CLEVELAND -- The body of legendary boxer Jimmy Bivins will lie in limbo while his family battles over his funeral.
For the second time in two days Bivins' estranged daughter in Columbus ordered a halt to her father's wake and funeral. The wake was just about to begin Tuesday morning, and the funeral had been scheduled for Wednesday.
"It doesn't make any sense," lamented Gene Glen, a former boxer and Bivins' long time friend.
"None of this makes any sense at all, that a person of his stature, and what he's done not only for boxing but to bring recognition and attention to the city of Cleveland, that he has to be treated this way at the time of his death," Glen told WKYC.
Bivins' Cleveland area relatives, who had helped care for him in the latter years of his life, immediately retained a lawyer who said they would challenge the daughter, Josette Banks, in court.
"Just because she is a surviving heir does not mean she has any superior authority in ordering anything," said attorney Donald C. Williams, who is also the prosecutor for the city of Highland Hills.
"It seems that the arrangements made by the major portion of the family are being offset by her wishes," Williams stated. "In some way we'll have to preserve his remains until an ultimate decision is made."
Williams said the family will demand to see a will or other documents which say Bivins wanted a wake and funeral other than the one his Cleveland area nephews had pre-planned for him a year ago.
Bivins died on the Fourth of July at the age of 92. During his career from the 1930's to the 1950's, he had risen to be the leading contender in two weight classes, including heavyweight, where he was ranked second to only Joe Louis.
In 1998, Bivins was found in the attic of his daughter's Cleveland home, bedridden and shriveled to a mere 110 pounds. He was covered in filth and wrapped in a urine-soaked blanket. Banks and her husband were originally charged with felonious assault.
Charges against Josette Banks were later dropped but her husband Daryl pleaded guilty to a felony charge of failing to care for Bivins, and was sentenced to 8 months in jail. The couple then moved to Columbus.
Bivins' nephew Frank Nelson of Oakwood Village, who had looked after his uncle since 2009, was outraged at the second cancellation of services in two days. "I am so angry," he told WKYC. "Can't she let the man rest in peace."
Bivins' local relatives said if Banks thinks she is heir to any money she is mistaken. "He didn't have any," Nelson said. "That was all gone by 1998 when they found him in the attic."
Brad Hull, the third Cleveland attorney Josette Banks has hired in two days, refused to provide any information about the reason for the cancellation of the wake and funeral or about Banks' intentions.
"No comment," he told WKYC.
Clarence Lucas of the Lucas Funeral Home in Garfield Heights said he was not sure what would immediately happen to Jimmy Bivins' body. "We are in a tough spot," he said. "All we want to do is give him the dignified wake and funeral he deserves."
Gene Glen, currently secretary of the Ohio State Former Boxers & Associates, says Bivins was the oldest member of the organization, and that former boxers were planning to come to Cleveland to pay their respects and act as pallbearers.
"This whole situation has consumed me the last couple days," Glen said. "People have been contacting me wanting to know what's going on. Seems that somebody just wants to dump his body in the streets."