(First published April 14 2011)
UNHAPPY endings abound in boxing, but the saga of former journeyman heavyweight Tim “Doc” Anderson is sadder than most. In May 1996, after a jury trial in Orange County, Florida, Anderson, who had fought the likes of George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Jimmy Young in a 27-16-1 (13) career, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Anderson never denied shooting his former promoter, the behemoth Rick Parker (who was generally regarded as being disreputable, corrupt and dangerous) nine times in an Orlando hotel room in April 1995. But his reasons have raised many questions related to him being found guilty of such a serious offence. The compelling case was the subject of the recent book The Years of the Locust by Jon Hotten.
Anderson, 52, is currently housed at the Martin Correctional Institution in Indiantown, Florida. Although he has been inside for more than 16 years, and his beloved sister Erin recently passed away,
he was his usual upbeat self during a visit in early March. He has the inexplicable ability to make people feel good, even as he resides behind the walls of a maximum security prison.
“There are a lot of bad people in here, but I try to associate with the good ones,” said Anderson. “There actually are a lot of decent people here, people who made a wrong turn or one bad mistake.”
The back story to Parker’s murder is what makes Anderson such a sympathetic killer. Two jurors have publicly expressed outrage over the fact that they were never told that mandatory sentencing guidelines would keep Anderson in prison forever. If they had known that, they said that their verdict would have been different.
Besides his immediate family, Anderson has an unlikely ally in Parker’s half-sister, Diane McVey, who visits him regularly and professes her love for him. Her support has resulted in her being ostracised by many of her family members, but she still refuses to turn her back on him.
“Over the years there were so many people who might have wanted Rick dead,” McVey said. “He wasn’t a very nice person and he took advantage of a lot of people. I’m not surprised someone killed him, I’m just surprised Tim did.”
Anderson grew up in a solid two-parent, four- child home in Chicago. Although a standout athlete he was afflicted with Crohn’s disease, which causes incessant diarrhea. He was forced to wear a diaper until he was nine years old. That secret was shared with his mother, to whom he was very close. She died of a lung disease while Anderson was still a teenager, leaving him devastated. Tim is the first to admit that his childhood malady, coupled with his mother’s love and understanding, as well as her untimely death, made him a lot more sensitive than he would have liked.
Participating in sports was a great equaliser for Anderson, who was equally adept on the baseball- pitching mound as he was with his fists and his feet. After teenage success in kickboxing and high school honours for baseball he began playing pro ball for the Chicago Cubs. He was sent to their farm team in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1981. He also took up boxing at a local gym and moonlighted as a security guard at a club.
Tim chose boxing over baseball and turned pro in June 1983. He had dyed blonde hair, a buff body, wore garish attire, was a vegetarian and studied kiniesology (muscular movement), which earned him the nickname “Doc”.
Rugged former heavyweight title challenger Randall “Tex” Cobb, with whom Anderson trained and lived, once commented, “I know you can fight because the way you dress, you’d embarrass the Puerto Ricans and the faggots.”
One person who did not approve of Anderson fighting was his sister Erin, who became a quadriplegic at age 16 after a diving accident. Those feelings were exacerbated when her brother hooked up with Parker, who was determined to become the “white Don King”. In order to bankroll his foray into boxing, Parker recruited disenfranchised youngsters to go door-to-door across the country selling a cleaning concoction called Sun-Sensational.
“Tim isn’t stupid but he trusted a lot of people he shouldn’t [have],” Erin said, in a 2005 interview. “Parker was very flashy and addicted to drugs, which couldn’t have been more different than Tim. I don’t think Tim was ever high on anything except life and exercise.”
Anderson bought into Parker’s hyperbole, agreeing to fight for him as well as being his bodyguard. He was told his $750 weekly paycheque was being held in escrow for him as he barnstormed the country, often with Cobb.
“Tex and I trained together, which was not one of his favourite things to do,” joked Anderson. “We also ate together, which was one of his favourite things to do.”
While Anderson was in Florida for a 1990 fight he visited a local school to make an anti-drug speech. Parker had arranged it. When they arrived at the location in separate limousines, Anderson opened Parker’s door and saw him inhaling a mountain of cocaine. Outraged, he demanded the $150,000 owed him by Parker so he could go off on his own. "Doc" had such an aversion to drugs that he would not even take the painkillers prescribed to him when Larry Holmes broke two of his ribs in 1991.
