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For Whom the Bell Tolled: 2021 Boxing Obituaries PART ONE (Jan.-June)

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  • For Whom the Bell Tolled: 2021 Boxing Obituaries PART ONE (Jan.-June)

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    By Arne K. Lang

    In our annual year-end necrology, we say goodbye to those that left their mark on the noble but too-often unforgiving sport of boxing. Many of the decedents left a great legacy, none more so than Marvelous Marvin Hagler.


    4 – William Lathan – A Philadelphia product, “Doc” Lathan served as a ringside physician for more than 500 pro fights and made many contributions to boxing medicine as a member of various advisory committees. His wife Melvina Lathan was a boxing judge who went on to helm the New York State Athletic commission. At age 84 in Ardsley, New York.

    9 – Mike Acri – A promoter and matchmaker, Acri was adept at reviving the careers of faded luminaries such as Roberto Duran and Hector Camacho. He originated the annual series of boxing shows at the Turning Stone Casino Resort that are run in conjunction with the Hall of Fame Weekend activities in nearby Canastota. At age 63 in his hometown of Erie, PA, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

    15 – Tyrone “Butterfly” Crawley – A cagey southpaw known for his ambidexterity, Cawley was 22-2 in a nine-year career that began in 1980 and included a failed stab at Livingstone Bramble’s world lightweight title. He quit boxing for a career in law enforcement and was the Director of the North Philadelphia Police Athletic League at the time of his death at age 62, likely from Covid.

    22 – Harry Perry – He never turned pro, but was a legend in Irish amateur boxing, representing his country in two Olympiads. At age 86 in his native Dublin after a long illness.

    22 – Hughroy Currie – Currie had an undistinguished pro career, finishing 17-11-1, but he was good enough to win the British heavyweight title, albeit he didn’t keep it very long. His best wins came against previously undefeated Proud Kilimanjaro (W PTS 10) and future IBF world cruiserweight champion Glenn McCrory (KO 2). At age 61 in London of Covid-19.


    2 – Reggie Ford – Born Reginald Forde in Guyana, Ford was 10-15-1 as a pro and was stopped eight times – a career not worth remembering save that he fought six former or future world title-holders including Marvin Hagler, then the top-rated middleweight contender in what was Forde’s second pro bout. In his signature win, he knocked Davey “Boy” Green (37-3) into retirement with a 5th-round stoppage in London. At age 67 in a New York nursing home.

    5 – Leon Spinks – A gold medalist at the 1976 Montreal Games, Spinks had only eight pro fights under his belt when he won a 15-round decision over Muhammad Ali in one of the most celebrated upsets in boxing history. He lost the rematch and it was all downhill from there. Neon Leon was 19-17-2 in his last 38 starts and was stopped nine times. At age 67 in Las Vegas after a long illness.

    7 – Jean Josselin – A 1960 Olympian, Josselin, a welterweight, won 66 of his 89 pro fights and was a two-time world title challenger. He was a big star in France during his professional heyday; they named a champagne after him. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s when he died at age 81 at a hospital in Gray, France, not far from his birthplace at Sesancon.

    7 – Stan Hoffman – One of boxing’s foremost wheeler-dealers, the pony-tailed Hoffman, born into a mob family in Brooklyn, left the music business to follow his muse and managed, advised or promoted 38 world champions during his five decades in boxing. He guided upset-makers Hasim Rahman and Iran Barkley to world titles and had a long association with James Toney. At age 89 in Bordentown, New Jersey.

    8 – Davey Armstrong – A two-time Olympian who spent his best days as a boxer chasing Olympic gold, Armstrong turned pro under Emanuel Steward after the U.S. pulled out of the Moscow Games and finished 24-3. The third member of the national powerhouse Tacoma Boys Club boxing team to pass away in the last three years following the deaths of Rocky Lockridge and Johnny Bumphus, Armstrong was suffering from dementia when he drew his last breath in Puyallup, Washington at age 64.

    9 – Roy King Jr – King was 42 years old when he succumbed to injuries suffered in a fight 13 months earlier in Nashville on a show he co-promoted. Knocked down in the waning seconds of the eighth round, he fell into a coma and never regained consciousness. The Brooklyn native, a popular figure in Johnson City, Tennessee, where he owned a fitness studio, finished his career with a record of 12-5-1.

    13 – Mzimasi Mnguni – A former postal worker, Mnguni turned out a steady stream of world class fighters from his spartan gym in East London, South Africa. He developed title-holders Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bungu, and Mbulelo Botile, among others. Incapacitated by a 2014 stroke, he lived to age 79.

