Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2019

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Doc’ made his mark on boxers, youngsters

WHAT: Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame inductions

WHEN: Induction banquet, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Cox Pavilion; golf tournament, 7 a.m. Friday, Dragon Ridge Golf and Country Club

TICKETS: $150 induction banquet, $400 golf and banquet. Call 386-7200. Proceeds benefit the UNLV athletic department, the UNLV boxing team, Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas and Henderson, and the Andre Agassi Charter School.

INDUCTEE PROFILES:

Monday: Cliff Findlay

Tuesday: Frank Hawkins

Wednesday: Dr. Donald Romeo

Thursday: Dr. Brad Rothermel

Friday: 1989-90 UNLV basketball team

From 50-cent physicals to the Pop Warner sidelines to 10,000 boxing matches, ringside physician Dr. Donald Romeo devoted three decades of service to Las Vegas athletics.

The pleasure was all his, Romeo insists.

But now the community is doing something for "Doc."

Romeo, physician for scores of Las Vegas championship fights, will be inducted to the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night at Cox Pavilion.

The 77-year-old retired doctor will become the Hall's third inductee primarily associated with boxing, joining referee Davey Pearl (1999) and late trainer Johnny Tocco (2000).

Until fragile health curtailed his involvement in the last decade, Romeo played a key role in the vast majority of Las Vegas fight cards, great and small, since moving here from California in 1960.

If it was a big title fight -- say, Muhammad Ali-Floyd Patterson in 1965 -- Romeo was there.

If it was the weekly eight-fight card at the old Silver Slipper, Doc was there.

If it was a 100-fight night at the Golden Gloves, he was there, staying well past midnight to make sure the youngsters emerged relatively unharmed.

Including all of the undercards, amateur tournaments and international bouts, Romeo figures he worked more than 10,000 fights.

"And that number might be conservative," he said.

Romeo attended to all of the greats -- Ali, Sonny Liston, Sugar Ray Robinson, Marvin Hagler, pick any champ -- and not-so-greats. Some were at their peak, others on their way down, but Romeo worked with all of them.

In terms of sheer power, Romeo says no boxer hit harder than Liston, who fought in Las Vegas four times and died here in 1970. The greatest ring technician was Robinson, Romeo says, repeating the widely held view of Sugar Ray as the best pound-for-pound fighter ever.

Of Mike Tyson, Romeo says, "When he won his first title (WBC in 1986), I said if he sticks to business, he'll be the champ until he's 35. He would have been, but he didn't stick to business."

Romeo's favorite fighters included middleweight brawler Gene Fulmer and WBA heavyweight champ Mike Weaver.

"Gene's nose was all over the place and he had a lot of scars, but what a gentleman," Romeo said.

In 1980, Romeo accompanied Weaver to Sun City, South Africa, as his personal physician for a title defense against Gerrie Coetzee. Weaver won on a 13th-round knockout.

"Everybody in boxing in Southern Nevada, especially on the regulatory side, owes Doc Romeo a big debt of gratitude," said Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

"When you think about boxing in Las Vegas, Doc is one of a handful of people you think of. He's very deserving of induction. He's a consummate professional. All of the (regulators) learned from him."

Romeo's expertise and commitment were so widely respected, he served as the U.S. Olympic boxing team physician in 1984 at Los Angeles.

"The opening and closing ceremonies sent chills down my back," Romeo recalled. "I can't imagine anything ever topping that."

Romeo's service to local athletics went beyond boxing. He coached Pop Warner football and Central Little League for 13 years each, and CYO basketball for seven. He was also team doctor at Bishop Gorman High School from 1960-90, charging youths only 50 cents for physicals most of that span.

"After awhile, they asked me to charge a dollar, but I didn't want to rob the kids," Romeo said.

Gorman provided Romeo with a large extended family, but his own family was plenty big. He and his late wife of 48 years, Barbara, raised 11 children, all born within 11 years. They are: Steve, Marcy, Mike, Terry (deceased), twins Tom and Patty, Dick (Doobie), Don Jr. (Cheech), Mark (Begas), Katie and Polly.

"I had a great wife. She was a wonderful girl," Doc said of Barbara, who died in April 2000. "I couldn't have done any of this without her and our family."

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