Stories by Don Elbaum and Some of Them Are True!
By Ken Hissner: The title of this article is the name of a book title that the legendary 2019 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee serving as a matchmaker, manager, advisor, and promoter Don Elbaum is planning while fight fans have anticipated reading for years. At 13, he was even a Ring Magazine correspondent.
I caught up with my longtime friend Don Elbaum who lives back in his old stomping grounds of Erie, Pennsylvania, and discussed his book and his life in boxing starting in 1954 to 2016.
Elbaum promoted his first fight at the age of eighteen and has gone on to promote or co-promote over 1,000 cards, including 196 shows at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, over a five-year period alone. He promoted some of the final fights of boxing greats Willie Pep and “Sugar” Ray Robinson.
Elbaum is known for staging cards with unusual themes, such as one show that featured a match between winless heavyweights, which was billed in an attempt to crown the “Worst Heavyweight in the World.”
He is also the source and subject of many anecdotes; for example, during his tenure as Robinson’s promoter, he located two very old and well-used boxing gloves and presented them to Robinson at a press conference as the gloves that Robinson had worn in his professional debut nearly twenty-five years earlier.
Robinson became very emotional and cradled the gloves in his arms, but when he attempted to put them on, it was discovered that Elbaum had given him two left gloves. Elbaum, in telling the story to journalist Thomas Hauser, claimed that IBHOF promoter J Russell Peltz had once offered him $5,000 for the gloves in question and added that “I’ve got to find those gloves or two gloves that look like them.”
Elbaum also helped Don King get his start in the boxing business by helping him stage a charity boxing event in Cleveland, Ohio, in the early 1970s. Elbaum later portrayed himself in an HBO-produced movie about King’s life, released in 1997.
Elbaum has either managed or worked in an advisory capacity for a number of fighters, including world champions Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, Tony “TNT” Tubbs, Simon “Mantequilla” Brown, Maurice “Thin Man” Blocker, and contenders Earnie “The Black Destroyer” Shavers, Doyle Baird, and David Telesco.
In addition to an amateur career, Elbaum had a number of pro fights in the 1960s. Many of them took place on shows that he promoted, where he filled in as a last-minute substitute when no other fighters were available.
Elbaum promoted some 223 events in numerous U.S. cities and such countries as Hungary, Haiti, Canada, Kosovo, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Russia, and Ireland.
KEN: “How old were you when you went to your first boxing event?”
DON: “My dad used to take me to the fights when I was 13 in Cleveland. Larry Atkins was the promoter.”
KEN: “What was the first fight you listened to on the radio?”
DON: “The first fight I listened to on the radio was Ike Williams and Bob Montgomery.”
KEN: “What is one of the biggest differences back then and now in New York City?”
DON: “Back in the ’40s and ’50s, there were eight fights a week in New York City, and now 8 in a year.”
KEN: “Did you ever see the ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson fight?”
DON: “I was there when ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson fought Artie Levine.”
KEN: “How familiar are old-time fans to recognize who the boxers are today by their appearance?”
DON: “An old-time fight fan remarked, ‘I don’t recognize the faces (boxers) anymore.'”
KEN: “What was your first boxing job?”
DON: “I’m 14 and recommended to Larry Atkins fights to be made. He told me to mm 4 and 6-round fights for him.”
KEN: “When did you start reading Ring Magazine?”
DON: “I used to get Ring Magazine and read it 3-4 hours a day.”
KEN:” What was one of the strangest matches you arranged?”
DON: “I put Manny “The Monster” Quinney from Buffalo in with a 0-2 opponent, and I told him to rush after him at the bell and to do that grunting noise that you do, and he did, and without landing a punch the guy fell to the canvas and was counted out.”
KEN: “I heard you got Don King into boxing. Can you give me some info on that?”
DON: “Yes, and I’ve been apologizing to the world ever since.”
KEN: “Can you tell me something positive or negative about your career?”
DON: “It’s been an incredible roller coaster ride. I have absolutely no regrets. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Remember to look for Don Elbaum’s book entitled “Stories by Don Elbaum and Some of Them Are True!”
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