Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 1 of 7)

By Peter Weston Wood on January 17, 2018
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 1 of 7)
Nelson Algren wrote about drunks, prostitutes, hoodlums, and prize fighters. (Art Shay)

Listed here—the first of a five-part series—are names of well-known luminaries from all walks of life who are boxing fans. Some names might surprise you…

Aristotle admired prizefighters.

Albert Einstein enjoyed prizefighting.

Olga Steck, the famous 1920’s opera singer, listened to prizefights on the radio in her dressing room before stepping on stage to sing at the Grand Opera House in Chicago.

These three high achievers were boxing fans—just like you.

But you four are not alone!

Listed here—the first of a five-part series—are names of well-known luminaries from all walks of life who are boxing fans. Some names might surprise you.

These highly-esteemed boxing buffs are artists, writers, performers, intellectuals, and heads of state. They all share your love for boxing. So don’t doubt yourself—boxing is not the vulgar and shameful sport some people claim it is.

Don’t listen to the sacrosanct blathering of narrow-minded elitists. Boxing, at its core, is a respectable, noble, and beautiful sport. 

Boxing needs no stamp of approval.

However, for those who think it does need a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval—and that sometimes includes me—here is my first list of twenty-four highly-respectable boxing fans. I start at the beginning of the alphabet—from A to C.

(In compiling this list, I thank fellow writers: Robert Mladinich, Clarence George, and most certainly Frederick V. Romano, the author of the recently published The Golden Age of Boxing on Radio and Television and The Boxing Filmography.)


1—ARISTOTLE—Greek philosopher…Aristotle wrote in his treaties, Ethics, his 349 BC contemplation about good living, that “the circumstances of the boxer…the punches and the hard training involved make it unpleasant for the eyes of the spectators, …The fighter himself thinks more of the punches he gives than the pain he receives, and to him, the end is pleasant…attaining the crown.” 
2—WOODY ALLEN—Filmmaker, Writer, Comedian…Controversial Woody Allen never slipped on a pair of boxing gloves to fight an actual human being, but he once did allow his inner-machismo to spring forth in order to spar a kangaroo on a British television show. Allen is an avid boxing fan who has been spotted at ringside for many big fights in Madison Square Garden. 

3—DANNY AIELLO—Stage and Screen Actor…Aiello is an ardent boxing fan who continues to attend Ring 8 and Ring 10 meetings in New York. He once played Damie Ruffino, a compassionate ex-pug who runs a boxing gym in the 1979 Broadway production, Knockout

4—NELSON ALGREN—Author of The Man with the Golden Arm …Algren was so enamored with middleweight Georges Carpentier that he had a pair of boxing gloves tattooed on his right shoulder…Algren, born in Detroit, wrote about the world of drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums. (Shay, Art. Nelson Algren’s Chicago, University of Illinois Press 1988, p. 118 in 1975.)

Algren also wrote an article about the trial of middleweight Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who had been found guilty of double murder. While researching the article, Algren visited Carter’s hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. Algren was instantly fascinated by the city of Paterson and immediately decided to move there. In the summer of 1975, Algren sold off most of his belongings, left Chicago, and moved into an apartment in Paterson. Springer, Mike. “Nelson Algren, the Exiled King”. Open Culture. Retrieved 7 September 2011.


5—HEYWOOD CAMPBELL BROUN—American Journalist…Heywood was a big boxing fan. He attended Harvard University, and is best remembered for his writing on social issues and his championing of the underdog. He is also the author of the well-known quote: Sports do not build character. They reveal it.

6—GEORGE W. BELLOWS—Painter…Bellows is, according to the Columbus Museum of Art, “the most acclaimed American artist of his generation.” He is also the heavyweight champion of boxing painters—“an artist who transcended the sport and painted with a sense of grandeur and timelessness” He was an artist who admired prizefighters and their craft. His iconic painting, Dempsey and Firpo (1924), can be viewed in the Whitney Museum of American Art.  His magnificent painting, Stag at Sharkey’s, hangs in the National Museum of Art, in Washington, DC.

7—NELLIE BLY—Journalist…Nellie Bly, was an American journalist who was widely known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days in emulation of Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg.  She also was interested in writing about prizefighters. Her 1889 New York World article, “A Visit with John L. Sullivan” is classic Bly, asking excellent questions of Sullivan…Nellie Bly broke down another barrier by becoming the first woman to cover a championship boxing match from ringside. Her coverage of the Jack Dempsey-Jess Willard fight, July 4, 1919, included an exclusive interview with Dempsey the day after he won the heavyweight championship by defeating Willard.

