Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Former St. Louisan Found His Fame as Boxing Referee

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Former St. Louisan Found His Fame as Boxing Referee

Article excerpt

Dick Young has seen a lot of leather in the past half-century, most of it as a neutral observer.

He observed, and intervened if he had to, so well that he was inducted recently into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles.

Young, 78, became one of the best referees in history. The seed was planted here for the dapper official known as "The Fred Astaire of the Ring."

"I got a job in the glove room at the St. Louis Golden Gloves tournament, issuing the gloves to the kids going into the bouts," Young said by phone from his home in Chatsworth, Calif. "It escalated from there."

In 1942, he started refereeing at the local Golden Gloves. In 1945, in the Navy, he gloved himself for the only seven fights of his life while at the Great Lakes Naval Station.

He returned to St. Louis, refereeing pro bouts in his spare time.

Young's fights included several by a tough young ex-con named Sonny Liston. Politics bumped the aspiring ref from his first shot at a title fight, Archie Moore's light-heavyweight bout with Joey Maxim.

When a drought shriveled up his farm in Jonesburg, Mo., about 70 miles west of St. Louis, Young packed up his wife and four children and moved to California.

The date was May 25, 1955. He was starting over at age 40. He found work at North American Aviation Co., then known as Rockwell International, and moved into the house he still inhabits.

And he resumed his career as a ref, stepping between some of the biggest names in fistic history.

Muhammad Ali. Sugar Ray Robinson. Willie Pep. Ezzard Charles. Alexis Arguello. Emile Griffith. Ken Norton. St. Louisans Moore and Virgil Akins.

Young worked some 5,000 amateur and pro fights - 74 of them for titles, including Ali-Norton II.

Young's Hall of Fame induction blurb read, "Dick displayed all the qualities of a great referee: Nimble of foot, quick and alert, strong but gentle and always decisive in his judgments - and above all, completely honest and impartial, with the safety of the fighters his foremost concern."

He was universally respected.

Ali once slapped his top aide, Bundini Brown, after a bout for antics that caused Young to evict the colorful cornerman.

Jose Sulaiman of the World Boxing Council began introducing Young as "the teacher of teachers of the referees."

Yet Young disdained the spotlight and any ref who craved attention by bounding across the ring.

"When he's bouncing and jiggling around," Young scoffed, "he's concentrating on what he's doing there and not on officiating or judging the fight."

Young's smooth style spawned the Fred Astaire nickname. Fight fans of all persuasions appreciated it.

"The Latino men's club here in Los Angeles started a dance called the Dick Young Shuffle," said the proud namesake.

To Young, the best pound-for-pound fighter was not the flamboyant favorites such as Robinson, Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard. …

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