Alright fight fans! I have a special treat for you. I was introduced to Bennie while doing my research on Jimmy Doyle. He was around at the time Doyle was fighting in Los Angeles. I called him up and he gave me his knowledge of what he remembers of Doyle. After our conversation was over about Jimmy Doyle, I began to feel a connection with Bennie that somehow I got to know him on a personal level and could get a story about him. I called him back a few days later because he wanted to find out about a certain answer in regards to my Doyle research. I took a chance and asked him "Can we meet up so I can write a story on you?" and he says, "Do you know where Sun City is?" I told him to give me his address and I'll find it. Before we ended our conversation he told me that a local newspaper called The Press Enterprise has a front page article about him. I looked it up on the Internet and found it. It is the January 3, 2008 issue. I read it a whole bunch of times and also read about him on www.boxrec.com. I made up a list of questions and on April 9, 2008 I travelled to Sun City, California from Los Angeles and the rest is history.
How did you get involved in boxing?
Well, I was a little kid about 10 or 11 years old selling newspaper down on Main Street near the Grand Olympic Auditorium. The Main Street gym was the big gym in those days. I'd walk by there every once in a while and one day I did walk in there. The first guy that walked up to me was Al Lange, which was one of the top trainer in those days. He says joking with Georgino, "You wanna be a fighter?" I came back a couple of weeks later and he gave me a pair of shoes that belonged to Art Lasky which was a couple of sizes to big. That's how I got started! I walked into that gym and I never left boxing since then.
Did you fight amatuer or professional?
Amateur. I was lucky to do that because my parents were against it. They wanted me to get a job and work. It was tough times in the 1930's.
What was your record in the amateurs?
Very good! I used to fight mostly at the Olympic Auditorium. I was very popular there... I got my scrapbook somewhere I have to look for it.
So you don't know the exact record of how many fights you've had?
I think it's 108 fights that I had. I lost very few of them.
Who inspired you in the fight game? Was there a mentor?
No, I had to do it on the quiet. I had to hide because my family didn't want it. My brother when he found out gave me hell, he says if you're going to do it you better do it right! There were already two other brothers fighting and my family wanted me to do it right. Them days amateurs were good fighters and they were well-known. They'd get the publicity like the pro-fighters. I got a lot of write-ups in the papers.
Did you get paid in the amateurs?
Three dollars. Four dollars. I fought Jimmy McDaniels who fought for the title, but as an amateur he beat me and I got thirty dollars. Thirty dollars... Guys worked a week for in those days. Let me tell you this, Lou Ambers... I was his favorite sparring partner when he would come here. He was lightweight champion of the world and I would take off school and go down and work out and he'd give me a dollar a round, so it be like 3, 4, 5 dollars. It was great! One time he caught me with an upper-cut and split me right open on my mouth and he felt real bad. They took me to the hospital and got stitched up, then the manager which was Al Weill took me home and talked to my parents and asked if it was okay if he could take me with him back East. They wouldn't let me go.
Is that how your parents found out of you fighting?
Al Weill and Lou Ambers came to my house after I was stitched up and they said that 16 year olds can fight pros back east. So when my parents turned it down, I just kind of tapered off and just got out. Because I knew they didn't want it. So I mostly fought amateur. My brother Carmen fought pros and had a lot of pro fights. There was my brother Tommy who won the golden gloves during the war. My brother Pat was a real good fighter. My brother Al, he was like 10 or 11 years old when he was fighting, but he fought under another name. Them days you could do those things. Nobody didn't check it out. You didn't get no license...You just kind of went into a place...Put you on the card there and that was it.
How many fighters under your care became champions of the world? Who are they?
Three. Danny Lopez was a friend of my brother Albert. He took him down to the gym and that time there I was in the Bar business. We took him down to Howie Steindler, who you know got killed. I would be at the fight whenever Danny fought. When Howie got killed I got into it 100%...Danny and Albert Davila came to me and said, "They wouldn't wanna fight for anybody but me". I didn't want to get into it because I was busy... In fact, I had the bars and the bails bond business, so I was really busy. But I thought oh well I'll give it a shot... And then Danny won the title... And Albert won the title... And Jaime Garza ran away from home and came to me. He wrote me letters but I paid no attention to him because he was just a young kid. So one day he turns up and he says he ran away from home and was going to stay with a friend in Hollywood, and wanted to know if I would manage him. I took him and made a champion out of him. Then I almost made a champion out of Oscar Muniz if he would've stuck with me. I had a title fight cut and dry for him... I know he would've won. So I would've had four champions.