8—BEAU BRUMMEL—Aristocrat…Beau was a celebrated gentleman of Regency England. The doors of London were opened to him not by virtue of wealth or background, but by his own wit and charm, which won him the friendship of the Prince Regent (Prinnie), among others. He was a popular boy—known as Buck Brummell—and gained a reputation as a fine boxer and fine batsman at cricket.

9—DR. JOYCE BROTHERS—Psychologist, Television Personality…Brothers, an extremely knowledgeable boxing fan, was an Ivy-League graduate of both Cornell and Columbia Universities. She wrote a daily newspaper advice column from 1960 to 2013… Brothers gained national fame in late 1955 by winning The $64,000 Question game show, on which she appeared as an expert in the subject area of boxing. (If you pride yourself on your boxing knowledge, try matching wits with her on the video clip below!)

Her success on The $64,000 Question earned Brothers a chance to be the color commentator for CBS during the boxing match between Carmen Basilio and Sugar Ray Robinson. She was said to have been the first woman boxing commentator. (Hartford Courant, March 25, 1958, pg. 18A)

10—JOEY BISHOP—Comedian & TV Star…Bishop was the star of The Joey Bishop Show, (1961-1965). One of his TV episodes featured fellow comedian Jan Murray. In it they plan on doing a fake boxing match but Corbett Monica gets things mixed up and both men start training for a real fight. The episode featured ex-middleweight, Joey Giambra…Bishop attended many boxing shows in New York. (He once honored me with a handshake after one of my Felt Forum fights.)

11—KEN BURNS—Documentarian…Burns wrote Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2005), a biography of Jack Johnson, the first African-American Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, as well as a documentary of racism and social inequality during the Jim Crow era against which Jack Johnson lived in defiant opposition.

12—ADAM BERLIN—College Professor…Adam is one of our own—an esteemed staff writer for! He is also the author of four novels. He teaches creative writing at John Jay College/CUNY. For more information on Adam, visit

13—JAMES BROWN—Musician & Dancer…The “Godfather of Soul” had a brief career as a boxer. As a singer, Brown recorded 16 hit singles that reached number one on the Billboard R&B charts. He is ranked seventh on the music magazine Rolling Stone’s list of its 100 greatest artists of all time. Rolling Stone has also cited Brown as the most sampled artist of all time. (Wiki)

14—TONY BENNETT—Singer…Tony co-hosted Rocky Marciano’s Main Event TV show.  When interviewed by Rocky, a young Tony Bennett explained how people tell him that he reminds them of a fighter—his stance on stage and how he starts and ends songs out with a round-house right. Bennett attended the Ingemar Johansson-Floyd Patterson bout and discusses it with Rocky. 


15—SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL—Prime Minister of the United Kingdom…Churchill served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. He was a boxing fan as well as an avid painter. His depiction of Peter Jackson’s knockout of Frank Slavin was displayed at the National Sporting Club in London in 1892. Churchill gave the drawing to the Harrow School tuckshop, (candy shop), “in lieu of debts incurred.” (The Fireside Book of Boxing) 

16—JACK CARTER—Comedian & TV Personality…Carter was a boxing enthusiast and guest star on Rocky Marciano’s Main Event TV show in 1952. He and Rocky verbally spar on a segment featuring the Joey Giardello-Billy Graham bout. Carter’s imitation of Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom and Max Baer are priceless!

17—PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON—Politician…Clinton eulogized Muhamad Ali with these words: “He refused to be imprisoned by his disease that kept him hamstrung longer than Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa…He perfected gifts that we all have—gifts of mind and heart—and he found a way to use them in ways that were large and small.”

18—CHARLIE CHAPLIN—Actor & Comedian…”Much of the genius of Charlie Chaplin was his ability to perceive the comedic potential in all aspects of life. As early as 1914, Chaplin…had already identified boxing as a valuable vehicle for his artistic exploits, and the sport quickly became a theme for several of his short features.” The Boxing Filmography, Romano p. 34.

