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SSTN Interviews Hall-of-Fame Writer Jack Hirsch

SSTN: Today we are here with famed sports writer and boxing expert Jack Hirsch. Jack is the former 6-term President of the Boxing Writers Association of America BWAA and former President of Ring 8 of New York. Jack was awarded the 2014 BWAA Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service. He was the Ring Sports Magazine East Coast editor from 1997-2006 and the senior writer for Boxing Beat Magazine (1988-1989). He is a writer for Boxing News. He is also the co-host on the Mac and Jack Sports Show. It’s always an honor to go on the air with Jack each Saturday.

Jack is a 2020 Inductee into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame.

Jack was also an amateur boxer that competed in the New York Golden Gloves in the 1970’s and he was a sparring partner for former WBA/WBC/lineal middleweight champion Vito Antuofermo.

Jack, it is great to have this discussion with you. Thanks for coming to Start Spreading the News.

Love the blog Paul. I have been a Yankee fan since childhood. Great to see the level of support you are giving them.

First, congratulations on your induction into the New York Boxing Hall-of-Fame. That is a tremendous honor and well-deserved. How does that feel – to be a Hall-of-Famer? Will there be a ceremony? If so, who is going in with you?

I am going into the New York State Hall of Fame which is the equivalent of being inducted into a team’s HOF. It is quite an honor. Max Kellerman from First Take will also be inducted that afternoon (Sep 19). The ceremony was scheduled to take place last year, but was delayed like everything else due to Covid concerns.

We will get to baseball in a moment, but I have a few boxing questions I have to ask. First, historically, who was your favorite fighter of all-time?

Normally I try to avoid answering that question because there have been so many boxer’s who have been favorites of mine, but if forced to select I would say Jimmy Ellis who held the WBA heavyweight title from 1968-1970. The fighters of our youth always make a greater impression on us.

Who was the greatest fighter you ever saw?

Muhammad Ali was the greatest I ever saw. His achievement sand ability to improvise inside of the ring give him an edge on the others.

You know that I love the Rocky movies. I like to mention them a lot when we’re doing the debate show. Do you feel that Rocky is the greatest boxing movie? If not, what is? (After the Rocky films, all of them, I also love Cinderella Man.)

Rocky One was the best movie I ever saw period. It inspired so many people. Although the sequels were highly entertaining, they did not compare to the original.

Honorable mention should go to Raging Bull. It portrayed Jake LaMotta perfectly. I have never met Stallone, but I did have dinner with LaMotta one night.

Cinderella Man was a wonderful movie. I am surprised it did not garner more acclaim. I guess it’s all about timing.

You’re a big New York sports fan who has great memories of so many big New York sports moments. What was the greatest sports moment of your life?

Without a doubt it was the first Ali – Frazier fight that took place at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971. I attended as a teenager. I sat in the last row. Being there has been one of the highlights of my life. No other sporting event in my lifetime comes remotely close to that one. As unbelievable as this sounds, exactly 50 years to the day of that event, one of my Grandson’s was born.

Which team was more exciting for New York, the 1969 Mets or the 1976 Yankees?

That is an easy one to answer. The 1969 Miracle Mets by far. And that includes all of the other Yankee World Series years. Anyone who says otherwise was not around at the time or is biased. The bedlam surrounding the Mets’ World Series triumph I have been told, was only exceeded by the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers and what it meant to the Borough.

There’s a lot of talk about baseball needing to be “fixed.” Is baseball broken? If you were the Commissioner of Baseball what change(s) if any would you make to the current game?

The games are too long. It has to be sped up. There are various ways to do this, but we can start by putting a pitch clock on all pitchers and forcing batter’s into the box in a timely fashion.

If you could choose any person to manage the Yankees, who would you choose?

Truthfully I don’t think it makes too big of a difference at the present time. Moving on from Aaron Boone is not the answer. I would stick with him until at least the end of the season and then revaluate the situation.

In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?

Something on the life story of Thurman Munson would make for a compelling movie. As for a book, how about something on Ruth and Gehrig’s teammates on the 1927 New York Yankees?

In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?

Will go with Willie Mays if you take everything into consideration which is peak value, longevity, accomplishments, and charisma. Maybe the best defensive outfielder of all time, a great base runner, and awesome offensive stats.

One last boxing question… I can’t resist asking. What was it like to spar with Vito Antuofermo? I can’t imagine that. You are a million times tougher than me. Who did you root for when he fought Marvin Hagler (my favorite fighter of all-time)?

I was Vito’s sparring partner for two years in the amateurs and helped prepare him when he won the New York Golden Gloves title. We were friendly, but not particularly close at the time, but are good friends today. Of course I was rooting for Vito against Hagler.

Vito loves it when I tell the story of our sparring sessions. Our coach Joe LaGuardia would call us to the ring center and say “Jack, jab and run. Vito go easy.” Vito also loves to tell people I was his old sparring partner. For me it is a badge of honor.

Sparring is different from an actual fight. Vito would land some good punches from time to time, but would ease up on the pressure which he never would have done in a real fight. With that said, Vito always tells people I gave him very good work when we sparred. I really appreciate that.

Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…

What was your favorite baseball team growing up?

Yankees

Who was your favorite player?

The Mick

What is your most prized collectible?

The programs from the first Ali – Frazier fight

Who is your favorite musical group or artist?

Anything 1960’s oldies or early 1970’s

What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?

Pizza and Vanilla Ice cream. Pizza from anywhere works for me. Carvel ice cream is my favorite.

Please share anything else you’d like with our audience…

Love co hosting the Mac and Jack Sports show. I always look forward to the Saturday debate show which you are a part of Doc.

Thank you for a great discussion. I will see you on Saturday!

#MuhammadAli #RockyBalboa

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