,” Myers said. “They used to rabbit hunt a lot and went to the track. My father liked to play the horses.”

Myers had never been to Canterbury Park before this summer and has mixed emotions about what he’s seen so far. He loves the people and their dispositions. The weather is another matter. “I could do without all this rain,” he said. “It seems to rain all the time.”

Nevertheless, he is pleased to be in Shakopee and working in the Porter barn.

“To me, this is like a vacation,” he said. “Horses are like athletes that have to be trained right. Then, it is interesting to see how things unfold.”

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.