DAVEY PEARL “WALL OF FAME” REFEREE

November 18th, 2009 By Pedro Fernandez

Davey Pearl World Boxing Hall of Fame Chip

Davey Pearl World Boxing Hall of Fame Chip

SONNY LISTONS CLOSE FRIEND & LAST MANAGER

Las Vegas, NV-When somebody in the boxing community passes, I always try and make note of it, be it here, or on the radio. When referee Davey Pearl passed away a few months ago, I had my own health woes, and thus didn’t give this fine gentleman the attention his death warranted. It all started one day some months after the Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns fight, of which Pearl was the referee, Im walking through the only Las Vegas hotel that fight fans knew at the time, Caesars Palace.

PEARL A LAS VEGAS ICON OF SORTS

,

Knowing Pearl from his 14th round stoppage of the Leonard-Hearns fight that took place in September 1981, I pondered what I should do. Should I just walk up to this man, introduce myself, and then run off a couple of questions. Feeling bold, as soon as the people that were talking to Pearl began to inhale, in stepped Pedro. I heard you were the last manager of Sonny Liston, can you tell me how you think he died? Well, surely he didnt overdose himself, said Pearl.

DIDNT RECOIL FROM QUESTIONS ABOUT SONNY

Not looking to brush me off, Pearl, a Las Vegas tavern owner who came to Las Vegas and worked as a hotel bellman almost 50 years ago before running a 24-hour bar, Daveys Locker, as well as a Travel Agency. It seems I had struck a nerve, as Pearl was emotional in his defense of Liston. Ali made him a monster, and he didnt deserve being portrayed as a bad guy. Years later he would tell me, Sonny was murdered.

DARK CLOUD FINALLY LIFTED IN MARCH

When he died on March 12 at the age of 88, it was a merciful passing for Davey had been stricken with Alzheimers disease. In the end, a life cursed by Alzheimers or Dementia, is not a life. I talked to him on occasion up until about two and a half years ago. Appearing on Ring Talk Radio, as pleasant as he was, Davey wasnt afraid to say something if asked. Like in 1990, after Buster Douglas floundered against Evander Holyfield, it was Davey that told me that the bouts referee, Mills Lane, thought Douglas took a dive, and that caused a rile within the Nevada Athletic Commission.

SAVED TOMMY & WORKED SPINKS-ALI!

As a referee, Pearl worked 70 world title fights. Besides rescuing Hearns, who didnt utter a word of protest, in the 14th round, Davey was the third man when Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali. I asked if he thought Ali had tanked it, had he lost to Leon on purpose? I just think he was way out of shape. And Ali was old. That, and the fact Spinks was throwing and landing lots of punches. Ali was overwhelmed. Ive heard people say before that they thought Ali lost just so he could win the title a third time. I didnt think so then, and I dont now.

IVE ALREADY GIVEN YOU YOUR INSTRUCTIONS

Being the first referee to give the two fighters their pre-fight instructions in the dressing room, Pearl started a tradition that continues today. When you hear a referee say, Ive given you your instructions in the dressing room, that move was a Davey Pearl original!

PROUD OF 1997 HALL OF FAME INDUCTION

Pearl did a lot for Las Vegas. It was Davey, then UNLV Assistant Athletic Director, in 1973 that talked Californias Jerry Tarkanian into coaching the UNLV Rebels. Along with his living twin brother, Lou Pearl, Davey, Art Lurie, Thalia Dondero, Jack Kogan, Paul Endy, and Joe Delaney were the founding members of the Old Time Reunion, an event that started as a breakfast in the mid 1990s, and has now blossomed into a gala event at the Stardust Hotel & Casino. In 1997 Pearl was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Having been present that night is how I got the Davey Pearl poker chip that you see in this article.

THANKS GO TO FELLOW OFFICIAL TOBY GIBSON

At first, Pearl had good days and bad. In other words, sometimes he instantly recognized you, and sometimes he didnt. Through the tough times, and believe me nothing is more gut wrenching than watching someone you care about lose their grip on reality. When it came to Daveys decline, referee Toby Gibson is the one that cared for this fine man through the toughest of times.

THIS GIANT OF MEN STOOD ABOUT 5 8!

While this is about my buddy Davey, one needs to recognize that it was Toby Gibson, and not anybody else, who was aiding Davey as the Grim Reaperslowly went through his ten count. The good news, Davey is no longer suffering. As for Toby Gibson, if only more people had friends that were as true as Toby this world would truly be a different place! Take it from me fight fans, Davey Pearl, was the kind of man youd be proud to have known. I know I am!

Pedro Fernandez

Note: Mr. Fernandez is an award-winning writer, talk show host, TV commentator, former San Francisco Policeman, and four-time Golden Gloves champion. Comments regarding the above can be left below.


COMMENTS

  1. I knew Dave from my early years as
    a UNLV student during the early 70s.
    We used to meet on the handball courts
    where he would thrash me on a regular
    basis. I remember Dave being in excellent
    physical condition; especially considering
    his age at the time.

    I never remember Dave’s connection with
    the boxing world. I never followed boxing
    so that was not unusual. All I remember
    about Dave was his constant instruction
    to push myself hard on those handball
    courts. I will miss him very much

    Bob Murphy

    I will miss him so much. He was a great frie

    Robert Murphy on February 22nd, 2010 at 11:52 PM
  2. Hi Bob Murphy – Just so nice to see your comments. I knew Dave my entire life until his very end, and even then I kept in touch with his twin brother Lou, and I’d visit Dave’s wife, Janet, until she was gone as well. I’m now 63. Dave and Lou were from New Jersey and they grew up with both of my parents. Dave loved my mom and dad, and they loved him too. He was a very good guy and I also miss him. It’s just real nice to read your comments about him. Thanks for the warm words. Oh – and I played handball with him once, just once. He was twice my age at the time. I thought I was decent but wow, I didn’t stand a chance. He had me running ragged around the court as he barely had to move, incredible control over the ball, the court, and me. It was actually very funny as I think back to that, maybe 30 years ago, give or take a few. Well, thanks again for the very kind words. Jeff

    Jeff Brody on August 27th, 2010 at 9:52 PM
  3. Sad to hear about Davey Pearl’s passing,especially the same disease that took my dad’s life. Always enjoyed watching him referee a bout.

    John Spath on March 30th, 2011 at 10:47 AM
  4. Nice to hear some good words about Sonny. We’ll never know what happened at the end but he was one tremendous fighter

    observer1 on April 19th, 2011 at 12:42 PM
  5. My dad grew up with him in New Jersey and said what a great guy he was…I’m sure both of them are in Heaven having fun now !

    Mitch on April 7th, 2013 at 1:05 AM
  6. wow pedro let me tell you firstly your article
    about davey pearl and toby gisbon
    both men were very close to me
    please email me if you want me to tell a great story about both great
    guys

    yours in boxing
    bruce mctavish

    bruce mctavish on August 8th, 2014 at 7:08 AM

Leave a Reply

Powered by Crowd Ignite