The Halfway Point: Remembering Those Who Passed

By Ted Sares on July 4, 2012
The Halfway Point: Remembering Those Who Passed
Angelo left us at age 90 following complications arising from a blood clot (John Scully)

The first half of 2012 has been an especially tough one for boxing fans as the sweet science lost some greats and near greats…

The first half of 2012 has been an especially tough one for boxing fans as the sweet science lost some greats and near greats.

(In chronological order)

Eddie Eckert: Famed Florida referee Eddie Eckert passed away on January 7, 2012, at age 81. Eckert officiated his first pro fight in June 1961 and refereed his last fight in June 1995. Respected by his peers and by those who know and understand boxing, he was often paid the ultimate compliment a referee can receive. “You didn’t even know he was in the ring.” Eckert was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.

Don Fullmer: Utah’s gentleman bruiser Don Fullmer, who fought some of the world’s most famous boxers and came within a single fight of a world title himself, passed away peacefully on January 28, 2012, at age 72. The younger brother of Gene and Jay Fullmer, accomplished fighters in their own right, his association with boxing could be traced back to when he was five and fought an amateur bout.  “It’s been a great legacy,” said Troy Fullmer of the family’s efforts to keep boxing alive and well in Utah. “It’s been a great life.” The Fullmer name is synonymous with boxing.

Goody Petronelli: Legendary boxing trainer Goody Petronelli, a Brockton, Massachusetts native who trained a number of professional boxers including the great Marvelous Marvin Hagler, died at 89 on January 30, 2012, following a period of failing health. His death followed a string of challenges that Petronelli had to deal with in recent months. One of them was the death of his wife of 70 years, Marian J. Pat (Gorman) Petronelli in October. His son David said, “You could see it in his eyes. He was hurting. He just loved that woman.” In September, Goody lost his brother, Pat Petronelli.

Angelo Dundee: He trained the two most celebrated fighters of his era, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, and 15 world champions in all in a Hall of Fame career that began in 1952. In his 2007 autobiography, My View From the Corner, Dundee said his job was “a mixed bag combining certain qualities belonging to a doctor, an engineer, a psychologist and, sometimes, even an actor…When the bell rings ending the round, that’s when the trainer takes over.” Dundee’s most memorable moment in Leonard’s corner came in 1981 during Ray’s first fight against Hearns. Momentum had slipped away from Sugar Ray by the end of the 12th round of the 15-round bout at which point Angelo uttered these famous words in the corner. “You’re blowing it, son.” Angelo left us at age 90 on February 1, 2012, following complications arising from a blood clot.

Wayne Kelly: One of New York’s most popular and proficient boxing referees and a veteran of 26 world championship fights died unexpectedly after a massive heart attack at the young age of 63 on February 1, 2012. “At this point in time, I think he was the very best referee in the state of New York,” remarked celebrated former judge and HBO’s current unofficial scorer Harold Lederman. “He was a wonderful guy, a terrific referee, and a terrific guy to be around,” added Lederman. “Everybody liked him. Not only was he good at his craft, but he was a good human being. We will all miss him.” Randy Gordon, Kelly’s lifelong friend and the man who gave Wayne his start in refereeing, one wrote a tribute to Kelly in 2006 in TSS.

Jeff Fraza: Former participant of the NBC and ESPN reality boxing series “The Contender,” Jeff Fraza, was killed when he was hit by an MBTA commuter rail train in his hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts on February 4, 2012.  “I’m still in shock. I can’t believe it. He was a great kid,” said Irish Micky Ward of Lowell. Fighting from the junior welterweight to middleweight division, Fraza appeared on the first two seasons of “The Contender,” with the first season airing on NBC and the second on ESPN. He compiled a record of 17 wins, 3 losses and had 10 wins by way of knockout. He was 34 at the time of his tragic passing.

Luther Rawlings: Chicagoan Luther Rawlings passed away on March 6, 2012, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 82 at the time. Rawlings started out as a tall lightweight at 5-feet-11-inches and grew into a middleweight by the end of his career in 1959. During his professional career, Luther never actualized the success he had as an amateur, but he still managed to impress. His final mark was 38-24-9 (1-1-3 in his last 5). From 1951 to 1956, Rawlings beat some of the world’s top boxers.

Bert Sugar: The legendary journalist and historian Bert Sugar died on March 25, 2012, at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco of a heart attack following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He was 74. With his passing, boxing fans lost a critical link with the past as historical analyses of fights will become more and more abstract and less human no matter how hard a young Google-dependent writer tries to humanize them. Younger men like Mike Silver, Max Kellerman, and Teddy Atlas will keep the historical flame burning, but their research and grasp is exceptional. Most writers today were not even on the maternity radar when Bert was watching fights. Sugar got involved in boxing journalism when he bought Boxing Illustrated in 1969. He edited the magazine until 1973. Then from 1979-83 he was the editor of The Ring magazine.