19—ROBERT CONRAD—-Film and TV Actor…Conrad, a former stuntman is best known for his role in the 1965–69 television series The Wild Wild West, Conrad had a few pro fights under the name Bob Conrad. His record is four wins, two knockouts, and one draw. He retired from the ring in 1962. During that time, he also was acting. Wild Wild West aired in 1965 through 1969. While rehearsing a stunt on it, Conrad fell twelve feet, headfirst, on to a concrete floor. Production on the show had to be halted for months while he recovered…In 1992 Geraldo Rivera, who considered himself quite a pugilist, challenged Conrad to a boxing match.
The fight was to be in New York City and ticket sales would raise money for charity. Conrad turned him down. (Wiki)

20—FIDEL CASTRO—President of Cuba…Because of Castro’s love for boxing, boxing became a popular sport in Cuba. As of 1992, there were over 16,000 boxers on the island. Across Cuba today there are 494 boxing coaches and 185 facilities. Of the 99,000 athletes in Cuba currently, 19,000 are boxers, including 81 of Olympic competence, even though only 12 make the Olympic team.

Before Fidel Castro took power in 1959, Cuba’s achievements in amateur boxing were diminutive. Components of their boxing style were derived from American professional boxing. After the Revolution, Eastern European methodology replaced the American influences. Andrei Chervenko of the Soviet Union trained Teofilo Stevenson and Europe’s Vasili Romanov has trained boxers, as well. (Wiki)

21—ALBERT CAMUS—Writer/Philosopher…Camus was a subscriber to Ring magazine. (This little nugget of information is, however, questionable because it is according to Bert Sugar, the former publisher of Ring.) Sugar claimed that “among its fans was a former French Algerian amateur boxer named Albert Camus— (The Atlantic “The Legend of Bert Sugar, Boxing’s Larger-Than-Life Chronicler”).

22—BILLY CRYSTAL—Comedian & Actor… Billy Crystal commemorated his 42-year friendship with Muhammad Ali with a heartfelt eulogy at the legendary boxer’s funeral that drew laughs and applause from the star-studded crowd…Crystal, who made a name for himself as a stand-up comedian in 1974 by mimicking Ali, recounted their first meeting at a televised dinner and said: “Here I was a white kid from Long Island imitating The Greatest of All Time—and he was loving it.”

Crystal said Ali gave him a bear hug after his skit and sparked an unlikely friendship when he whispered in his ear: “You’re my little brother.”

Crystal said of Ali, “He was funny, he was beautiful, he was the most perfect athlete you ever saw and those were his own words!” Crystal told the crowd of mourners. “But he was so much more than a fighter.”

“My favorite memory was 1979, he had just retired and there was a retirement party,” recalled Crystal. “Ali whispered in my ear, with a big bear hug, ‘Little brother you made my life better than it was!’ But didn’t he make all of our lives a little bit better than they were?”

Crystal says his friend “forced us to take a look at ourselves.”

“He taught us that life is best when you build bridges between people not walls. Only once in a thousand years or so do we get to see a Mozart or hear a Picasso or read a Shakespeare. Ali was one of them, but at his heart he was still a kid from Louisville.”

“He is gone but he will never die he is my big brother.”

23—NAT KING COLE—Singer…Cole said, “I became so interested in boxing that a couple of months ago I signed up a fighter—a boy named Gene Johns, a nice looking kid. Harry Wiley was the one who discovered the kid.”

24—LOU COSTELLO—Comedian & Actor…Costello was an excellent amateur boxer in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. He fought 12 matches under the alias “Lou King.” This roly-poly comedian was a terror in his youth, scoring 11 victories and one draw until his father forced him into an early retirement…Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s work on radio and in film and television made them the most popular comedy team of the 1940s and early 1950s. Their patter routine “Who’s on First?” is one of the best-known comedy routines of all time, and set the framework for many of their best-known comedy bits.

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of this series and found it enlightening. (If I have left out some names, and I’m sure I have, please let me know.)

In Part 2, I reveal the SHOCKING names of 20 more avid boxing fans! STAY TUNED!

Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 1 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 2 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 3 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 4 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 5 of 7)
Boxing Fans Unite! Aristotle…Einstein…And You! (Part 6 of 7)

Peter Wood is a 1971 NYC Golden Gloves Middleweight Finalist in Madison Square Garden; a Middleweight Alternate for The Maccabean Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, and author of two books: Confessions of a Fighter, and A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion, published by Ringside Books. He is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at his webpage:

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  1. peter 06:34pm, 01/24/2018

    Matt—Thanks for your kind words. The Lou Costello Gym, in Paterson, has been around for a long time. I trained there at the tail-end of my career. There were some tough guys in there who I would not have wanted to spar! Peace!

