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Remembering a True Champion: Mickey Duff

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By Bill Tibbs


The boxing world was saddened by the recent news of the passing of legendary British boxing figure Mickey Duff on March 22nd at the age of 84. The former fighter, one of the most important figures in post-war British boxing, was born in 1929 as Monek Prager in Krakow, Poland. His parents immigrated to England in the early-1930s where he found his love for the game. The former fighter illegally turned pro at age 15 (age 16 was the legal age at the time) and competed from the fall of 1945 until December of 1948, retiring with a record of 33-8-3 (4).
 
After a short career as a salesman, Duff returned to boxing and started making matches. It was on the safe side of the ropes where Duff would make his mark in boxing, becoming famous as a manager, promoter and matchmaker in his 33-plus years in British boxing and throughout the world.

By the late-1950s, Duff, as the matchmaker, along with manager Jarvis Astaire and promoter Harry Levine, became key players for decades in the fight game. Duff had a long and loyal association with the BBC television network, remaining loyal to them despite offers from competing networks throughout his career. Duff was involved with 16 world champions and many world-class British fighters including Jim Watt, Alan Minter, Lloyd Honeyghan, John Conteh, Terry Downes and Howard Winstone to name a few. He also worked with champions Maurice Hope, John Mugabi, Frank Bruno, Joe Calzaghe and Cornelius Boza-Edwards. Duff, who promoted in many famous London venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Stadium, was famous for his quote about boxing, “If you want loyalty, buy a dog.”
 
He left boxing in 1999, the same year he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Barry McGuigan, president of the Professional Boxing Association and former World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight champion, recently described Duff as “a giant of boxing in a different era.” Duff loved to gamble and as a result, loved Las Vegas, where he acted as the boxing consultant for Caesars Palace from the 1970s onward.
 
Duff liked to boast that he “stayed ahead of the bookies on his boxing bets” and was one of few observers who picked “Sugar” Ray Leonard over World Middleweight Champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler when they fought in 1987. His bet on Leonard winning the bout pocketed him $275,000 that night.
 
The impact the legendary boxing figure had on the sport may best be summed up by Stephen Powell of the London Ex-Boxers Association who added, “This truly is the end of a golden era in British boxing. The mould has been broken. There will never be another ‘true boxing man’ like Mickey Duff.”
 
Duff is survived by ex-wife Marie, partner Gloria Weisfeld, son Gary and two grandchildren. Mickey Duff, one of games true characters and a legend in British boxing. Gone but never forgotten.
 
Rest in peace, champ!
 
Questions and comments can be sent to Bill Tibbs at hwtibbs@shaw.ca.
 
 
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