Did You Ever Hear of Irving Rudd?

By Jeffrey Sussman on June 10, 2016
Did You Ever Hear of Irving Rudd?
When I told him I did PR; he said: “I’m not so fancy. I’m a press agent and proud of it!”

I noticed he wore a Brooklyn Dodgers ring. The Dodgers, for whom there was no greater fan in New York than yours truly, was the perfect fit for Irving Rudd…

There have always been colorful promoters and publicists in the world of boxing. There were few as colorful as the little guy, Irving Rudd. I met him years ago at his accountant’s office. He reminded me of a leprechaun, small, tidy, neat. He took pride in being dapper and above reproach. His bow tie looked like a large vivid butterfly. His smile was infectious and his manner gracious. When I told him I did PR; he said: “I’m not so fancy. I’m a press agent and proud of it!”

His accountant told me that they had been friends since childhood, growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. “Irv didn’t graduate from high school. He claimed he was acquitted! And he went to work right away, a little creative dynamo.”

He started out promoting small fighting clubs in Brooklyn and made a name for himself as a guy who creatively broke rules and thought for himself. His reputation grew, and he was hired to promote the Brooklyn Dodgers. I noticed he wore a Brooklyn Dodgers ring. The Dodgers, for whom there was no greater fan in New York than yours truly, was the perfect fit for Rudd. Their appeal was not to buttoned-up conformists, but to those who thumbed their noses at convention.

When his beloved Dodgers, managed by the financial wizard Walter O’Malley, moved to Los Angeles, Rudd did not move with them. He was a New Yorker, through and through, a character who could have been created by Damon Runyon. He was hired by Yonkers Raceway, and he posted a large sign that read Yonkers Racewya. The intentional misspelling generated reams of newspaper headlines and stories.

While doing fight promotions, he got the IRS to use Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns to do a TV commercial, urging citizens to file their tax returns. That got a laugh from the gamblers and bookies, but it was great PR (I mean press agentry) for Hagler and Hearns, who should have been hired by H & R Bloch.

Among the fighters he promoted were the some of the brightest stars of the ring: Joe Louis, the Sugar Rays: Robinson and Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, and one his favorites: Thomas Hearns, who so loved Rudd that he made him an honorary member of the Kronk boxing team. (The Kronk Gym was the heart of boxing in Detroit.) It wasn’t enough for Rudd to promote fighters, he also represented fight promoters, such as Bob Arum and his Top Rank Inc. Earlier he had worked for Mike Jacobs and Don King.

If you really want to know about this nearly forgotten light switch in boxing history, you should read his memoir: The Sporting Life: The Duke and Jackie, Pee Wee, Razor Phil, Ali, Mushky Jackson, and Me. As one would expect, Rudd promoted his memoir as if it were the fight of the century. He was a press agent to his finger tips and right up to the end of a colorful and rewarding life. He had earned it: Induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999. A place for champions.

Jeffrey Sussman, president of a marketing/PR firm (www.powerpublicity.com), is the author of the forthcoming book Max Baer and Barney Ross: Jewish Heroes of Boxing, available at amazon.com.

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  1. Joe Bruno 11:23am, 06/26/2016

    As the Vice President of the Boxing Writers Association from 1982-86, I knew Irving very well. He was a delight to be around.

    Joe Bruno

  2. Bob 03:25am, 06/12/2016

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Rudd several times n the 1970s. He was getting on in years, but still very active. He was always very friendly, even to newcomers, but what I remember the most was this perpetual twinkle in his eye, as if he was loving every minute of his life. Great energy.

  3. peter 04:32pm, 06/10/2016

    Thanks for this short bio. Irving Rudd is a name that always seemed to pop up, but I never seemed to knew why or when or how.

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