    17 – Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado – A fan favorite at LA’s Olympic Auditorium as he was climbing the ladder, Albarado made one successful defense of the WBC 154-pound title he won in 1974 with a come-from-behind 15th-round stoppage of Koichi Wajima in Tokyo. An ill-advised comeback after a nearly six-year retirement reduced his final record to 57-13-1. At age 72 at a nursing home in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas, from complications of dementia.

    28 – Danny Valdez – A fixture at the Olympic Auditorium where he fought 24 times, Valdez was only 20 years old when he challenged Davey Moore for the world featherweight title in 1961. That didn’t go well – he was stopped in the opening round – but Valdez was a solid pro who spent months ranked in the top 10 by The Ring magazine. He finished 31-12. At age 81 in Los Angeles.


    8 – Danny McAlinden – The first native of Northern Ireland to win British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, McAlinden (a cruiserweight by today’s standards) finished 31-12-2 in a 13-year career that began in 1969. He had one fight on U.S. soil, winning a 6-round decision over Muhammad Ali’s brother Rahman Ali on the undercard of Ali-Frazier I and died on the 50th anniversary of that iconic event. At age 73 in Coventry, England, after a long battle with cancer.

    13 – Marvelous Marvin Hagler – One of the all-time greats, Marvelous Marvin won the world middleweight title in 1980 and made 12 successful defenses before losing the title on a controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard in what proved to be his final fight. Turning pro in Brockton, MA, where he spent his teen years, Hagler finished 62-3-2 with 52 KOs and was never knocked off his feet. His sudden death at age 66 in New Hampshire was attributed to natural causes.

    21 – Jimmy Abbott – Nicknamed Jumbo, the rotund South African heavyweight was 19-5-2 in a five-year career that began in 1978. His signature win was a first-round blast-out of countryman Kallie Knoetze. In retirement he became an evangelist. At age 61 of heart failure eight years after suffering a stroke.

    21 – Lee Noble – The British super middleweight finished 20-24-3, but was better than his record. He fought a slew of opponents with unblemished records, but was stopped only twice. He left the sport at age 26 after being diagnosed with leukemia and was only 33 when he passed away from terminal brain cancer at his home in Sheffield.

    28 – Jemal Hinton – One of the few boxers to retire undefeated, Hinton, who reached the finals of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials, was 22-0 in the paid ranks. A second- generation prizefighter, he quit the sport because he simply grew tired of it. A Tai Chi instructor in retirement, Hinton passed away at age 51 at a DC hospital from injuries suffered in a car accident.


    5 – Vladimir Gendlin – Considered the patriarch of professional boxing in Russia, Gendlin, a former amateur boxer, was a fight facilitator, TV commentator, and producer of documentaries about Russian boxers. At age 84 in Moscow from complications of Covid-19.


    6 – Felix “Tutu” Zabala Sr. – Born in Cuba, Zabala founded All Star Boxing, the leading promotional firm in South Florida, and was instrumental in launching the long-running series Boxeo Telemundo. He promoted seven champions, notably Colombian bantamweight Miguel “Happy” Lora who developed a big following in Miami. At age 83 from respiratory failure.

    29 – Keith Mullings – Judged strictly by his record, 16-8-1, Mullings was mediocre, but to the contrary the Jamaica-born Brooklynite was a solid pro who scored one of the biggest upsets of the 1990s when he unseated super middleweight champion Terry Norris during a string of five consecutive title fights. A Desert Storm veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD, no cause of death was given when he passed away at age 53.


    9 – Kirkland Laing – Born in Jamaica and raised in Nottingham, England, Laing was more talented than his 43-12-1 record suggests. His signature win was a 10-round decision over Roberto Duran, The Ring magazine Upset of the Year for 1982. Known for his eccentricities and his improvident ways, Laing squandered his ring earnings and was suffering from dementia when he died in a Yorkshire nursing home at age 66.

    11 – Bernardo Mercado – Arguably the hardest puncher to come out of Colombia, Mercado was at his best in 1979/80 when he knocked out Trevor Berbick in the opening round on Berbick’s turf in Halifax and then clawed out of a deep hole to stop Earnie Shavers in seven. He finished 33-5 with 28 KOs. At age 69 in Cartagena of an apparent heart attack.

    23 – Brian London – The son of a prominent British heavyweight, London, born Brian Sydney Harper, fought all of the top heavyweights of his era including defending champions Floyd Patterson (KO by 11 in 1959) and Muhammad Ali (KO by 3 in 1966). He opened a series of successful nightclubs in his hometown of Blackpool after leaving the sport with a 37-20-1 record and was thought to be in good health when his heart suddenly stopped ticking at age 87.

    To be continued…..

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  • #2
    Still so hard to believe the Unknockoutable One is gone. 🙏

    May his soul Rest in Peace. And all the souls of the departed.