Q&A: Larry Hazzard

Photo: Photo: Rick Scharmberg
Photo: Photo: Rick Scharmberg

The casual boxing fan may not know the name Larry Hazzard, but if they watched the popular ESPN boxing series in the 1980’s or any televised fights from Atlantic City, New Jersey from 1987-2007 be rest assured they know his face. Hazzard was a constant figure on the highly popular ESPN boxing series in the 1980’s as the third man in the ring. The series featured many of boxing’s future world champions and well known names with Hazzard acting as referee in several of those bouts. Hazzard was a professional referee from 1978-1985. In 1987 Hazzard was sworn in as boxing commissioner of the the New Jersey athletic commission, a position he held until 2007. During his tenure Hazzard made his mark on the sport of boxing in a number of ways. For example, it was Hazzard who had the rule put in place for when a fighter loses his mouthpiece that time is called at the first break of action to have the mouthpiece put back in the fighter’s mouth. Hazzard currently acts as the personal assistant to IBF president Marian Muhammad and is chairman of officials for the IBF. Hazzard has been in boxing for more than 50 years and recently received boxing’s top honor as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the class of 2010. Fightnews recently spoke with Hazzard on his beginning in boxing to his induction into the boxing hall of fame.

Did you ever box yourself?

I was a good amateur boxer. I won the Golden Gloves and I was the State AAU Champion as stated in my bio. The number of times I won seems to keep growing over the years. I’m comfortable with just having been a Golden Glove and State AAU Champion.

Why didn’t you turn professional?

I didn’t turn professional because boxing was going through a down period just like now and Muhammad Ali was just gaining popularity and the sport was in a slow rebound. I also got married young and my wife and I started having children so I had to get a full-time job to support my family.

How did you get into refereeing?

I actually attended an amateur show in New Jersey back in 1967. I was heckling an amateur referee and telling him how bad of a job he was doing. A chairman of the amateur committee was on hand and told me that if I thought I could do a better job why don’t I apply for a position as an amateur referee. So I took him up on it and applied and shortly afterward I was refereeing amateur fights. True story.

How did you get your opportunity at becoming a professional referee?

Trainer Al Certo and former world heavyweight champion Jersey Joe were at an amateur event where I was the referee and Jersey Joe got an opportunity to see me referee and was impressed. Shortly after I begin refereeing professional boxing.

What led to your opportunity of becoming the boxing commissioner of New Jersey?

They were looking for a replacement for Walcott. The former Attorney General, under Governor Tom Kean. Kimmelman saw me conduct a referee’s seminar and he had seen me referee several times. He was a loyal boxing fan and I was the type of person he was looking for. He felt that I would be a good commissioner.

What would you say was the biggest event during your 20 year tenure as commissioner?

The Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks pay-per-view in Atlanic City, New Jersey in 1988. The fight itself was only 91 seconds with Tyson prevailing but the buildup to the fight and both fighters entering undefeated made it a huge event. During that time period fights in Atlantic City, New Jersey were just as good or better than the fights in Las Vegas.

What led to you being terminated as commissioner?

Honestly I never saw it coming. I was called in for what I thought was just a routine meeting and I was terminated.

Why do you think you were let go?

It’s not a secret that I wasn’t the most popular amongst the government in New Jersey. The government has no place in boxing. I speak my mind and they didn’t like that at all. I was let go because certain individuals in the attorney general’s office couldn’t push me around. I was viewed as arrogant and belligerent which apparently was unacceptable. Here I was the commissioner and they started restricting my travel and other things that I was routinely allowed to do under previous administrations. This included staying on site where the events were being staged and having my own room. Things got so bad that I was restricted to sharing rooms and staying in Motel 6 type hotels miles away from the event site. Much of this began when I started to oppose several of the administrations restrictions. Once I attempted to fire a high ranking employee at the commission, who in my opinion was and still is incompetent. I felt was the employee was responsible for the death of a fighter in 1999. I guess they thought it would be more expedient to get rid of me and they did.

How did you find out that you were inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame?

I received a phone call the day after my birthday from the Hall of Fame President. I wasn’t sure if the call was to tell me I was inducted or that I wasn’t selected for the 2010 induction. Then he told me I was selected. I was really overjoyed. I have had my moments with the press over the years but they voted me in showing that it was not personal nor was it personal on my end. Anyone who says it’s not a big deal to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame is full of it. This is boxing’s ultimate prize other than winning a world championship and it is a big deal. It’s boxing’s Cooperstown. This is the ultimate honor in boxing. You being enshrined with the absolute elite in boxing next to names like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rocky Marciano. It doesn’t get any better than that. There is 6 months until the actually ceremony in June 2010 and I will be elated all the way until the induction.

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