Lou Duva Profile

Born Mar 28, 1922
Died Mar 08, 2017
Age 99 years
Birthplace New York, USA
Height 5ft 7ins
Gym Stillman's Boxing Gym

The hell-raising American Italian is remembered for his tenacious style in the corner as a trainer, promoter and manager who guided 15 fighters to world title success.

Louis 'Lou' Duva was a former boxer, trainer, promoter and matchmaker who spent seven decades in the sport of boxing and worked with 19 world champions. Main Events Promotions, which was founded by Lou and his son Dan, promoted Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Pernell Whittaker, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns.

Dan's widow Kathy is now the face of the promotional company and recently co-promoted Sergey Kovalev's defeat to Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in 2019.

Born in 1922, Duva was the sixth of seven siblings to Italian immigrant parents and grew up in the Little Italy region of New York. Whilst growing up, his family moved to Saint James Place in Totowa, New Jersey.

This is where Duva was first introduced to boxing at the age of 10, with his 23-year-old brother Carl training him and allowing him to carry his spit bucket.

In 1938, Duva did his utmost to try to join the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) but the requirement to join was 18 and at the time he was only 16. Desperate to make the cut, Lou decided to get a fake birth certificate to identify as an 18-year-old.

Duva was set to join the US army after WW2 broke out and got sent to train in Jackson, Mississippi.

It wouldn't last long, though, with Duva's dreams left in tatters after getting involved in brawls with fellow soldiers and lieutenants - something which followed him in boxing.

Duva's next move saw him venture into the ring as a professional boxer. It was a brief, disastrous attempt which saw him compile a miserable record of 6-10-1. After finally realising he was no good in the ring, Lou took a break from boxing before spending time at Stillman's Boxing Gym.

Here, Duva established relationships with some high-profile showbiz stars, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Frankie Vali and had the chance the watch Ray Arcel and Whitey Bimstein coach their fighters.

He spent a lot of time at the gym which eventually inspired him to open the Garden Gym. From there, he went from strength-to-strength and began promoting his own fights at Ice World in Totowa. This was taken a step further in 1978 as his son, Dan, helped him set up Main Event Boxing Promotions with some of America's best up-and-coming amateur prospects joining the stable.

"There is an old Italian proverb. If you love what you're doing, you don't have to do a day's work in your life," Duva said in reference to his involvement in boxing.

Duva had a close relationship with heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano and is believed to have been one of the last people who had spoken to him before he died in a tragic plane crash in 1969. It is believed that he once beat Marciano in a meatball and spaghetti eating competition.


Fighters trained and boxing stable

Main Event's first signee was Johnny Bumphus, who would become the WBA junior welterweight champion with victory over Lorenzo Luis Garcia.

The promotion's breakout moment came when they staged the welterweight unification between Leonard and Hearns in September 1981. Things were running smoothly from a business perspective for Duva and Main Events.

Three years later from Leonard-Hearns, the company enjoyed their most impressive year to date with Bumphus, Mike McCallum, Rocky Lockridge and Livingstone Bramble winning world titles.

The promotion also signed future world champions in Holyfield, "Sweet Pea" Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor, amateur sensation Mark Breland and Tyrell Biggs after the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Holyfield was their main star attraction and Main Event promotions' Duva was there to witness the transition of Holyfield at heavyweight as his trainer.

Tyson Holyfield

The "Real Deal" reached the pinnacle in 1990, crushing Buster Douglas in the process to become the first fighter to win world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight. Duva's career in boxing was thrown into doubt following a family dispute shortly after Holyfield's success.

His son Dan passed away from cancer in 1996 which caused a falling out amongst the family. A breakaway company named Duva Boxing was led by Dino - the brother of Dan while Kathy became CEO. Duva was one of the ultimate characters in boxing, there was never a dull moment.

In 1996, he was involved in a brawl inside the ring at Madison Square Garden after his fighter Andrew Golato got disqualified against Riddick Bowe. Duva climbed through the ropes and argued with Bowe's team before punches were thrown by both sides.

After leaping into the ring, Duva collapsed after his defibrillator went off. He was lifted out of the arena and spent one night in hospital. He was 74 at the time. The Italian American was involved in a brawl alongside his fighter Vinny Pazienza and Roger Mayweather in 1988 after the bout had finished.

Duva left the ring with blood dripping from his cheekbone.

During the later years of his career as a promoter, he took more of a backseat. He helped Dino with Duva Boxing near the end and became a huge advocate for fighters rights.

Lou also helped a lot of young people in his community with the get "kids off the streets and into the ring" campaign. He passed away in 2017 from natural causes.

Lou Duva Awards and Recognition

During the 1980s and 1990s, he was often told off for swearing on televised events. The man's loyalty to fighters and his passion for the sport was up there with anyone in boxing.

His contribution to the sport of boxing was recognised in 1998 as he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Duva lived a long and very impactful life but he sadly passed away from natural causes on March 8, 2017 at the age of 97. This quote sums up the legend.

"I love what I'm doing. It's my life. When it's time to go, I'll probably be fighting to get out of the casket. I'll be yelling at the priest instead of a referee."

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