Andy Ganigan:  A former world champion and member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, Ganigan died in Las Vegas at age 59 on May 2, 2012. Ganigan’s death came two years after an assault in his hometown of Waipahu left him severely debilitated. Ganigan, known as the “Hawaiian Punch,” was a ring sensation in the 1970s and ‘80s, with a 34-5 record, including 30 knockouts and a lightweight division championship. He was named to The Ring’s list of “100 Greatest Punchers of All-Time” in 2003, some 20 years after he retired. Sadly, the last two years of his life were spent as a near-invalid after an apparently drunken and horrific unprovoked attack on March 26, 2010.

Eddie Perkins: Hall of Fame junior welterweight Eddie Perkins, a two-time champion who fought in more than 20 countries, died at home on May 10, 2101. He was 75. Perkins, among the best boxers to ever call Chicago home, was WBC junior welterweight champion and two-time WBA junior welterweight champion during a 19-year professional career. People said you could throw a whole handful of BB pellets at boxer Eddie Perkins and not one of them would strike home. That’s how elusive Mr. Perkins was in the ring. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008. Herb Goldman ranked him as number 19 on the All-Time Welterweight list.

Johnny Tapia: Former super flyweight, bantamweight, and featherweight champion Johnny Tapia, aka “Mi Vida Loca” (My Crazy Life), was found dead in his Albuquerque home on May 27, 2012. He was only 45. The beloved Tapia had the hardest of hard luck stories. His father was allegedly murdered while his mother, Virginia, was pregnant with him. Johnny was orphaned when he was eight, after his mother had been kidnapped, raped, hanged, and stabbed 26 times with a screwdriver. Less than a year after his mother’s death, he recounted, his uncles were making him fight older boys in matches they bet on. If he lost, they beat him, he reportedly said. He had his first pro fight on March 28, 1988. Tapia won the WBO super flyweight title in 1995, the IBF super flyweight title in 1997, the WBA bantamweight title in 1998, the WBO bantamweight title in 1999, and the IBF featherweight title in 2002. Mike Tyson called Tapia one of the greatest fighters ever. He won 59 fights, 30 by knockout; lost 5; and drew 2. He was knocked out only once. At the time of his death, Tapia’s record was 59-5-2 (30 KOs). His life, not without its joys, ended in a nightmare.

Teofilo Stevenson: Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson, the three-time Olympic heavyweight champion with a devastating right hand and a gentlemanly demeanor, died on June 11, 2012, of a heart attack. He was 60. The 6-foot-3½-inch Stevenson was famous for his punishing right, polished technique, deft hand and footwork, as well as his sportsmanship. Stevenson passed up millions by not leaving Communist-run Cuba to turn pro, but expressed no remorse. “I prefer the affection of 8 million Cubans,” he once said. In his later years, Stevenson served as vice president of Cuba’s Boxing Federation and at the island’s National Sports Institute.

Ralph Hollett: On June 16, 2012, Ralph Hollett of Halifax, Nova Scotia, lost his courageous battle with cancer at the young age of 59. The former Canadian middleweight boxing champ died after battling an inoperable brain tumor. “I always wanted to fight a 15-rounder and this is it, right?” Hollet, 58, told CBC News. “The other fights were in my hands. This fight is in God’s hands.” Canada lost a true hero of the prize ring. Hollett was one of the greatest athletes to ever call Nova Scotia home and is especially remembered for his two sensational victories over Fernand Marcotte in 1980 and 1981.

Each will be missed. May the Lord grant them eternal comfort.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. the thresher 10:59am, 07/05/2012

    Thanks mates

  2. Matt Mosley 09:04am, 07/05/2012

    Great tribute article, Ted.
    I plan to learn more about Teofilo Stevenson. I had heard how good he was but didn’t realise just how devastating that right hand was, and how good a fighter he was in general.
    He would surely have made a top pro heavyweight.
    RIP to all of the above.

  3. mikecasey 05:30am, 07/05/2012

    Angie’s probably telling the angels how to move even better.

  4. john coiley 01:32am, 07/05/2012

    remembering those who have passed before me adds years to my life, making me older than I seem, or am, burdened by the weight of memory…

  5. Tex Hassler 09:40pm, 07/04/2012

    They fought the good fight and finished the race of life. Thanks Mr. Sares for bringing to mind these men who meant so much to the boxing community.

  6. Russ Anber 07:47pm, 07/04/2012

    Ted, you never fail to amaze me! What a brilliant piece. Thank you so much for remembering my friend Ralph Hollett. Along with Vinnie Curto, the “Hollett Heat” as I nicknamed him way back in ‘81, was responsable for giving me my start in the game. I will never forget what Ralph and his trainer, the legendary Tom McCluskey (who sadly passed in Feb) did for me. I worked Hollett’s corner alongside McCluskey for a major part of Hollett’s career. We remained friends and in touch until his passing. Thank you so much for remembering him Ted! God Bless!

  7. Deirdre Gogarty 07:34pm, 07/04/2012

    Angelo Dundee was a great guy and a good friend. But this list is not complete without the former British light welterweight champion Pat McCormack (1946-2012).


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