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Remembering Referee Lou Filippo

Ring veteran passed away on Monday

WBHFFilippo

Veteran boxing judge Lou Filippo died on Monday afternoon after suffering a massive stroke. He was 83.

This loss in the L.A. boxing community and beyond has left a void for his countless friends, associates and family members.

While best known to the casual fight fan as the referee/announcer in the first five “Rocky” movies, Filippo was really a cornerstone in the local fight scene. His void will be felt by many for years to come.

Lou was so active in the fight game that he never actually retired from the sweet science. He never had to retire. Well-regarded by everyone, Filippo received steady work as a judge and had even worked right up until his passing.

The dedicated official’s last job was at a boxing show at Commerce Casino on October 22 presented by All Star Boxing. The promoter of that show, Ed Holmes, knew Lou very well. “Lou worked a lot for us,” Holmes told me. “He always had a smile on his face and was always a gentleman!” The local promoter has two shows coming up on November 22 at Quiet Cannon and December 5 at the Bonaventure and he said it will take a while to get used to not having the venerable Lou Filippo there.

LouJune09As news spread of the boxing judge’s death, comments and condolences have continued to pour in from all across the country. In this column, I’d like to share with you a few personal thoughts I’ve gathered from those who knew Lou for years.

Fellow judge Gwen Adair recently worked with Filippo on that October 22 show. “Lou was always there to help me,” she remembers when first starting out in boxing years ago, as a woman in a “man’s sport.” A female pioneer in boxing, Adair has been a manager, referee and judge. She goes on to tell me that early in her career, “Whenever I had any trouble, Lou would be there. He would give me advice and protect me.

“Years ago at a fight, after the scores were announced, a fighter came up to me and was very angry. He began yelling and coming at me. Lou stepped in and told the guy, ‘Get away from her! Don’t you touch her.’ He always was very protective and I’m really going to miss him.”

Popular HBO judge Harold Lederman also knew Lou well. As I gave the New York resident the details about the weekend’s services for Filippo, Harold said he cannot attend the memorial due to a prior commitment but said, “Thanks for the update; I’ll be in Hartford for Saturday night’s HBO fight.”

Lederman, the “unofficial” official was obviously upset about the passing of another friend in the business, “I feel terrible about losing Lou and Florida boxing judge Stu Winston in the same week. They were both near and dear to me.

“What an awful tragedy. With (Don) Jordan, (Larry) Rozadilla, (Chuck) Hassett and Lou gone, my California crowd is thinning out too fast and it really hurts.”

California resident Marty Denkin, a well-respected boxing judge who has worked in every aspect of the fight game, said of his former trainer, colleague and friend, “I’ve known him for over 40 years. He set the standards for integrity, respect and quality for all these years. Lou was one of the very best–he will be missed.” Denkin, Filippo and Adair were the three judges working the October 22 fights, which turned out to be Lou’s very last time in near the ring.

In his earlier years, Denkin also spent some time lacing up himself and says, “Lou was in my corner for my amateur fights.” And he recalls with a wry chuckle, “He used to drink my water!”

Speaking with the Denkin family this morning, Marty continues, “He was a landmark in California boxing who was known for his integrity. Lou was also a journeyman fighter who would fight any time, any place. And even when he was fighting–win or lose–he had integrity, even in his Carlos Ortiz fights.”

Marty adds with emphasis, “Lou’s attitude was always ‘What can I do for you?’ instead of ‘What can you do for me?'”

FilippoLou2Denkin, his son, and daughter are all working officials in boxing. Son David is a boxing referee and judge and daughter Jackie is newly-licensed MMA official. The sport runs through their veins and Jackie tells me that she’s been around boxing since birth. “Lou used to train Dad when he was boxing,” she tells me. “So I was just one years old then. I’ve know Lou since I was a little girl and I’ve followed his career.”

And what a career he had.

