Boxing loses a pioneer

By Bob Goodman


Boxing loses a pioneer

Across the top of  Boxing Update Flash, which arrives promptly and regularly from Capitola, Calif., was a banner headline that read – Boxing Update Shuts Down.  It started long before the internet was born – and it provided those of us in the industry with a valuable service.  A little personal note was enclosed from founder and Publisher Virgil Thrasher, thanking me for my support.  We should be thanking him. 

 In Virgil Thrasher we had a pioneer, who gave us our regular boxing reports, results, ratings and updates on a regular and timely basis.  He printed up to date information and plugged future events and never had a bad word to say about anyone in our sport.  Certainly Ring Magazine, Boxing Illustrated, Boxing World and an array of other magazines, could only keep current to the tune of being months behind.

 There were others before him like the hilarious little Flash Gordon in New York and Dick Mastro in California, though not as current.  There’s also Boxing News in England that has done such a great job through the years.  Many of us remember Ben Green among a cast of colorful characters that lived on their “wit and their grit”.

 Not too many years ago covering boxing was a plumb assignment.  Every major  newspaper had one or sometimes two boxing writers and a couple of columnists who loved covering boxing.  New York had six or seven daily papers and some great writers and columnists on the “beat”.

 Red Smith, Dave Anderson, Dick Young, Gene Ward, Jim McCully, Lester Bromberg, Al Buck, Jimmy Cannon, Frank Graham,  Jerry Izenberg, Hy Goldberg, and Barney Nagler, that’s just a few, who would keep us informed. Around the country with guys like Jack Griffin, Jack Murphy, Jim Murray, Bob Watters, Eddie Mullen, Jack Fiske, Jack Hawn, Alan Malamud, Ed Pope, Stan Hochman, Bill Lyons, Gene Courtney, Blackie Sherrod,  Furman Bisher, Michael Katz and Tom Cushman, were just among a breed of writer that put out a regular diet of outstanding colums and pieces. 

The wires too with the Associated Press, and United Press International, being competitive with Murray Rose, Jack Hand & Eddie Schuyler (AP) and Jack Cuddy, Bob Stewart, Milt Richman (UPI).   They all had a great nose for the boxing news and in those days – minutes counted. 

Just recalling the great columns, the quality of coverage was simply amazing.
The creativity and special way of turning a phrase is something we don’t see too much of today.  They were the ones who gave the fighters their nicknames – not the manager or promoter or even the fighter himself.  They were a special breed that we’re losing with great regularity.

When you went to camp with a fighter in a major fight five or six weeks before a
Bout, twenty or thirty writers would come with you to stay.  They learned the business.  They knew their boxing.  Come fight night – they knew what went on in camp and what kind of shape both of the fighters were in.  They spoke to the fighters, managers, trainers,
and sparring partners.  It was even more important that they were there to learn the business.  We don’t see much of that today.  There are other sports, there are other assignments and the papers just can’t afford to have a couple of wirters just living and reporting from the camps.

 We’ve lost that – we expect the writers of today to come onto the scence days before the fight, not having seen the participants lace-em up even one time in serious preparation.  If they do an open workout today during fight week – there’s little you’ll be able to see – the work is done.  The strategy is mapped out.  The writer hasn’t a clue.  But it’s not his fault – he just doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

 Today we all are at the mercy of our busy times and busy world.  That’s why it’s sad to see Boxing Update shut down.  It was just another thread to the past that we’ve lost. 

 Long before we had the internet and the boxing websites, Virgil Thrasher was pumping out regular Boxing Update,  Flash Boxing Update and the summary Bullet, which came via fax.  The others were via the mails, which is almost an extinct mode of information these days.   Today the information is now up on the internet in minutes.  It’s not always information that’s been checked fully, but it is extremely informational and fast – we all like fast. 

 For over twenty years Virgil fought the odds of an ever-changing world and tried to keep us updated in a professional manner with very professional reporting on many fronts.  His team of writers all lived it and believed in the sport.

It was truly sad to see it go this way -- a tried, true and tested gladiator like this go down pretty quietly.   The writers like Graham Houston, who has become one of the most knowledgeable of today’s breed, along with the likes of K.O. Jack Obermayer, Jeffrey
Jowett, Mario Rivera Martino, Per Ake Persson, Joe Koizumi, Ray Wheatley, Steve Canton and the solid photos provided by some of the finest in Ed Mulholland, “Flygirl” Goldberg, Chris Cazzone, Chris Farina, and Tom Hogan.

They kept notes from the organization, schedules, a calender, quotes from Newsmakers, odds and almost anything else we looked for like little kids waiting to open up a Christmas gift we found under the tree.  Yeah sure, we already knew the results, but it was reading the report, or the capsule.  Looking at the schedule and just getting caught up.  Even today with all of the news updated regularly on the internet, we looked forward to getting our “industry rag”.

 We all owe him a debt of gratitude for keeping us in touch with the past. For trying to give us something we could hold that was pretty up to date and with great regularity.

Although we don’t think a 10-count is appropriate,  we will feel empty somehow without them.   We’ve lost a pioneer. We hope to see Virgil around the sport –  he’s become part of our world.