U Facilities Management employee is ready to rumble

David La

One short, powerful punch — just the kind his idol Rocky Marciano would throw.
A right uppercut delivered by Gene Schultz — a 44-year-old University Facilities Management employee with an artificial right leg — made his return to the ring a victorious one.
In an Oct. 22nd bout at Grand Casino Hinckley, Schultz (31-7) caught opponent Tory Martin (0-5) on the chin for a first-round knockout 36 seconds into the fight.
As the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Schultz victoriously lumbered around the ring, waving to a crowd on its feet chanting “Gee-no, Gee-no,” his smile showed a man relishing the moment.
Schultz came all the way back from a 17-year boxing hiatus that featured doubters, depression, attempted suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, and, finally, resurgence.
But this recent fight is not an arrival of any kind.
Schultz survived the wars of his personal life but finds himself a veteran whose homecoming is anything but sweet.
Schultz says the Minnesota State Boxing Board is unwilling to let him back in the treehouse. Instead of climbing the ladder of procedures the board says are legally necessary, Schultz is sharpening his axe.

Gene the Machine
Gene Schultz grew up as a tough kid who logged more donnybrooks in the streets than in the ring.
At 14, his parents divorced, leaving Schultz without the steady hand of a father-figure.
Late in 1977, Schultz’s father, Gene Sr., died after being shot in a hold-up at the Schultz’s family-owned bar, the Gopher Lounge.
A graduate of Harding High School in St. Paul, Schultz made future plans that wouldn’t fit in the yearbook under the “Most Likely to…” section.
“My life ambition was to be a hit man for the mafia,” Schultz said.
He almost made it.
Shortly before his 20th birthday, Schultz received three years probation for selling a sawed-off shotgun. While on probation, he bought a stolen car from a friend for the hard-to-beat price of $5. Caught with the car later that evening, Schultz faced jail time.
As luck would have it, Schultz’s probation officer, a friend of the family, stuck his neck out for young Gene and kept him out of jail.
Already an accomplished back-alley brawler, Schultz got into the ring at age 20 and began working his way through the local circuit.
Called “Gene the Machine,” Schultz had a fierce, chin-first style. It worked well enough. Schultz punched his way to the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves heavyweight amateur championship in 1978 and 1979.

White Lightening struck down
But while Schultz’s star rose, his feelings of contentment fell.
Feeling “restless”, Schultz went to a Navy recruiter on June 22, 1979 to, “Try to get into the Navy Seals special forces and go kill Commies.”
After setting up an appointment for a second, more comprehensive screening, Schultz drove his Yamaha 1100 motorcycle to a bar to catch up with friends.
Schultz succumbed to the pleading of girlfriend Jenny Walker for a ride on his bike, and later during the ride, her suggestion to “go faster, make it scary”.
The ride got very scary.
“I hit a truck,” Schultz said. “He ran the right-of-way and I was speeding. The judge ruled 50-50 fault.”
Seconds after the collision, as Schultz laid in the street with a severed right foot and a leg smashed to the knee, he hit upon a notion that he, “Was not wanted by god to kill Commies, but to inspire people.”
Walker survived the accident, suffering a severed foot of her own.
During the ambulance ride to the hospital — where his leg would eventually be amputated to the knee — Schultz began scheming his return to the ring, inquiring as to whether a “peg-legged” boxer ever existed.
Negative. Schultz would be the first.
While Schultz patterned his fighting style after Marciano, he penned a poem for his comeback while in rehabilitation that would make Muhammad Ali proud.
I’m back and I’m bad
I’m bountiful, I’m beautiful
I’m white and that’s alright
I hit hard, I’m frightening
My name is White Lightening
Now I’m White Lightening
and I may be the latest,
But everybody knows that god’s the greatest.
Schultz went on to fight six times between 1981-82 with a prosthesis, accumulating a 2-4 amateur record.
After losing on a technical knockout in Duluth, a fight Schultz said he “was sick leading up to,” and appearing “too tired” after a bout, the Minnesota Boxing Board told Schultz that “it was in his best interest not to fight.”
And Schultz hung up his gloves.

