Marconi Museum will host night to honor the legendary cutman
Cutman Chuck Bodak was an icon in boxing. He died on February 6 from complications first suffered from a 2007 stroke. With his trademark eyeglasses and headbands he wore in the corner, to his cantankerous but lovable personality, he was one to remember. Now friends and family will have a chance to remember him, reminisce and pay respects one last time at an event next Monday evening at 6:30 p.m.
The Marconi brothers, Dick and Ray, are hosting a “Tribute to Chuck Bodak” at the Marconi Automotive Museum and Foundation for Kids in Tustin, California. This night will be more of a celebration than a memorial service for the one-of-a-kind Bodak. The pair have been involved in boxing for years and are happy to have this opportunity to honor their teacher, mentor and friend at their non-profit museum that benefits at-risk youth.
The two siblings first met Bodak back in Gary, Indiana when they were just teens. When Chuck relocated to Chicago, the Marconis followed. The ornery cutman took the unruly kids under his wing, and forged a friendship that lasted decades. Dick grew up to have a successful career as a race-car driver, owner of the World Fighters Inc., and is currently a world-renowned artist and accomplished painter. He is also a well-respected entrepreneur in the Orange County area. Both he and his wife, Priscilla (“Bo”) are known for their philanthropic endeavors in supporting many children’s charities.
With their love of boxing still intact, the dynamic duo just hosted their gala “Fight Night” event last Friday at their beautiful museum which boasts an extensive lineup of automobiles that would rival any other collection in the world. The funds raised go to charity and this year’s annual event featured an appearance by Sugar Ray Leonard and several pro football players including Mark Sanchez.
Ray and his wife, Vickki, reside in the Indianapolis area and have kept up their love of boxing that was first ingrained by Bodak. The petite, blonde Vickki is even a licensed cutman herself and has worked many corners! Through World Fighters Inc. Ray was a trainer and manager of many boxers. The pair continue to support boxing and are looking forward to reconnecting with some of their fight associates on Monday night.
And the brothers Marconi can tell you countless stories about the hilarious and feisty Bodak, who befriended everyone from elite fighters, to underprivileged children (who he helped out for free), to singer Tony Orlando, action-hero Chuck Norris and Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
Born in 1916, Bodak served in the Army and later moved to Chicago, Illinois working with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for many years before moving to California. He worked with over 60 Champions in the ring including Muhammad Ali, Tommy Hearns, Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya. He also traveled around with Jorge Paez’s camp where Bodak first began his infamous middle-finger salute.
There will be displays of his collages, découpaged hats, rings, watches, necklaces, memorabilia, and even a boxcar that Chuck plastered with photos! Vintage fight footage will be shown and if people want to recount their own personal anecdotes about the cutman, they are welcome to do so at this party honoring Chuck–arguably one of boxing’s most unique individual ever.
While a couple of tears may be shed, prepare to laugh more than cry as the invited fighters, promoters, cornerman, friends, family and fans will no doubt recount their own experiences with Bodak.
“Chuck helped me train junior flyweight Joey Olivo. One time we all went to Denver, Colorado for a fight against Cookie Valencia,” Rudy Tellez, World Boxing Council (WBC) Supervisor tells me cracking up at the memory. “Well, the opponent told us how he was going to kick Joey’s butt. So Chuck–in his 60s at the time–went up to Cookie, said a few choice words and challenged him to a fight. Chuck was taunting Cookie, saying ‘F— you!’ He was a character!
“We had so much fun and all the boys just loved Chuck. Every weekend we would go down and train with him. He was great with the boxers,” remembers Tellez. “He loved kids and enjoyed working with them and never charged a penny for it.” The “Mouthpiece Doctor” is also Chairman of the WBC Legends of Boxing Museum, and last October the organization presented Bodak with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The ceremony was the 92-year-old’s very last public appearance.
Bodak’s other love besides boxing was the military and his final wish was to have a private burial at the Riverside National Cemetery. Due to the requests for a memorial, the Marconis decided to hold this special tribute to Chuck so that everyone can come out and say goodbye to a beloved member of the boxing family. It is fitting that this final celebration for Bodak will take place on the grounds of their first-class automobile museum, a location where Chuck had spent a lot of his time and even lived there for a while.
“Chuck’s boxcar is like a museum itself. Wait till you see it,” Ray says, “You’re going to love it. I’ve gone through everything–it took days! He actually lived in the boxcar in the museum years ago. I found some Copenhagen from 50 years ago, thousands of newspapers he had saved, a pair of his old teeth, and hundred of rolls in quarters he had stockpiled. He had over $1,600 in quarters!”
Amongst these “Bodak treasures” are scrapbooks full of history, never-before-seen photos from Chuck’s Hall of Fame career, film reels with his philosophies about boxing, a Mickey Mantle baseball, and of course, those famous découpages the cutman loved to make.
“He was a decoupage king! I found a million pieces of papers that he cut out. If you were flying in an airplane with Chuck and you fell asleep, he’d decoupage you!” chuckles Ray. “My grandson and I have spent time going through all of Chuck’s stuff. It’s like going thru his whole life–it’s unbelievable what we found.
“Oscar De La Hoya even made a video to play Monday night. And Chuck’s boxcar will be on full display at our event–you could spend a week looking through everything!” Ray adds. In our conversation today, Ray tells me he’s on his way to the Indiana Golden Gloves tonight. True to form, the Brothers Marconi sure love boxing and they sure loved Chuck Bodak.
“Chuck has impacted my life more than anybody,” sums of Dick Marconi.
And everyone who did love Chuck is welcome to join this celebration for this “cutman extraordinaire.” It will be a night to remember and a fitting tribute to a man who gave everything he had to a sport he truly loved.
If you are interested in attending this tribute, please call (714) 258-3001
MARCONI AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM
AND FOUNDATION FOR KIDS
1302 Industrial Drive
Monday, March 16, 2009
Start time: 6:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible donations can be made to “The Marconi Automotive Museum and Foundation for Kids”
Photos courtesy of Michele Chong, Dick and Ray Marconi and www.marconimuseum.org: Marconi Racing; Chuck’s découpaged car; WBC Legends of Boxing Award with Rudy Tellez, Eric Casillas, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Bob Bodak and the Marconis