Obituary: Dan Duva

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The Independent Online
Dan Duva was the driving force behind his family's boxing promotional and management company, Main Events Inc.

He was an uncontroversial figure who ran what was, by boxing's standards, an uncomplicated business. He could be cold, remote and undramatic, especially in comparison to his two great American rivals Bob Arum and Don King, but he was an organised, competent man whose fighters stayed with him. And that, in boxing, is rare.

Evander Holyfield, the former undisputed world heavyweight champion, promoted by Main Events throughout his 11-year career, described Dan Duva as "a great friend".

He could be aggressive and forthright, but he was also a pragmatist. In 1986 he launched a verbal assault on Don King in the New York Daily News, calling him a "sleazebag" and a "strong-arm man". But that didn't stop him working with King when he felt it advantageous to do so, as in the celebrated fight between the Main Events star Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez, who is promoted by King, in 1993. It drew almost 60,000 people to the San Antonio Alamodome and made a fortune for both fighters and promoters.

He cut a contrasting figure to his father Lou, a gregarious, larger-than- life character who enjoys being compared to cartoon figure Barney Rubble and has been involved in boxing most of his life. Dan Duva came into it via the Seton Hall School of Law and a law practice which he operated from 1976 to 1980. Whereas he would work hard to negotiate business advantages for his company and its fighters, Lou Duva often took a more direct approach. Once, when he spotted Holyfield's forthcoming opponent Buster Douglas, a known junkfood freak, sitting eating a pizza in a sauna, Lou secretly sent him an extra one. Douglas went into the fight spectacularly unfit and was knocked out quickly. Together, Dan and Lou Duva were a brilliant team.

Main Events dabbled in boxing in the late 1970s, promoting shows at Totowa, New Jersey, and earning television backing for a series called Tomorrow's Champions. However, it was in 1981 that they developed from minor success to major player when they promoted the superfight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns in Las Vegas and launched pay-per-view TV.

In 1984 they signed almost all of the US Olympic boxing team, most importantly Holyfield, Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland. All four became world professional champions. Holyfield went on to gross more than $100m.

Altogether Dan Duva and his organisation promoted or co-promoted more than 100 world-title fights, and in the 1990s were instrumental in the rise of Lennox Lewis. More than that, Duva was acknowledged as one of the major boxing promoters of his time.

Dan Duva, boxing promoter: born 1951; married (one son, two daughters); died New York 30 January 1996.