Thus was born the "rooster punch," part of a collection that would grow to include, among many others, the "Wilt Chamberlain Dunk Punch," which involved White jumping and taking a downward swing at a foe, and the behind-the-back punch, which one writer dubbed "The Shot from Behind the Tree."

Among other improvisations and comical tactics were the "Double Uppercut" and the "Double-Whammy Jab."

White's clowning really came to the fore in November 1967, when he fought George "Scrap Iron" Johnson in San Diego.

Though 7 inches shorter, the compact Johnson outweighed the 187-pound White by 30 pounds and had gone the distance against Joe Frazier only six months earlier.

White, battered by Johnson and convinced that he was in over his head, says he resorted to throwing his burlesque punches in an effort to get the referee to stop the fight.

"But he tells me, 'The crowd loves it,'" White says.

Less enthused was Johnson, who stopped methodically tattooing White in favor of trying to level him with a haymaker.

Clowning, White realized, could be a workable strategy.

Though he lost a 10-round decision, White made it to the final bell against Johnson and proved his mettle.

In 1974, after twice losing close decisions with world championship fights on the line, he retired with an overall record of 41-14-5.

A single parent of two sons and two daughters, he returned to carpentry but never lost his love for entertaining.

As part of a clogging dance troupe, White has performed at Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland as well as in Florida, North Carolina and Chicago.

"I just did it last night," he says. "I'm sore as the dickens."

Now retired and a great-grandfather, he works with young amateur fighters at the KO Boxing Club in Ventura.

So far, none has asked to learn his signature punches.

"That's all instinct," he says.

jcrowe@tribune.com