Tell me about how you were awarded Manager Of The Year?
I went back to New York for a convention and I spoke to the editor of The Ring magazine. I think I had just Danny Lopez as champion. "I says you know what I'm gonna end up with about three champions without any body's help and without anybody helping promote him or anything". He says, "If you do that you're gonna be Manager Of The Year!" That was a rare thing because guys back didn't like that. They wanted all the awards. They wanted to be the kingpins. I came up with three champions and he kept his word and made me Manager Of The Year. "I'm about the only guy that's ever gotten that out here in the west".
What's your method of training for a fighter?
First of all, you kind of size him up and see what's good about him. Maybe he can box... Maybe he can slug with you and stuff like that. You don't train a fighter basically the same, but you change their way of training because they're all different. They all react to different to certain things. So it's hard to say how should I train this guy here? I have to see what kind of guy he is. I have to talk to him and see what I get out of him that I think is worthy of pushing cause that would be his best weapon. It's hard to tell how to train anybody unless like I said... You see what you got in front of you.
Lets use Danny Lopez as an example. What did you have him do for training?
Well, for training I tried to get him to use his left hand a lot because he was getting hit with right hands. I tell him to double up on that jab. And roadwork...I can tell when he wasn't doing it. There are things that I don't even want to mention about it, but anyway Danny had a heart of lion. He could punch like a mule. But he was getting hit a little bit too much with them right hands coming to him. I think that's because that eye was a little weak, I don't think he saw right hands coming. So I tried to him to get that jab working all the time. Start with the jab and end up with the jab and just keep that out there.
How has boxing changed from the old days up to now?
They were hungrier. Them days you'd get three or four dollars for an amateur fight or five dollars. You were happy to get that! Today, they won't even look at you if you're going to give them that much. Fighters today are spoiled! They're spoiled because they get such big pay days. They want the cars, they want the apartment, they don't want the hardship on them to train, and stuff like that. Back then you tell them that you have a fight for them, they'd be so happy! Today they have the chance to say "I don't think I wanna fight him now, I'll fight him later".
What has remained the same from the old days of the fight game?
Everything has changed! Nothing stayed the same! I don't if anything that stayed... Not even the rounds. It used to be fifteen rounds for a championship fight. The size of the gloves has changed. The other thing... A bad thing about boxing is the weigh-ins. They weigh in a day ahead of time. It's the worse thing that could ever happen in boxing. That's why guys get hurt! Because the big guy comes way down where he shouldn't be way down, and the little guy has to put on extra weight. They weigh-in a day ahead of time and the next day they could weigh ten to fifteen pounds more! They should not allow that! The law is...8 hours before the fight is the weigh-in! It's not right because it's not fair! because the little guys has to fight the big guys. That's the worse thing that's going on in boxing! Television wants it and that's why they got it. The money is in television today! Anybody knows boxing knows that is the wrong thing! I was trying to get a hold of John McCain, you know the guy that's runnin' for president. He was messing around with the boxin' there a little bit. He was gonna make some rulings for this and that and I was gonna get a hold of him and tell him if you wanna do something good, do that weigh-in thing! That's hurtin' a lot of these fighters. That's why they end up in the hospitals. That's because they're not fightin' in the right level! A middleweight is a middleweight and you weigh him in 8 hours before that's it! That is the number one thing that's hurting boxing!
That's in professionals, right?
In your opinion, who is a great fighter today?
I couldn't tell you. Years ago when a fighter was great was because he earned it. He fought everybody! He fought guys that most would avoid. I hope that answers you.
I remember that you told me to read about the latest article about you that was written on January 3, 2008 in The Press-Enterprise. It says that you've been to more than 10,000 boxing matches by the mid-1970's. What's the story behind that?
I used to go 2-3 times a week for all these years since I was 11 years old. They estimated that... The newspaper guy in the Herald Express estimated that I seen over 10,000 fights. Now, here's the other thing that you got to remember... When he said 10,000 fights that means like your card had five on the card, that's five. Another card would be another five so that would be 10 fights.
If you had to pick one fighter of today that has the greatness of a fighter of yesterday, who would you choose?
Let me tell you this first, I don't think will ever see another fighter make the money that De La Hoya's makin'. He has the charisma. He was a hell of an amateur fighter. I didn't see that in the pros though. I think that in the pros he didn't prove to me that he was that great of a fighter.
