“Along the way, I came to believe that fighters themselves were among the best human beings I knew. They were mercifully free of the macho bullshit that stains so many professional athletes. They were gentle in a manly way.” —Pete Hamill
It was a hot and humid Sunday in June 1998, and my wife and I decided to stay for the induction ceremonies in Canastota. Usually we leave that morning, but something held us back this time. Maybe it was that Matthew Saad Muhammad had been one of our favorite fighters, and we owed it to him to stay for his formal induction.
After a short but emotional acceptance speech by the great Miguel Canto, Lou Duva worked his way to the stage and gave a rousing speech that came directly from his heart, as he talked entirely about his fighters and family and never got around to himself.
“I like what I’m doing. I have two families, just so you know it. I have two families. And it’s the greatest joy in the world. I have my blood family, which is right over there. Stand up. My new prospect. Mikey. Right over there. Mikey, my new grandson. And then I have my fistic family. My fighters. I think I gotta be the luckiest son of a gun in the world. To have two families such as this. They’re in my corner, they’re in my fighter’s corners. Everybody is family in what I do. I mean this is not a one-man show. I mean I’m the ham that takes the bows but they’re the ones that put everything together for me. When you take my daughters, my son Dino. Dino, right there. He is promoting. One of the tops when it comes to promoting. My son Danny who passed away a couple of years ago. He was without a doubt one of the greatest brains in boxing. My fighters loved him, everybody loved him. He knew what it was all about and he fought for the fighters. And I can’t say enough about him. But his wife Cathy, there’s Cathy right there …“
He closed with these humble words:
“You know there’s a lot of great champions up here. You know when you talk about Emanuel Steward and you talk about Eddie Futch. Great trainers. Great trainers. I don’t want to be thought about that, hey, they were great trainers and so was Lou. No. All I want to be known as is I’m the guy who fought for my fighters. That’s all I want to be known about. Thank you very much.”
Duva was deeply moved. So was the crowd. And With his closing words, my eyes started to itch just a bit, and I noticed others pawing at their eyes.
Lou was Old School. He was special. He will be missed.