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Biofile: Arthur Mercante Sr. Interview

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Status: Hall of Fame Boxing Referee.

DOB: January 27, 1926 In: Brockton, MA

Passed Away: April 10, 2010

(Note: This Biofile was originally done in 1995 and was published in an issue of Boxing 95 magazine.)

First Boxing Memory: “My uncle Joe fought James J. Braddock three times. They each won one and drew one. He also fought Max Schmeling at The Garden. He was my mother’s brother and I idolized him. I was in awe. We used to go to Ernie Schaaf’s gym together. Jack Sharkey would be there.”

Childhood Heroes: “Joe Louis – I met him. He was a very down-to-earth fellow, very easy to talk to. Joe Di Maggio. Jackie Robinson.”

Childhood Dream: “I always wanted to be a physical education teacher. They always seemed well built and well dressed, so I went into the field. And I’m still in. I’m Deputy Commissioner of Parks & Recreation in Hempstead.”

Pre-Fight Feeling: “It doesn’t matter to me anymore. After being in the ring for 50 years, there’s no situation I haven’t encountered. After the bell sounds, the boxer’s nervousness and butterflies are all over. It’s the same with referees.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “Refereeing Ali-Frazier I (the “Fight of the Century” in 1971 at Madison Square Garden). It was a great honor and a great feeling. And I only got paid $750!”

Most Painful Moment: “It was the second Patterson-Johansson fight at The Polo Grounds in 1960. Johansson went down in the fifth from a great left hook. He was bleeding from the mouth and his legs were quivering. I was definitely afraid, very concerned. It could have been the end. It wasn’t that I let the fight go too long. It was just one punch. Now, if I see a fighter winning every round, I stop it.”

Toughest Boxers Encountered: “My feeling is that they’re all tough or they wouldn’t be in boxing. Still, some of them stand out in my mind. Joe Frazier was a bull, a tough, tough guy. You’d have to hit him with a sledgehammer to knock him out. George Foreman knocked him down six times, but he was up and ready to go when I stopped the fight.”

Favorite Boxers To Watch: “Ray Robinson – my all time selection as best fighter. I worked his last fight at The Garden versus Denny Moyer. Muhammad Ali – he was very clever and a great jab. Roy Jones – he’s going to be tough to beat. Alexis Arguello. Julio Cesar Chavez. Frankie Randall.”

Favorite Fights: “Hagler-Hearns. Ali-Frazier I, III. Benny Kid Paret-Federico Thompson II.”

Favorite Movies: “Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Informer.”

Musical Tastes: “Opera, Madam Butterfly, Traviata.”

Closest Boxing Friends: “Gil Clancy. He was here yesterday for breakfast.”

Hobbies/Interests: “Woodworking. I always get the urge to go down to the basement and make something, like a birdhouse. Gardening. I get a great thrill seeing seeds come out of the earth. It’s very soothing.”

Little-Known Fact: “When I was at NYU, I got an athletic letter in diving. I was metropolitan champion.”

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