  2. peter 06:30pm, 01/24/2018

    Lucas—Oates will not be missed. She is forthcoming!

  3. Matt Markey 10:00am, 01/24/2018

    That was great Mr. Wood. Very interesting. Your love for the never seizes to amaze me.
    Lou Costello; who would ‘ve thought. Little did we know that all this time, that, when Abbot was smacking Costello across his the face 10x an episode, Lou could have beaten the shit out of him if he wanted.

  4. Lucas McCain 09:51am, 01/24/2018

    Joyce Brothers had a detached tone about things—she could be fascinated by the subject or not, but still could hold enormous amouns of information about it in her head.  Another Joyce-author, Joyce Carol Oates—shows many of the same features and her own boxing interests go back to watching bouts with her father back in the 40s.

  5. peter 07:38am, 01/24/2018

    Artie—Thank you for your clarification on Brothers. I think you are correct. However, her knowledge was astounding. Even Nat Fleischer, himself, would have struggled answering those questions!

  6. ARTIE 05:46am, 01/24/2018



  7. Lucas McCain 05:18pm, 01/23/2018

    Just ask Rip to keep his trusty hammer at home! Oh, those were the days.

  8. Bob 07:19am, 01/20/2018

    Another unique and wonderful contribution by Mr. Wood. Great tidbits of info, such as Fidel Castro’s revolutionizing of boxing in Cuba, the referral to Jack Carter’s spot-on imitations in the video, the author being congratulated by Joey Bishop (it can’t get any better for a teenage pugilist), and the lowdown on Robert Conrad, including Alfonso Bedoya’s enlightening input. What a delightful read. Can’t wait for upcoming installments, especially Rip Torn’s boozy intro into the series. Terrific read by a gifted author.

  9. peter 07:11pm, 01/18/2018

    Slapsy Maxie—I totally agree with Mailer—you should write down your stories! Mailer and his “frienemy”, Rip Torn, will be making their wild and boozy entry in a later episode of this series. Stay tuned!

  10. Slapsy Maxie 05:09pm, 01/18/2018

    Love that story about Toscanini Koolz!
    In the 1940’s he was in San Francisco conducting an orchestra for an NBC broadcast. The next day his driver told the story that the day before the broadcast he requested the driver take him across the Golden Gate bridge and to the big Redwood Tree country.
    For about an hour’s drive he sat in the backseat saying nothing the entoire time but then the trees began to make themselves know and he asked the driver to slow down.
    Then asked him to stop when there was no traffic and nobody else to be seen.
    He got out of the backseat and walked into the forest.
    The driver followed him for a few hundred yards so he didn’t get lost and when he came upon Toscanini he was standing in front of one of the great beasts wider than a City block and had his hands outstretched holding tight to the bark of the tree.
    After a few minutes he stood back and walked towards the driver and as he passed him on the way to the car he whispered,
    “Now, THAT’S important!!!

    Never said another word all the way back to town.
    His daughter Wanda was a terror it’s said and Vladie, who shares a birthday with me as well as a love for romantic interpretations of the Masters, was and remains my favorite pianist.
    A real “Impsky Dimpsky.”
    I’ll tell you my favorite Horowitz story another time. It was told to me by Oscar Peterson so tune in again next week!

  11. Slapsy Maxie 04:52pm, 01/18/2018

    Been a boxing fan since I was a kid and the “Look sharp…feel sharp” Gillette TV commercials came on the big twelve-incher in B&W on Friday Night Fight Night!!
    Spent some time with Norman Mailer in San Francisco many years ago as he was about to direct his first movie the title of which escapes me. The woman I was with at the time during my Hollywood days knew Norman for many years back in New York so when she called him at his apt in SF and left a message I was not sure if there would be a reply but there was!
    We made a time to join him at his apt for drinks and stories as I had done a movie with Rip Torn, an old frenemy, in 1970 called “Payday” and he wanted tales of wonder and woe.
    It was a great afternoon that bled into evening with the aid of two bottles of single malt Scotch and he wrote down almost everything I said!
    When I asked him if I was gonna get credit he smiled and said, “No.”
    I suggested the Marquis of Queensbury would not have been so arbitrary and he put his pencil down!
    Yes, A PENCIL.
    That was his preferred instrument of battle and he admonished me in a blurry speech to not tell so many wonderful stories but to write them down!!
    But as you can see now I am doing both because I love Peter Wood’s writing so much…but that’s another story.!

