Three on the side of dignity

Harry Mullan remembers a trio of honest boxing men who died last week
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THREE deaths last week - an ocean apart both in distance and in terms of the global significance of the deceased - have diminished the dwindling stock of decent, straight-dealing men in a business where such qualities are sometimes considered a handicap. In New York, Dan Duva, the driving force behind the Main Events promotional and management group, died of a brain tumour at 44. In London, Harry Griver, the amateur trainer who developed Dennis Andries and Michael Watson, lost a long and brave battle with cancer.

And in Birmingham, Peter McElhinney, one of the game's infantrymen who work outside the spotlight, died at 46 after suffering a heart attack while seconding Derek Wormald in an unsuccessful challenge for Richie Woodhall's European middleweight title. McElhinney, the lowest-profile of the trio, had the most public passing: he collapsed beside the BBC commentary position as the fight was being screened on Sportsnight. As well as working with Wormald he assisted in promoting shows in the North- west, but having his man box for a European title was the summit of his achievement.

Duva's passing removes a major player from the American scene. His father Lou, an old-time fight manager, sent him to law school and he ran a law practice from 1976 to 1980 while dabbling in promoting a group of Lou's fighters billed as "Tomorrow's Champions". In 1981 the family moved into the big time as promoters of the Ray Leonard v Thomas Hearns welterweight title fight in Las Vegas, the match which launched pay-per-view TV. It also launched Duva's career as a rival to Don King and Bob Arum, who had the business carved up between them.

In 1984 Main Events signed up virtually all the American Olympic team, including Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mark Breland, all of whom went on to win world titles. Holyfield, the former undisputed heavyweight champion, grossed over pounds 60m in an 11-year-old association with the family and Whitaker, a four-weights champion, has also enjoyed a spectacularly rewarding career under their management.

In all, Duva promoted or co-promoted more than 100 title fights, including 12 heavyweight matches which collectively grossed over pounds 200m. He was also the American end of the Lennox Lewis operation, and was instrumental in the manoeuvring which went into making Lewis WBC champion. His death will be a serious blow to Lewis's hopes of regaining the title. The family business will continue, with Dan's brother Dino taking over, but Dan's near-20 years of survival in a cut-throat world will be difficult to replace.

Griver, a London cabbie who was inevitably known as "Griver The Driver", was a cheery and uncomplicated man who spent his whole adult life in boxing. He was a more-than-useful amateur flyweight, reaching the final of the 1951 London ABA Championships, and had a short professional career at bantamweight.

His great love was training, though, and he had a rare flair for spotting talent. Dennis Andries was so crude in his early days that he would have driven most trainers to distraction, but Griver worked patiently and laid the foundations on which Andries built so well. Michael Watson, too, was his protege. They both came from Colverstone club in Hackney, which Griver established as an outlet for the energies of the local, predominantly black, youngsters.

Like Brendan Ingle's Sheffield operation, it became a solid argument for the socially redemptive qualities of amateur boxing, but when Griver quit after a run-in with the amateur authorities, who took a dim view of his connection with the professional game, the club folded. Andries, still fighting in his forties, challenges Terry Dunstan for the British cruiserweight title at London Arena next Saturday. It will be a draining night for him.