Gary Hegyi – “The Man Behind the Scenes” Back in the Day in Philly!
By Ken Hissner: When Frank Gelb started promoting boxing in Atlantic City, he hired Philly’s Gary Hegyi to do the matchmaking. Hegyi was most known for managing 2014 PAB HOF inductee Earl “The Pearl” Hargrove.
“I started driving back and forth for several weeks when Gelb had Boxing on Thursday and wrestling on Tuesday in Atlantic City. Next thing you know, he had me living down there for the summer, and we had many fights being run,” said Hegyi.
Hegyi and George Benton were very close working together. I remember when Bob Connelly promoted a show in Scranton, PA, and afterwards, the three of us, Gary, George, and I were in a room with those coal miners, and George was the only black face. This guy yells in our direction, “Hey Amos!” George and the two of us just look at him and then each other. We figured he meant Amos from “Amos and Andy,” and he was talking to George. He again said, “Hey Amos!”
George said, if this mother f**cker says it one more time, I’m going to drop him.” He says it again, and as George was getting up, another big white guy behind him gets up and says, “how you doing?” A white guy named Amos! Go figure. We sure had plenty of laughs over that one.
I had met Cus D’Amato just prior to the show Bob Connelly was putting on, and he asked me to put Kevin Rooney in a rematch with Terry Crawley, who stopped Rooney on cuts in November of 1982 in Rooney’s last fight. It was April of 1984 at the Catholic Youth Center. Cus wanted to gauge how far back Rooney had gone after the loss. After eight rounds, it ended in a draw. It was Hegyi who got Connelly to agree to put him in.
“I was doing work up in Easton for Larry Holmes and must have quit twenty times. I got along with everyone but Holmes, who I let know when you ask me something, I tell you what I think. That wasn’t what the rest did. I was from Philly, and we didn’t work that way. One day I just left and went back home. I got a phone call from one of them to come back. We put on shows at the Stabler Arena in Bethlehem and some other places in the Lehigh Valley for a while,” said Hegyi.
I wasn’t speaking to Holmes then due to him threatening to kick my ass over mistaking me going to his brother Mark after he refused to allow him to be on a show I was promoting in Easton. Hegyi, let me bring up Chris Organtini from Norristown, PA, to make his debut. He was one tough-looking Italian with many tattoos. I was told his opponent would be Holmes’ PR man’s son. I was told the kid was not in shape. Organtini beat Richie Lovell, who was 1-0-1 over four rounds. Holmes was not happy.
I brought Organtini back for Philly’s Willie Ford, 1-2, who I was told was working three jobs. It was the following month, and Organtini won again. And Holmes was not happy again. Hegyi was one straight shooter who knew his job, whether he was matchmaking or managing.
“I worked many shows for Bob Connelly in Atlantic City, along with Altoona, Conshohocken, and Wayne, in PA. He used some of the boxers I was handling, like Earl Singletary, 26-5, to headline at the McDonald Labor Lyceum in Conshohocken. I put Marvin Stinson (1976 heavyweight Olympic alternate), who must have had 500 fights in the amateurs, in his professional debut in Virginia Beach (in July of 1977). He was so nervous, and I questioned with all the amateur fights what’s wrong? He won. He was 12-0-3 before losing to Tim Witherspoon and Jimmy Young, both from Philly,” said Hegyi.
“I had Anthony “Cobra” Williams, 14-9-3, (winning 11-1-3 until he ran into Terrance Ali and Rodney Moore) Marvin Mack, 18-8-1, Mike Tinley, 22-5-1, who did well until losing a split decision to Iran Barkley in NY, and Frankie Crossan, 12-7, and of course Hargrove 32-6, who fought for the IBF title losing to Mark Medal,” said Hegyi. Hargrove won his first twenty-four fights by knockout, with Hegyi’s maneuvering him into the title fight.
“Connelly even had John David Jackson (later the WBO 154 and WBA 160 champion and a 2015 PA HOF inductee) from the beginning for quite a few fights with Benton training him,” said Hegyi. J Russell Peltz and Joe Hand used Hegyi helping them with their shows. Hegyi helped me when I started going to Joe Frazier’s Gym with what boxer was managed by whom. He really knew his boxing.
“Hegyi and Ted Larve were Heckyll and Jekyll. Many of the hard-bitten insiders credit them with inventing the modern management technique of avoiding competition, building big KO records, and then going for broke with the big payday, a title shot, or eliminator. Like it or not, this technique works,” said Jeff Jowett. Jowett writes for Seconds Out and refers to Larve, who wrote for the Trenton Times and was a jack of all trades in boxing.
“It largely defines boxing as we know it. And the only reason it works is because there are no champions. If every young prospect had to ultimately face “Sugar” Ray Robinson or Archie Moore, there would be no point in building them up with set-ups. But that’s not the modern case. Yes, there are guys who can fight like Mayweather. So what do you do? You duck them. Look for the weak so-called “champion”…..guys who could not have gotten past Charley Scott but are champions today,” said Jeff Jowett. Jowett was a one-time Ring Magazine Correspondent until it was sold to Golden Boy.
“The villains here aren’t guys like Hekyll and Jekyll; the villains are the organizations and TV. Hekyll and Jekyll are not at fault for this. They were visionaries who saw where it was going and made it work,” said Jowett. Yes! Hegyi belongs in the PAB HOF!
“I worked the wrestling shows for Gelb along with the boxing. We were supposed to have eight matches, and I was at the door when they arrived. I told the guy who brought the wrestlers he didn’t have enough wrestlers. He told me not to worry; he had it covered. What he did was bring back one of the wrestlers after his match with a new pair of trunks and a mask,” said Hegyi.
Buster “Demon” Drayton is the former IBF light middleweight champion. “Gary and Ivan Cohen were co-managers. Earl Hargrove, still a good friend of mine, and I were their fighters. When they parted ways, Earl went with Gary getting him to a world title fight, and Ivan got me to a world title fight. Gary was always okay by me,” said Drayton.
Earl Hargrove was a world title challenger. “Gary did a good job guiding my career, but I got a big head. Any failures in my career, I take complete blame for them. Gary hooked me up with George Benton as my trainer. Gary was one of the best managers in the business. I support him getting into the PAB HOF,” said Hargrove.
Hegyi was a much-missed person when he suddenly left the game. He worked walking the Philly school hall’s (with a blackjack) and then went working in the Philly courts. He refused my nominating him for the PAB HOF, but this year I did and will get the results from voting in February. He never looked for recognition but was always the “man behind the scenes!”
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