Bernie Hall: 1927-2007

13.05.07 - By Tony Nobbs: Australian boxing lost one of it's treasured “Old Brigade” on May 6 with the passing of former top line welterweight and trainer/promoter Bernie Hall, 19 days before his 80th birthday. Hall had been in bad health for more than a decade and over the years there were premature reports of his death. His final years were spent in a Nursing Home in Sydney.

Known as a tough man to deal with both in the ring and out, the “Silver Fox” turned over many great champions out of Sydney gyms after a ten year professional career that saw him face world champions Jimmy Carter and Joe “Old Bones” Brown as well as legendary American import Freddie Dawson.

According to leading historian John Hogg, Hall's final record stood at 40-18-4, with 21 knockouts, 1 NC.

Hall turned pro in 1944 and retired in 1954. In 1949, he lost on points over 12 rounds to Carter and a year the following year was stopped in 11 by Brown. In 1951, Hall claimed the NSW state welterweight title, KO 13 Clem Sands. That was his first of three straight wins over Clem brother of Dave. Other notable wins came over the likes of George Kapeen (he was 2-2-2 against Kapeen, an Australian title holder), Joe de Belin, Ivor Kid Germain, Jack Smith, Jack Wilson, Ken Bailey, Norm Gent, Darby Brown, Roy Treasure, Mickey McDonald and Alfie Clay. His only shot at national honors came in March 1953, his fight prior to Dawson, he was stopped by Kapeen in round ten for the welterweight title.

In August '53 Bernie faced off with Chicago's Dawson, who challenged Ike Williams for the World Lightweight title, going down on points over 15 rounds. In the first meeting, on August 6, Hall became the first Aussie to go the route with Dawson, but in a return three weeks later was stopped by Freddie in 12th . In 22 fights in Australian rings, only American Charlie Red Williams, Hall and iron jawed British Empire welterweight champion George Barnes saw the final bell against Dawson.

After retiring, Hall, who was trained by Theo Green and Snowy Robbins, began training fighters, running gyms in Oxford, Goulborn and Crown Streets and finally at the Rocks in Sydney. Over the years thousands of fighters worked out in those gyms and several became champions. His prize pupil was Charky Ramon who in 1972 captured the Commonwealth junior middleweight crown working his way to number one WBC world rated, finishing in 1975 with a record of 33-1-1, 21 whacks. In 1984 Another of Halls fighters Ken Salisbury also became Commonwealth 11 stone champion. Salisbury's only loss in 32 bouts against 30 wins and a draw came in 1985 when he in his final fight lost the C'Wealth belt to Nicky Wilshire in London on a cut eye in round two.

In the 1970's Hall also had high hopes for middleweight knockout artist Ron Beekin, calling, as he did with Ramon, for a match against Ern McQuillan's king pin Tony Mundine. Bernie also trained Fijian born Willie Tarika, a 3 time C/wealth title challenger (9 st 4 & 9 st 9) for several years. Other Fijians under his care, Torkano Markos challenged for the middleweight C/ wealth title and Semi Bula won the Australian 11 st 6 title. Paul Bink won the Australian junior lightweight title. Other fighters, by memory hehad were, Eddie Buttons, who won 60 fights, some against Aussie champs, and had his last bout in Indonesia (L 10) against Thomas Americo,who lost on points to Sweet Saoul Mamby for the 10 stone WBC title, Joey Collins, Al Gatling, David Atkins, Ceddy McGrady and the multi talented Ray McGrady who at age 15 defeated future great Hector Thompson over 10 heats. Hec was 21.Older readers would no doubt be able to name plenty more. Many of these fighters were housed temporarily or permanently in a loft or a the back of Bernie's gyms.

Colorful Bernie had a knack of changing fighters names for the ring (Ramon's name being David Ballard). Charkey being for the Black American boxer and Ramon for the Mexican fighter. Ramon's brother John was named “Bricky Squire”. Other fighters were dubbed “I.M Gentle”, “Acki Puncher”and “Rigger Morstise” among many others.

In 1982 Hall was involved in the infamous brawl at the Sydney Opera House when Salisbury defended his national title against Alex Temelkov, provoking fights in the crowd which lasted approximately half an hour. Needless to say, that was the Opera House's one and only night of boxing!

His Goulbourn St gym was the first gym this writer walked into, so, while I never fought under his with him in my corner, essentially, Bernie was my first trainer. The first day I witnessed Salisbury sparring Hall's NZ prospect Steve Renwick. In 1987, Renwick claimed a version of the Australian junior middleweight title. I still look back and work on things I learned in that time in 1983 and briefly again at his Crown St gym in 1986. During those sessions I trained alongside, Salisbury, Renwick, Rick Kulu Rudy Darno, Benny Tabua, Clint Brown, Tommy Woods, Brett Beekin, Sean Gray, Sparrow Freeman and conditioners Hank Wilson and Shane Plewes. After training I'd usually spend an hour or three looking at posters and reading the news paper clippings that covered the walls or reading “Fighter”, “Ring” or “KO” Magazines.

In the mid 80's Hall had his own “Bernie's Beat”section in Fighter."

Bernie was from the old school. I can still remember him snarling as he told me any woman who has sex with a fighter a month prior to a contest should “go and find a street corner to work on”! OK he didn't put it so politely.

In 1980, future IBF heavyweight champ Tony Tucker trained at Bernie's gym as part of the visiting Muhummad Ali Boxing Team as did the then recently dethroned WBA champion Michael Dokes in late 1983.

Jeff “Flash” Malcolm, who almost undoubtedly will be the last Australian pugilist to win 100 professional bouts, credited Hall for teaching him the remarkable footwork that saw him become an Australian, Commonwealth, WBF, PABA and WBA Fedelatin champion in a 31 year career.

“Bernie was ahead of his time” southpaw Malcolm, who had literally more coaches than Cobb & Co, once told me. “I used to wag school and go there where Bernie would spend hours showing me where to place my feet and put my weight. Bernie wasn't just a great trainer – he was a great teacher. He had a lot of good fighters.”

Malcolm's great triumph was over leading welterweight contender Bobby Joe Young in Richfield, Ohio on the same card Dokes lost his belt to Gerrie Cotzee. Malcolm had spent nine months in Don King's Ohio training camp, rooming with Azumah Nelson and Tim Witherspoon, partying with Mitch Green and “beating up then WBC junior welterweight champion Leroy Haley."

For many years Hall ran fortnightly and monthly promotions at South Sydney Juniors and Manly Leagues Clubs as well as promting at other venues. Before the emergence of Jeff Fenech and promoter Bill Mordey in 1985, rivaled Mc Quillan as the cities premier boxing man.

Later he was Justin Fortune's amateur trainer and two of his last main eventer's were light heavyweight Mick Beattie and lightweight Ron Reardon who challenged for Australian titles in the mid 90's.

Bernie's funeral service took place on Friday May 11 at Sydney's Rockwood Cemetery.

Article posted on 14.05.2007

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