Before Lou began judging fights, the Los Angeles native was a teen amateur boxer and pro fighter (and crowd favorite), served a stint in the Navy, and had a long career with Thermo-Electron, Cal Duran District. After his ring career ended, he became a referee, judge and was a longtime member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame (WBHF) as a former President and Treasurer.

A staunch family man, he and his beloved wife Pat were married for over 58 years and raised two daughters while residing in the Downey area of Southern California. Pat died on April 28, 2007, and of course, Lou was devastated. Some observed that he was never the same since then, but he still carried on with his usual scrappiness, strength and fortitude.

Trudie Latka, a close friend of Lou’s for over 38 years, first met him through her husband, George Latka, himself a boxer, referee and judge who passed away at the end of 2007. She and Lou also shared a history of decades on the WBHF Board of Directors and was aware of what a family man Filippo was. “He and his wife, Pat, and their two daughters, were very involved in all the banquets. They did everything together. I remember the girls, Debbie and Patty, would be in charge of selling all the raffle tickets and were really a part of it all.”

And after all these years of friendship, Trudie had to say a final goodbye to her friend this past weekend. A loss is never easy as Trudie says with a heavy heart, “Sunday I was at the hospital when they gave him his last rites. He passed away on Monday at 3:35 p.m.

“He was an honorable man with a good heart and he was a good referee.”

Filippo–short and stocky with that gritty resilience–may have appeared gruff to those who didn’t know him, much like the “Mickey” character in the “Rocky” films. But the Lou I was acquainted with had–just like Trudie Latka says–a very good heart.

I was fortunate to have known Lou for 12 years and also knew his late wife, Pat. I’d see the two at various boxing events around town and would always chat with the the pair. At a party a few years ago, I sat with them at a table and Patty told me about Lou’s early fight career. She said he was such a big hit with the fans that he was christened with the nickname of “The Ever Popular” Lou Filippo.

Well, I really got a kick out of that so after that anecdote, that’s what I would call Lou, much to his chagrin.

The humble boxing veteran would always chuckle when I’d call him by his old nickname. He was fun to tease and was a good sport with a mischievous side too. Lou was that “Salt of the Earth” type of guy but with a twinkle in his eye. The Lou I saw in action was no-nonsense and all business while working; he was the consummate professional–loyal to the sport–right up until the end.

Outside of the ring, he was well-liked by everyone around our local boxing family, always ready for a good laugh. At many luncheons and events, when he would be introduced to the crowd, his associates would always bellow out, “LOU!” He would get embarrassed and shake his head, chuckling.

Here are two photos that offers an example of this. The first one (of Lou working as a judge) is from June of this year at an All Star Boxing card in Commerce. There is Lou–ready for his assignment with his impenetrable expression and steadfast work ethic.

The second picture is from a WBHF meeting in July. After the agenda was over, I had the group pose for a new team photo and after a few serious, static shots I wanted to liven it up a bit, so I asked them to put up their dukes for the next shot. They all paused for a second or two. It had been a very long meeting, most wanted to get on with their weekends and they didn’t feel like “hamming” it up for the camera any longer.

Well, guess who was the very first one to comply with my request?

That’s right, “The Ever Popular” Lou Filippo.

He cracked a smile, eyes twinkling, and held up his fists while mugging for the camera, teasing me. He looked silly and he knew it, but he was game. A trouper. With his two ham hocks of hands guarding his chin, the other Board members quickly followed suit and had fun with it. Look at the photo and you’ll see the spontaneous mood of that one moment! Lou is seated in the bottom row, second from the right. That’s how I will remember him. Always ready, always game. A good heart.

Now the West Coast Hall of Fame organization has one more heartbreaking “Ten Count” to perform. The WBHF also lost two other former Presidents this year, Norm Cote in May and Charles Casas on October 29. And now Filippo. Lou would have turned 84 on December 1.

There will be a viewing this Friday with his funeral to be held on Saturday.

Lou, you will be missed.

And you will always be “The Ever Popular” Lou Filippo.

Photos by Michele Chong/ Vintage photo courtesy of the Lou Filippo Family/boxrec

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