  12. peter 08:56am, 01/18/2018

    Alfonso—That’s a helluva story. Makes me want to know more about Crawford. That’s a terrible way to end up. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Alfonso Bedoya 08:16am, 01/18/2018

    @peter-Frankie Crawford was meaner outside of the ring than inside which is the opposite of so many fighters who are gentle souls when not in the ring trying to take their opponents heads off! He was shot in the back in Las Vegas by a coward who was afraid to take on featherweight Frankie man to man…. with a .45 caliber pistol no less. As a result he was a paraplegic for the the remainder of his life which he finally ended himself with a shotgun blast to the head.

  14. peter 08:04am, 01/18/2018

    George—Thank you for the addition. I’ll add that on in the second addition.

  15. George Otto 06:38am, 01/18/2018

    As President, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton signed into law the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000.  As of this day, these are the only 2 federal laws which govern and/or regulate the daily operations of any professional sport in the USA.

  16. Terry Malloy 10:30pm, 01/17/2018

    The TV quiz scandals of the 1950s revealed that the “winners” were given answers in advance to increase ratings. No way Dr. Joyce Brothers was a legit winner. She was fed the answers in advance. Check out the YouTube, it’s a great acting job on her part.

  17. Koolz 09:10pm, 01/17/2018

      Lucas McCain

    My comment is serious and I know everything about the man behind the curtain.

    I could post about Woody Allen next but I shall not spoil this topic more.

  18. peter 06:22pm, 01/17/2018

    Lucas—I know I will be missing a lot of names—Lord Byron being one. I’m counting on you guys to call in to add to my august list, perhaps for a bonus part, at the end.

  19. peter 06:13pm, 01/17/2018

    Alfonso—Robert Conrad always gave me the feeling that he was a wannabe. Interesting story about Frankie Crawford! He was a good little fighter.I wonder how he’s doing now.

  20. Lucas McCain 03:18pm, 01/17/2018

    Koolz—can’t tell how much of your comment is serious, but did you know Toscanini also enjoyed wrestling?  Claimed the pro rassler Antonino Rocca had an excellent voice as well, though I never heard him sing.

  21. peter 03:14pm, 01/17/2018

    Thanks, Rufus. That’s a very enlightening name you have!

  22. Lucas McCain 03:11pm, 01/17/2018

    I got through the B’s without seeing Byron, the great 19th-Century poet and rogue celebrity, but maybe he’ll appear under the G’s (George Gordon, Lord Byron).  Curious to see if Hazlitt makes it for the great essay, “The Fight.”  Most amazing to me is Bob Dylan’s fondness for boxing, since his protest “Who Killed Davey Moore?”  seemed to mark him as an abolitionist.

  23. Alfonso Bedoya 01:43pm, 01/17/2018

    @peter-Keep’em coming! Robert Conrad thought he would burnish his faux image as a tough guy by “adopting” Irish Frankie Crawford. Conrad was a blocky middlewight and Frankie was probably never above 130 his entire life but Frankie never cranked it up when they sparred. One afternoon Frankie overheard Conrad telling reporters that if they ever fought it would be 50-50. The next time they sparred Frankie KOd his sorry ass! In the end tough guy Conrad had to get a restraining order on Frankie who by that time was fed up with his phony ass. Little wonder Conrad didn’t want to fight Geraldo!

  24. Rufus T Firefly 01:09pm, 01/17/2018

    Very well researched and well written. True to form…Wood delivers “The Wood” to all his work to once again, floor his fans. Clinton probably lost a few bouts to Hillary in his day. Looking forward to Part Two.
    Nice job… Thank You!

  25. Koolz 12:47pm, 01/17/2018

    Albert Einstein that complete phony who was a Zionist said he wanted to Nuke Germany, Stole others works, his wife stole others works, and he divorced one wife so that he could marry another to mess around with her Daughter..
    oh yes good ol’e Einstein who Tesla said was “Crackpot.”

    So what did Einstein say when they asked how does it feel to be the smartest person in the world? “I don’t know you have to ask Tesla”

    And Einstein loved boxing…

    Don’t know if Tesla loved boxing he was to busy inventing every single thing we have today and creating a new math out of Prime Numbers, oh and he understood the Mystery of the Great Pyramid(12 zodiacs)....Did he understand Prize fighting?  hmmm….energy, frequency, vibration.

    Toscanini One of the Greatest Conductors ever loved Boxing!
    His daughter married the one of the Greatest Pianists Horowitz!
    Who also loved Boxing.

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