Ranking the Craziest Boxing Managers of All Time

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2013

Ranking the Craziest Boxing Managers of All Time

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    Boxing managers come in all shapes and sizes.

    In most cases, they’re the behind-the-scenes people whose names the casual fans are barely aware of and whose faces are hardly recognizable amid the typical gaggle of post-fight hangers-on.

    But in some instances, the manager assumes a higher profile.

    In the case of Burgess Meredith’s Mickey Goldmill—perhaps the most famous (albeit fictional) manager of them all—the managerial role morphed into drill sergeant, confidant, spokesperson and father figure.  

    These days, whether it’s because they’re loose with a quote at a press conference, flamboyant in their methods to land fights or simply more aware of where cameras are positioned at opportune moments, a select few have become nearly as recognizable as the athletes for whom they work.

    Click through to check out our list of the most extreme examples of managerial fervor.

8. Bernard Hopkins

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    Philadelphia’s B-Hop has made a name for himself in the ring as an age-defying specimen against foes who could be his sons, and he’s done so as perhaps the most successful anti-establishment commodity of all time.

    The two-division champion’s haggles with promoters and other operators are as legendary as his title victories, and his decision to go all-in when it comes to pulling the strings on his career has certainly kept his bank account healthy as he approaches 50 years old.

    Ultimately, he’s said he sees his post-active role in the sport as an adviser to younger fighters, in which he counsels them to avoid the same behind-the-scenes traps that slowed his progress prior to a career renaissance in his mid-30s.

7. Leonard Ellerbe

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    The actual title held by the most visible non-fighting member of the Mayweather entourage may be unclear—some call him adviser, others call him manager and still others refer to him as CEO of “Money’s” promotional outfit—but it’s clear he has a role considered vital by the champion himself, and the team’s success has elevated his visibility to among the sport’s highest.

    And, being that it’s a Mayweather entourage, a little craziness is par for the course.

    Most recently, Ellerbe played the role of hand-wrap monitor in the Robert Guerrero locker room on May 4, and he seemed to delight in jawing back and forth with Ruben Guerrero, the fighter’s father and trainer, about what was about to occur in the MGM Grand ring.

    At one point, as the elder Guerrero claimed the challenger's victory was imminent, a laughing Ellerbe asked, "Have you taken your meds?"

6. Jack 'Doc' Kearns

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    If Hopkins is the 21st century version of old school, then Kearns, the manager of 1920s-era heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, is the genuine article.

    Posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, Kearns met Dempsey in 1917 while, as both men claimed, coming to his aid in a bar fight. Ultimately they forged a relationship that led to the first million-dollar gate in the sport’s history—when Dempsey defended against Frenchman Georges Carpentier in New Jersey in 1921.

    His mastery of promotion also led to a $300,000 purse for Dempsey to defend against Tommy Gibbons in Shelby. Mont.—a payout which virtually bankrupted the small town.  

5. Rock Newman

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    If you know nothing more about the manager of former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, the footage of the conclusion of Bowe’s first fight with Elijah Tillery essentially says it all.

    Love him or hate him, the guy was all in for his fighter.

    And whether pulling an opponent over the ropes, orchestrating the dropping of a title belt into a garbage can or generally being a fountain of material for reporters and other journalists, Newman was a fixture on the scene during Bowe’s brief but intense reign as the sport’s top big man.

    Bowe ultimately faded from the spotlight, leaving Newman to revel in his wealth for a prolonged stretch before returning to his native Washington, D.C. to host a weekly radio show.

4. Butch Lewis

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    It’s not every guy who can wear a tuxedo jacket with a bow tie and no shirt.

    Then again, most would concede the mercurial Lewis was not every guy.

    Initially a small-time operator on the streets of Philadelphia and later an executive with Top Rank, Lewis rose to international prominence as the man behind Olympic gold medalists and heavyweight champions Leon and Michael Spinks—and did so while fashionably rocking what he called the “chocolate tuxedo.”

    He held Michael out of the HBO-orchestrated tournament that ultimately crowned Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion, then cashed in with his “People’s Champion” for a purse of $13.5 million in what wound up as a 91-second loss in Atlantic City in 1988.

3. Yoel Judah

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    The father of former 140- and 147-pound champion Zab Judah unquestionably talks a big game, but he’s also one of the few managers who’d be both willing and able to back it up.

    The eldest member of a combat-friendly family boxed briefly as a pro, holds a black belt and was a world kickboxing champion. Still, he’s known best for being the fiery chatterbox alongside Zab, whose career he’s managed since its outset in 1996.

    Ingloriously, he played a significant role in a near-riot during his son’s 2006 bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. when a low blow from Zab prompted Mayweather’s trainer to enter the ring, which led to Yoel entering and throwing punches of his own.

    The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined and suspended him, and he’s generally been lower key since, though a recent match between his son and Danny Garcia included verbal fireworks with Garcia’s trainer and father, Angel Garcia. 

2. Dennis Rappaport

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    The managerial acumen of Rappaport and partner Mike Jones, a pair dubbed the “Whacko Twins” during its heyday, was proven beyond doubt on June 11, 1982.

    That night, in Las Vegas, the men behind heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney—a relatively untested challenger without a victory over a substantially ranked opponent—completed a journey from anonymity to stardom when Cooney challenged champion Larry Holmes for the WBC title.

    The fight drew a live gate of more than $7 million, driven in part by the over-the-top promotional techniques employed by Cooney’s side, which yielded pre-fight magazine covers without Holmes in both Time and Sports Illustrated and a break from tradition that saw the challenger introduced after the four-year reigning champion.

    Rappaport fanned the racial flames as well, referring to Cooney as “The Great White Hope” and imploring him during the fight with lines such as, “America needs you.”

    Cooney lost by 13th-round TKO and never won a title. He retired after a second-round loss to George Foreman (shown above) in 1990.

1. Don King

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    It’d be a stretch of pay-per-view proportions to claim King is universally loved by all the fighters with whom he’s worked. But whether the 81-year-old lives on for days or decades, no one will step forward at his funeral to claim he’ll be easily forgotten.

    Rather, the frizz-haired, flag-waving octogenarian will unquestionably be remembered among the sport’s most prolific promoters and its most controversial “managers,” with several fighters claiming to have suffered financial harm from signing deals to work with him and his son, Carl, who was reportedly listed as the manager of record to avoid conflicts of interest.

    Nonetheless, the stamp King has left on the game since working his first fight in 1972 is beyond dispute. He seems poised to continue at least for the short term, in the wake of client Guillermo Jones winning the WBA cruiserweight title last week in Moscow.

    Only in America? Maybe. Only in boxing? Absolutely.