The boxing community lost a legendary trainer and manager Wednesday.
Lou Duva, one of the sport’s best cornermen and one of its most colorful characters, died at age 94. Promoter Dino Duva, Lou’s son, said in a statement that he died of natural causes.
Lou Duva had a strong impact on the Atlantic City boxing scene. He is part of the inaugural class of the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame, which will be holding its induction ceremonies during Memorial Day Weekend in May.
“The Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame is deeply saddened by his passing,” the Hall of Fame wrote on its Facebook page. “Lou Duva was one of a kind and will truly be missed.”
Duva’s first big fight as a trainer in Atlantic City occurred Dec. 7, 1963. He was in Joey Giardello’s corner when he won the middleweight championship with a decision over Dick Tiger at Boardwalk Hall before an announced crowd of 11,973.
The late Pinky Kravitz was the ringside announcer for that fight.
In 1978, Duva and his family formed the promotional company Main Events, which was based in Totowa. His daughter-in-law, Kathy Duva, now runs the company.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Lou worked the corners of 19 world champions. He made frequent trips to Atlantic City with 1984 Olympians Evander Holyfield, Meldrick Taylor and Pernell Whitaker.
Duva was also known for his sense of humor.
In December 1996, he came to Atlantic City as co-trainer for heavyweight Andrew Golota, who was fighting a rematch against Riddick Bowe at Boardwalk Hall.
Because Golota had been disqualified for low blows in his first fight against Bowe a few months earlier, Duva sought to cure him of that habit by outfitting a heavy bag with a pair of giant boxing trunks.
Alas, the strategy didn’t work. Golota was disqualified again.
A year later, Duva and Golota showed up to fight Ray Mercer in Atlantic City. Besides being disqualified twice for low blows, Golota had also bitten Samson Po’uha in the neck and intentionally head-butted Danell Nicholson.
“He won’t be biting anyone in the ring anymore,” Duva said before Golota fought Mercer. “I told Andrew that from now on, he’s a vegetarian.”
Perhaps Duva’s most memorable moment occurred in 1993, when he was training IBF junior-lightweight champion John John Molina for a fight against Manuel Medina.
Duva did not speak Spanish and Molina did not speak English, which occasionally led to some miscommunication during training camp in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I went to take a shower, and I told John John to run straight up the road to the red light, turn around and run back, which is about 3 miles all together,” Duva said. “I came down for dinner and John John was nowhere to be found. Finally we got a call from the Holiday Inn in Chesapeake telling us that one of our fighters was there.
“John said he ran to the light, but it was green, so he kept running to the next one and that one was green, too, so he kept running. He finally asked somebody for the Holiday Inn and they pointed him toward Chesapeake. He wound up running eight miles.”
Lou Duva, a member of the International and New Jersey Boxing Halls of Fame, is survived by his son Dino Duva; daughters Donna Brooks, Deane Boorman and Denise Duva; daughter-in-law Kathy Duva; 11 grandchildren and four great-greatchilden.
He was pre-deceased by his wife, Enes, and eldest son Dan, Kathy’s husband.