November 18th, 2009 By Pedro Fernandez
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!
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.