Duva fighting retirement the only way he knows how
Few men love boxing the way Lou Duva does.
The 77-year-old boxing Hall of Famer even skipped retirement because he loves working with boxers so much.
“This is my life, my love. I’ve got two families. I have a fistic family and a blood family, and I’ve been lucky that they’ve meshed together for so long,” said Duva, whose promotional company – Main Events – is producing Saturday’s boxing card at Caesars Tahoe along with HBO Sports.
Friends and family have been after Duva for years to surrender to retirement activities, but the 56-year veteran of the sport will have none of it.
“What do you want me to do, play cards or golf? I’ve been like a surrogate father to a lot of these kids and when their careers over, they don’t forget and give me my joy. Like Evander Holyfield flying in for a kid’s birthday party,” Duva said. “The thing that makes me feel good is my phone never stops ringing. Somebody wants to turn pro and I advise them.”
His list of champions is impressive. In addition to Holyfield, Duva trained Hall of Famer Joey Giardello, Johnny Bumphus, Rocky Lockridge, Bobby Czyz, Livingston Bramble, Vinny Pazienza, Mark Breland, John-John Molina, Meldrick Taylor, Darrin Van Horn, Michael Mooreer, Eddie Hopson, Mike McCallum and Pernell Whitaker. That list doesn’t include the champions he now manages like Fernando Vargas, who will defend his IBF junior middleweight title against Raul Marquez on Saturday.
His willingness to fight for his boxer was never more apparent than on July 11, 1996 when he shoved referee Wayne Kelly out of the way so he could help his fighter Andrew Golota, who was being assaulted by Bernard Brooks following his disqualification for repeated low blows to Riddick Bowe.
The New York State Athletic Commission temporary suspended Duva, but lifted the ban a month later.
“I love my fighters like my family. I’m always on TV and it always seems I’m in trouble because I’m fighting for my fighters all the time,” said the 1987 and 1994 WBA trainer of the year.
The feeling is mutual. Vargas’ foe on Saturday remains loyal to his former mentor.
“Lou’s a great guy,” said Raul Marquez. “I love him. We go way back. I’ve known him since I was 13. I sure miss that Italian food he used to cook for us.”
Duva’s loyalty to his fighters was magnified in 1989 when on Feb. 4 in Las Vegas he worked Breland’s corner as he knocked out Sueng-Soon Lee to regain the WBA welterweight title. Instead of relaxing poolside in Las Vegas, Duva worked the next afternoon in Van Horn’s corner as he stunned IBF junior middleweight champion Robert Hines in Atlantic City, N.J.
When he’s not advising, Duva still enjoys finding the right sparring partners for his fighters.
“I have good trainers, good matchmakers, good cut men and office personnel. All I do is take care of the fighters,” Duva said. “All the fighters try and get a sparring partner that is the same style of the opponent that they are fighting, whether they need a runner or a mugger. That’s my job. When I find someone, I’ll sit the guy down and in a couple of days I’ll get them to imitate that opponent. In boxing, styles beat fighters, fighters don’t beat fighters. You can’t compete with a style.”
Even though they may need a gentle prod from their fathers, children still approach Duva for his autograph, like one such boy did Tuesday following Vargas’ workout at Caesars Tahoe.
“Since I’ve been here maybe 20 people have come up to me and said, “I know you’re famous, but I can’t put a finger on it.’ It’s nice because I like kids and I’m a ham,” Duva said.
Duva won’t be forgotten – even if eventually retires.
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