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Film to be made on life of Bobby 'Boogaloo Watts

Passing him on the street or sharing a seat next to him on the train that he takes every day to and from work, you probably wouldn't notice him.

Passing him on the street or sharing a seat next to him on the train that he takes every day to and from work, you probably wouldn't notice him.

He is tall and trim for an older gentleman. His face is always cleanshaven. He is quiet and gentle, like his handshake. Most days, he sports a hat reminiscent of cotton-picking roots in Sumpter, S.C.

Nothing about him is out of the ordinary.

Except the indelible mark he has left on boxing in Philadelphia.

His name is Bobby "Boogaloo" Watts.

During the day, he works at the University of the Arts in the maintenance department. After work, he takes the train and walks to the boxing gym to train up-and-coming fighters, trying to put them on the same path to greatness that he rode from the late 1960s through 1983. He has trained three world champions.

Most days, Watts spends an hour or two teaching and training school-aged kids. He doesn't accept a dime. Just show up, work out, go home.

You would never know that Watts, 67, compiled a 38-7-1 record (20 KOs) as one of the top contenders in Philadelphia's middleweight hey-day in the 1970s.

Until now.

Liam Mulvey, a Philadelphia resident who hails from Great Britain, met Watts in Joe Hand's Boxing Gym at 7th and Ritner some time ago. Mulvey is now filming a documentary entitled "Boogaloo: The Life and Times of a Middleweight Contender" to pay tribute to someone who isn't talked about much anymore.

The film is slated for release next year.

"These old boys that did such good for the city are kind of forgotten about," Mulvey explained. "We're hoping that this can be something where we put a few things together and make people realize that these people are good guys and they deserve a little spot in the limelight."

Both were on the floor of the Spectrum yesterday - the site of Watts' biggest triumph, a 10-round majority decision over "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler on Jan. 13, 1976 - filming interviews.

That was the first time Hagler, a future WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight titleholder, had ever been beaten. To put that in perspective, Hagler finished with a 62-3-2 record. Only Sugar Ray Leonard and Philly's own Willie "The Worm" Monroe also hold the distinction of handling Hagler.

"It feels great," Watts said as his eyes wandered through the empty building. "It feels like I'm back at home almost. The last time I fought here was 1981. It feels good to be back in the place again.

"It looks different in here but I know it's the same. It's a big part of me."

Watts was stunned to hear about a movie to be filmed about him as Mulvey was to learn of Watts' conquests.

"Yeah, I was a little surprised," Watts said. "It makes me feel a little important now. It's uplifting. It makes you feel better about yourself and what you've been through.

"To me, I've never looked at myself as something special. I didn't realize, not up until now, how much of an impact I made."

"He was very reverent and amicable," Mulvey said of meeting Watts. "Everyone in the gym looked up to him; they were all very nice to him. He had a great demeanor about him.

"So I asked him about how his career went and he said 'Oh I just fought a few times,' but I came to discover that he was the first person to beat Marvin Hagler. He never told me.

"It just struck me that someone that had such a great career - with ups and downs - would be so modest and well-respected in a tough city like this."

But his story was one that lived - and died - in the '70s. Watts never did get a shot at the middleweight title, or the fame, he deserved.

"That's where his obscurity comes from, he is his own worst enemy," Mulvey said. "He isn't arrogant at all. Even when I asked, he didn't say much.

"Here is a kid who grew up picking cotton, he didn't win a world title but he had a great boxing career, he's raised a daugther who is a doctor, he gives his time to the community and kids, and he's got a wonderful demeanor about him"

"It's almost like I can't believe someone hasn't done this already. It's a tragedy really. It's a tribute to boxing."

"Boxing has always been a part of me," he said. "I guess it will always be until the end."

For us, the film is a chance to listen to a story that should have been told years ago. *