Some fans inquire how I got the nickname “Glory Days”? It’s not my real tag around my circle of friends but more wishful thinking for how boxing used to be. The good old days of two champions, fifteen rounder’s, fearless legends, no cherry pickers, weekly newspaper coverage, no pay-per-view (or you plucked down 20 bucks to see a huge event in movie theatre) two dollar boxing magazines, small venues for rising stars to hone their craft, weekend broadcasts on free TV, and of course, Lou Duva.
Lou Duva was the epitome of everything that was great for boxing in the eighties, nineties and beyond. The man who had “boxer” written all over his face was a fiercely loyal man to all who hitched themselves to his stable or asked for guidance. Boxing fans of that era will fondly recall Lou willing to charge anyone who got in his way or disrespected his protégés. Some writers back in the day would tease him with quips about Looking like Fred Flintstone in jest, but he was a living icon who helped form the most impressive stable of the day while making champions out of talented amateurs.
I first was introduced to Lou in front of Madison Square Garden where Tommy Hearns was promoting his upcoming unification fight with Ray Leonard and doing drills in a make shift ring outdoors. Several local gyms were told incorrectly that Tommy needed sparring partners for a glorified workout. When I arrived with friends and saw Mark Breland and Alex Ramos standing by idly I knew Hearns was there strictly to get New York City in fever pitch for the historic bout but Lou took the time to talk to those cats and give out his phone number. I only saw him a few times after that, but felt like I knew him all my adult life from following his fighters flourish and dominate the sport.
Sadly, it was confirmed Lou passed this morning at 94 years young. Hard to imagine that the man with the heart of a bear has finally left us. While his cause of death wasn’t immediately released by family yet those who knew and admired him can rest easy knowing he had one hell of a ride.
Born in 1922 Lou was raised on the hard streets of Little Italy in New York City. Later on, he would transplant to Jersey and make Totowa his home. Duva had a fascinating life story that really needs a full blown novel to capture almost a century of living.
Lou was a scrappy pro boxer who was distracted with boxing needing to find any jobs or venues in which to help support his family. He enlisted in the Army while he was underage with the on start of World War 2, and was put to work as a boxing instructor when it was learned the man knew how to throw his hands inside the ring or out.
When he came home from his tour of duty he finished off an uninspiring ledger of 6-10-1, 2 KO’s, and invested in opening his own trucking company. After several years of making it a fincial successes he missed his passion of boxing and decided to open his own place, Garden Gym which soon led him to crowning his first champion, Joey Giardello. Ever the workaholic Lou labored relentlessly as he had since childhood to make it work.
In 1978 Lou formed Main Events with his son Dan (died 1996) and preceded to launch his “Tomorrow’s Champions” with the financial tutelage of Shelly Finkel who helped ink the prospects with golden futures.
Lou worked tirelessly promoting small hometown bouts at Ice World to full blown coverage on network TV. It seemed every weekend there was a Duva bout to enjoy and the match making was designed to improve his stable not suppress their development. His roster of fighters reads like a “who’s who” of the era.
Some of the notable names he trained were Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Alex Ramos, Bobby Czyz, Livingstone Bramble, Meldrick Taylor, Vinny Pazienza, Rocky Lockridge, Andrew Golota, John John Molina, Darrin Van Horn, Evander Holyfield, Tyrell Biggs, and Eddie Hobson among many others. Even troublesome Mitch Green and Tony Ayala, JR. fought under Main Events.
During his “heyday” Duva rubbed shoulders with many celebrities and Jersey royalty like Frank Sinatra. He later settled in Wayne New Jersey. His face at one time or another graced every major Boxing publication and he was named Manager of the Year in 1985 by Boxing Writers Association. Lou was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996.
In 2000, there was a family split between Dan’s wife Kathy who took control of Main Events when Dan passed four years earlier and Dino his brother who went on to form “Duva Boxing”.
While every fan can rattle off the names of champions by the score, most would be hard pressed to name ten truly great trainer/managers. Duva comes to mind on that short list. He earned it.
Heartfelt condolences go out to the Duva clan. Rest in Peace Lou, you left an outstanding legacy.