Who is your all-time favorite fighter of any generation?
Well you have to say, Marciano. I'll tell you why? Marciano was great because he was undefeated. I don't care if they were all bums. He fought them all. Whoever was around he fought. He come from behind in fights and knock the guy out. They threaten to stop the fight when he had the cut on his nose from Ezzard Charles. They gave him another round and he went and knocked the guy out. So he's never lost! He fought everybody. He's got to be the greatest fighter ever fought. And he was action! As far as statistics... It's pretty hard to beat Marciano.
This next question here, you can do all the braggin' you want I'm giving you permission. I hear all the high profile names in the sport of boxing knows Bennie Georgino. How did that happen?
Well, I've been around a long time. I've known all the old time trainers who used to come from back east. I was in the gym day and night, practically. Even with my other businesses with the cocktail bars and restaurants in Los Angeles, I've always found time to go down to the gym because the fighters would be waiting for me. They wanted my opinion of other fighters that they were going to fight. Even managers would ask me what I'd think about certain fighters. I was really involved in it! In fact, the newspapers started to call me because they started to put odds in the newspapers, which they never did before. The sports writers were good to me. They used to give me write-ups all the time.
How did you get involved with the Lucky Eagle Casino?
John Setterstrom is the casino's general manager in Washington. I was connected with him through a friend from Las Vegas. Boxing was pretty dead over in that area until the casino opened up in 1995. I was just going to help this guy out and help him get started and leave, but I ended up staying. I got too much going on down there.
Your job at the casino is promoting, correct?
Yeah, I put the fights together. I run the whole thing. Everything gets down through me. I'm the main guy... That's the only way I could do it! And what's happened? We have sell-out crowds. They just love it. Everybody knows me. Everybody claps when I come by there and stuff like that. Pretty nice people. All this happened through reference from one guy to another. I never go out looking for these things. If I did...If I stayed in the boxing like Don Kings and all and I know them all... If I was sticking around with them guys... I'd might have been connected with them guys too and in the long run maybe make more money, but I may have not have the happiness that I get out of this.
What's the difference between Bennie Georgino and Bert Sugar?
Ah, Bert Sugar is... I don't wanna knock him. He's doing great the way he is. Bert Sugar is a guy that never fought. Never handled fighters. He's just been around the boxing game and he's a personable guy. They don't try to compare myself with him because I'm not that kind of guy anyway.
Have you ever been compared to someone like him before?
I was compared to Angelo Dundee. You know he did that movie with the guy from Australia, Cinderella Man. He was sick at this time and he wanted to know if I'd be interested in taking his place and I said, "Yeah I'd do it, why not." I guess he pulled himself together and he did it.
What are your thoughts and comments about Art Aragon who just recently passed away?
I said this before and I say it again, Art Aragon could have been an all-time great! He could punch. He had quick moves. He was a great finisher. One of the best finishers I've ever seen. When he hurt you, it's all over with. He's get on you... He had a lot of guts. He train good that's his trouble. He had too many women and didn't train good. For the Basilio fight he was washed up anyway. He did it for the pay day. I'd go to the training camp with him and he'd disappear at night. He liked to have me around all the time. I'd help him get out of his jams. I got a lot of experience with that guy there... Life was at stake when you were with him. You'll never know if you ran into a husband that was pissed off or some girlfriend that's looking for him. He was a charmer! He was a good looking guy. The movie people loved him... Bob Hope and Mickey Rooney... They like to play golf with him. He never knew when to draw the line. You know you got to draw the line at some point when you don't put people under pressure. That was the trouble with him, he didn't know when to stop. He'd just carry on... He destroyed a lot of women I'll you that. He destroyed them by making them feel that he cared for them. They would leave their family. They would leave their husbands. He's done it many times. He would have been a great, great fighter if he would have taken care of himself.
My boyhood hero is Jake LaMotta. What do you think of him?
You don't see them like that anymore. He was a tough guy and he was a good fighter. All I can say is good things about him because whenever he fought it was always a good action fight. He'd fight anybody. He's a great fighter!
We're about done, so is there anything that you want to talk about?
If I told you my life story you'd be here all day!
Hey, thanks a lot Bennie for your time. It was a pleasure chatting with you. Let's keep in touch.
Yeah, call me sometime.
Now at 87 years old he doesn't show any signs of quitting. What a warrior! Bennie went from fighter to manager to trainer, and now... Promoter. He's untouchable when it comes to that kind of record. Prove me wrong or better yet, tell him that!