Anderson had limited success as a free agent. In the meantime Parker took over the promotional duties for Mark Gastineau, a former pro football star with a long history of drug abuse and erratic behaviour. Parker said he had a handshake agreement for Gastineau to fight George Foreman for millions of dollars if he could get the lumbering star to 12-0.
Anderson says Parker promised him the money he owed him, plus interest, if he took a dive against Gastineau. Their fight was to be televised live from San Francisco in June 1992. Referee Marty Sammon said talk of a fix was rampant, and he warned both boxers he would be keeping a close eye on things.
“I told them if there was anything suspicious, they weren’t getting paid,” said Sammon. “Anderson then went out and beat the heck out of Gastineau. It was no contest – man against boy.”
“I never saw my brother so mad,” said McVey. “I knew there’d be trouble. His nostrils were flaring.”
Anderson never made the big score he was promised but six months later agreed to a rematch with Gastineau, this time in Oklahoma City, where there was no state commission. Anderson says he was once again asked to take a dive, but chose not to. He also says he was forced to wait in the ring for 45 minutes until Gastineau arrived. It was then, he believes, that he was given tainted water.
By the third round Anderson was light-headed, nauseous and hallucinatory. Unable to defend himself, he was stopped in the sixth. The referee later testified at the trial that he never saw Anderson get hit with a solid punch. Hours later, Anderson was found on the floor of the dressing room lying in his own vomit. A doctor suggested he was drugged but could not offer proof. Anderson went back to Florida a broken man.
“He was never the same,” said Murphy. “He couldn’t get out of bed. And when he did, he would bump into things. He had vertigo and all these doctors tried to pinpoint his problem but couldn’t find anything.”
Anderson retained an attorney to sue Parker, as well as the fight venue in Oklahoma. Shortly afterwards he was attacked and seriously injured by two masked, bat- wielding men. They showed him a photograph of his sister Erin, as well as her two small daughters, and told him to stop making trouble.
He thought that whatever was in his system was killing him and was determined to learn what was used to change his life so dramatically, Anderson used McVey to contact her brother under the pretence of paying him for an interview to be used in a book he was writing. When the meeting was set for an Orlando hotel room, it was Murphy who insisted that Anderson went with a gun. Murphy had listened in on numerous phone conversations where Parker threatened Anderson and his family, so he accompanied him to a gun store where Anderson purchased a .38 caliber revolver. On the day before the fateful meeting, Anderson told a friend, who was never called to testify at his trial, that he was determined to find out what toxins were used to poison him.
Anderson, who never told McVey about the gun, drove to meet Parker accompanied by both her and Parker’s 14-year-old son Chris, who had not seen his father for years. After a few minutes of getting re-acquainted, Parker asked his sister and son to leave so he and Anderson could talk business.
Anderson says he demanded to know what drugs were used to poison him, but Parker disavowed any knowledge. The desperate Anderson pointed the gun at Parker, but still got the same answer. Satisfied with the response, he put the gun by his side. At that time, says Anderson, Parker told him: “For that stunt you just pulled, your sister Erin is dead.”
The next thing Anderson remembers is “Rolling [Parker] over and counting the bullets. I counted eight. He was sideways and I rolled him on his back. I counted the bullets in his thigh, his groin.”
Immediately afterwards, Anderson sat on the bed and said, “Forgive me Lord”. He tried to take his own life but the gun jammed. He then went to the front desk, told the clerk what happened, and calmly waited for the police to arrive. Later, while being questioned by detectives without an attorney present, he told them he wanted no trial, just a quick date with the electric chair.
“I was not myself back then,” Anderson said. “I was a very sick man.”
Barring a miracle, Anderson will die in prison. He exercises incessantly to help keep his thoughts positive. Besides doing scores of pushups and pull-ups he embarks on a regular regimen of 6,000 stomach crunches, 1,500 at a time, four times a day. At 195 pounds, he is ultra-lean and rock hard.
He works as a sweeper and reads books, writes very colourful and creative short stories, and looks forward to visits from his family and friends, including musician Doug Wilder, who has played with the Allman Brothers Band. He hopes to be free one day.
However the story ends, Anderson won’t let any feelings of despair and hopelessness get the best of him. “Whatever’s going to happen will happen,” he said. “I’m just riding the storm out one day at a time.”
Read the 'Years of the Locust' book review HERE
Read Jim Brady's 1995 investigation HERE
Get this week's Boxing News to read more about Paddy Considine's plans to turn the book into a film