The turbulent 80s
“I was suffering from `big shot-ism’,” Schultz said as to why he didn’t challenge the Board at that time. The ring no longer was the thing.
After his mother died of cancer in 1983, Schultz said he spent the inherited money — and a good portion of the years to come — on alcohol and drugs.
In July of 1989, Schultz nearly threw in the towel permanently. Suffering from depression, he attempted suicide three times that month.
One July evening, Schultz began laboring to breathe. He laid in bed, trying to prompt himself into having a heart attack.
Schultz began bawling, crying tears for a life that he could not be proud of. Then he “felt and heard a distinct electrical charge criss-cross his face” from forehead to chin. What followed next instilled Schultz with hope that he could still be more than what he’d become.
“God himself spoke to me from the heavens in plain English,” Schultz said. “In the most soothing voice I’ve ever heard he said, `Relax Gene, I will give you the strength. I want you to box again.'”
Inspired, but not yet clean and sober, Schultz began nine years of periodic spurts of hard training and clean living, only to relapse each time.
He was out of work from ’89-’95, and after a DUI charge in 1998, Schultz went to rehab on his knees for help.
On April 13, 1998, Schultz finally achieved sobriety and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s no coincidence that this (Hinckley) fight all came together the very same week I reached 18 months of sobriety,” Schultz said.

The fight for his future
Though he done away with the ghosts that haunted him for years, Schultz’s show of spirit wasn’t enough to sway the board into granting him a license to fight in the state.
Jim O’Hara, executive secretary for the boxing board, says the current licensing bout between Schultz and the board is purely business.
“I’ve known Gene since he was a kid and I like him,” O’Hara said. “I respect his courage and everything he wants to do, but we’ve got rules and regulations we have to follow.”
Those rules, under law, include a re-evaluation of all fighters 36 years of age or older. At a meeting in August of 1999, Schultz received notice that he needed to see a doctor for a fight physical. Schultz, who did not have a regular doctor at the time, was recommended to a doctor by members of the board. Schultz balked, saying he, “Doesn’t trust anyone associated with the commission to be impartial.”
With no physical results to evaluate, the board could not begin the other steps in the process of licensing Schultz. Not willing to budge, Schultz exercised a different option.
Promoter Ron Peterson put Schultz on the recent Hinckley card. The casinos have sovereign nation status, meaning they can hold fights without any collaboration from the state board. Some of the fighters on Peterson’s card are in a similar unlicensed situation.
However, a commissioner from the Association of Boxing Commissions must be present at the event, or the result will not be officially counted.
To that end, Peterson brought in Larry Dawson, an ABC commissioner from Iowa to ensure the proper sanctioning. When Peterson approached Dawson about adding Schultz to the card, Dawson said, “My immediate reaction was, `I don’t think so.'”
Dawson eventually relented, under the strict stipulation that Schultz see a doctor prior to the fight.
“Early that week Ron faxed me a release, actually it was a high school athletic form that the doctor at a sports medicine clinic filled out,” Dawson said. “But he wrote very clearly on there that (Schultz) could box with absolutely no restrictions.”
After winning the fight at Hinckley last month, Schultz now looks ahead to a showdown that could garner more attention than those put on by Don King. The date is December 8, 1999, the next board meeting.
“I’m going to the meeting with letters from my doctor and my trainer, and I’m going to tell the board, `You either let me fight anybody, anywhere, anytime, or I will file suit under the American Disabilities Act,'” Schultz said. “There is not a doubt in my mind that I will win that lawsuit.”
But Schultz may find his opponent change identities in midstream. The Minnesota State Legislature did not vote to continue funding of the board last spring, and unless the decision is overturned, the duties of the board may fall to a different state agency.
Regardless, says O’Hara, the same laws will apply, meaning Schultz could be in for a fight the likes of which even one of his uppercuts won’t fall.
He is, after all, a unique case.
“Our law (in Iowa) doesn’t say anything about a 44-year-old, one-legged man either way,” Dawson said. “So that’s one of those decisions you have to make.
“All the votes aren’t in yet on how much of a career Mr. Schultz may want or may be able to have.”

David La Vaque covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]