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R.I.P. Iconic L.A. Boxing Figure Marty Denkin

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  • R.I.P. Iconic L.A. Boxing Figure Marty Denkin

    By Arne K. Lang

    Marty Denkin passed away at his home in West Covina, California, on Thursday, Nov. 29, at age eighty-four. Denkin wore many hats during his 40-plus years on the SoCal boxing scene. He refereed hundreds of fights and judged thousands. During his terms as an assistant executive director of the California State Athletic Commission he ran the Los Angeles office. He also played himself in several movies and owns the distinction of being the only man to count out Rocky Balboa.

    Denkin was born in New York City but moved with his family to Los Angeles at a very young age. By his count, he had 124 amateur fights but never turned pro. Hard sparring sessions with professionals such as lightweight champion Lauro Salas convinced him that his future lay elsewhere.

    During a period that started in the late 1980s, the CSAC was under such a severe budget crunch that the Los Angeles office had only one full-time staffer. That was Denkin. With the power to approve or disapprove matches, to fine or suspend licensees of any stripe – a power that he wasn’t shy about wielding – Denkin made many enemies.

    In June of 1989, Denkin was fired from his $40,000 a year post after he was accused of accepting cash and jewelry from assorted people – a promoter, three managers, and two matchmakers – in return for certain favors. Additionally, one of his assistants accused him of accepting money in return for rigging the scale when a fighter was certain to come in a few pounds overweight. By California law, a person in Denkin’s position was required to report any gratuity of $50 or more.

    Denkin vehemently denied the charges.

    He appealed the ruling and was eventually vindicated.

    In November of 1991, in a 14-page ruling, an administrative law judge ruled that the evidence was overwhelming that Denkin’s accusers conspired to get him fired because they had an axe to grind. Denkin was reinstated.

    But he wasn’t free of controversy. Shortly before he was fired, Denkin approved the re-licensing of boxing manager Harold Rossfields Smith who had just been released from prison after serving six years for embezzling $25 million from the Wells Fargo bank. His license application was not placed before the commission, as was standard procedure, but acted upon privately. The late Los Angeles Times boxing writer Earl Gustkey broke the story. Also, Denkin’s close relationship with WBC president Jose Sulaiman was looked upon in some quarters as a conflict of interest.

    In May of 1995, Gustkey revealed that Denkin once put together a group to manage the affairs of hot prospect Oscar De La Hoya and that the “Golden Boy” had flown the coup without reimbursing them for training expenses, or so they claimed. This was a definite conflict of interest. Denkin refereed De La Hoya’s first professional fight, a first round stoppage of Lamar Williams at the Great Western Forum. (The Denkin group wasn’t alone. Shelly Finkel alleged that he subsidized De La Hoya when Oscar was an amateur and was left holding the bag when Oscar turned pro. Steve Nelson and Bob Mittleman, Oscar’s original managers, had a similar tale of woe when Bob Arum entered the picture.)

    In May of 2015, Denkin announced that he would retire after working as a judge for the WBC world flyweight title fight at the Forum between Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and challenger Edgar Sosa. But in common with so many of the boxers with whom he rubbed elbows, his pronouncement was premature. He continued to work as a judge at small California shows, including a few MMA fights, right through this year.

    Denkin and his wife Rachel were married for 52 years. He is survived by three children, seven grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences. May he rest in peace.

    Photo from the twitter page of Frank Espinoza of the Espinoza Boxing Club

  • #2
    He was third man in the ring for Balboa-Drago in Russia.