Boxing Historian Hank Kaplan Dies At 88

Matthew Hurley: Boxing historian and archivist Hank Kaplan died at his home in Kendall, Florida today. He was 88 years old. Kaplan, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006 under the ‘Observers’ category, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1919. He fought as an amateur and had one professional boxing match before he joined the Coast Guard during World War II. After the war he earned a biology degree from the University of Miami and worked for thirty years at the Center for Disease Control..

It was in 1950 that Kaplan became intrinsically involved in the sport of boxing. He met Angelo and Chis Dundee at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami and served as a public relations consultant. It was during this time that Kaplan began to amass a private collection of boxing memorabilia and began to archive his materials. In the years that followed Kaplan became revered as boxing’s premier archivist.

In an interview with Rick Folstad of The Sweet Science Kaplan revealed that the most prized possessions that he accumulated remained old news reports.

“I just love all the newspaper clippings I have of the 19th century,” he said. “It’s organic matter, right? And it still survives.”

Kaplan was also the founder and editor of Boxing Digest magazine, the editor of Boxing World magazine and worked as a consultant for Sports Illustrated, the London Times and HBO. He worked as an advisor for many projects over the years including the Rocky Marciano – Muhammad Ali computerized bout, which has recently been released on DVD.

When asked for his opinion on who he thought the greatest fighter of all time was Kaplan answered, “I suppose there is a definitive answer to that, but I’d have to break it down this way. My personal favorite fighter is Joe Louis. But the greatest two-fisted fighter I have ever seen is Henry Armstrong. The most skilled fighter I’ve ever seen is probably Sugar Ray Robinson. The most scientific boxer I have ever seen is Willie Pep, without a doubt. And the man I believe to the greatest fighter who ever lived is Harry Greb. Nobody before him or since him has done the things he did. He was merely a middleweight and he fought light-heavyweights and heavyweights all over the lot. And here is a guy with 300 fights.”

As for why he thinks boxing has been marginalized in the general sports media Kaplan was direct.

“Boxing used to be the second most popular sport in America. It was baseball and boxing. Television (pay per view) killed it.”

In 2002 Kaplan received the James J. Walker Award from the Boxing Writers Association of America for ‘Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.’

A funeral service is being scheduled for Monday, December 17th at Mount Nebo Memorial Gardens in Kendall, Florida.

Article posted on 15.12.2007

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