In boxing, it’s what the combatants do in the ring that is of greatest historical importance. But in every era, certain trainers, managers and promoters also emerge as iconic figures. Lou Duva was that kind of towering presence during the 1980s and 1990s, the sport’s last golden era.
The Patriarch of Main Events Promotions passed away in Patterson, New Jersey on March 8. He was 94 years old.
Duva was a gym rat from his youth and had a professional career of no distinction in the 1940s. After retiring, he supported his family by running a trucking company and working as a bail bondsman. But he never left the Sweet Science. In the 1970s, he operated a gym in Patterson and was a small-time, local promoter.
But in 1978, his son Dan founded Main Events. For the next two decades, the Duvas would be intimately involved in some of the sport’s biggest moments.
In 1981, Main Events won the purse bid for Sugar Ray Leonard’s legendary showdown with Thomas Hearns. Main Events really took the sport by storm following the 1984 Olympics, when they signed promotional contracts with Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland. These were some of the biggest stars of the 1980s and 1990s. Holyfield and Whitaker are two of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time.
With his white hair, great, bushy eyebrows and face as craggy and scar-lined as an old, worn-out boxing glove, Duva was one of the era’s most recognizable figures. He was in the corner for some of the 1980s and 1990s most memorable bouts.
He was in the ring for one of the most bizarre moments in boxing history. In July 1996, Duva stormed into the ring during a post-fight melee, after his Polish heavyweight Andrew Golota was disqualified for repeated low blows against Riddick Bowe. Duva was two years removed from a heart attack and wearing a portable cardiac stimulator, which caused him to pass out. Amid the chaos, he was taken from the ring on a stretcher.