Bennie Georgino

L.A.'s Bennie Georgino R. I. P.  

By David A. Avila

Southern California boxing guru Bennie Georgino, 95, passed away on Tues. Feb. 2. The Italian-American was born and raised in Lincoln Heights, a small neighborhood in East L.A. and was a crusader for the sport of boxing since the 1930s as a boxer, trainer and manager of several world champions.

Georgino’s first steps were as an amateur boxer during the Depression. He participated in fight cards at the historic Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. It was in that boxing palace that he gained a foothold first locally, and then slowly he became a force internationally.

He once owned a deli two blocks from the Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles and one block from the now defunct Herald-Examiner newspaper. That sandwich shop became a haven for some of the most colorful collaboration of characters who gathered weekly for fight shows. Sportswriters Bud Furillo and Melvin Durslag were a few who often dropped by to chat and grab a bite.

From Art Aragon the first “Golden Boy” to Danny “Little Red” Lopez numerous fans, sports reporters and fighters crossed paths with Georgino in one capacity or another. Actors, singers, other sports figures all were part of the thriving boxing scene in Los Angeles that was his world.

Later, Georgino would own a bail bonds near the L.A. County Jail. His friend Aragon, who passed away in 2008, also bought a bail bonds and the two would embark on adventures that were the subject of many buddy stories. Famous actors and incidents were all part of their experiences and the L.A. scene was their backdrop.

In the 1970s and 80s Georgino trained and managed several world champions including Danny Lopez, Pomona’s Alberto Davila, Jaime Garza, and Mexico’s Salvador Sanchez. He was voted “Trainer of the Year” by Ring Magazine in 1983. The legendary Main Street Gym was their base of operations. When the gym was shut down due to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake it signaled the end of a fabulous and colorful era.

“Boxing will never be the same,” said Georgino on several occasions. “Television killed boxing.”

But a surprising resurgence took place in the late 1990s that saw an explosion of boxing gyms take root throughout Southern California. Despite losing the Main Street Gym the entire Southland blossomed with gyms popping up in suburban outposts from Santa Maria to San Diego. Suddenly, both Riverside and San Bernardino County became boxing havens and now tout dozens of boxing gyms.

“It was because of Oscar De La Hoya that boxing became popular again,” said Georgino to this writer years ago. “Everybody wanted to be like Oscar. He proved that a kid from East L.A. could become a champion and make a million dollars.”

Georgino was inducted to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003 and became a valuable source for aspiring promoters and managers. He also promoted successful boxing shows in the state of Washington at the Lucky Eagle Casino. In both Ontario and Perris, he helped form boxing gyms for youths and donated bags, mitts and wraps.

When Thompson Boxing Promotions formed and staged its first fight card Georgino willingly assisted.

“I considered him my mentor,” said Alex Camponovo of Thompson Boxing. “He shared more than anything how to close deals and get deals done. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He had such an abundance of experience. I called him a bunch of times. He was really a great supporter of ours.”

With his porkpie hat Georgino was easily spotted at the regular boxing cards held at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario.

“That type of knowledge you can never replace,” Camponovo said. “He was a part of the heyday of L.A. boxing.”

Funeral services will take place on Saturday Feb. 13, at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles at 10 a.m.