Forgotten Legends: Mitch Halpern


By: Steve Gallegos

In this segment of Forgotten Legends, we’re gonna switch gears and focus not on a fighter, but on a referee. The life of a boxing referee can be a difficult one. The “3rd Man” inside the ring is criticized regularly for his actions in a very brutal sport. The sole purpose of the referee is to protect the fighters and most times, the lives of the combatants rests solely in the hands of the referee.

The state of Nevada has been known to produce the best boxing referees in the world, most notably Mills Lane, Richard Steele and Joe Cortez. In the mid-late 90’s there was another referee that was on his way to joining that elite class. His name was Mitch Halpern.

Halpern was a hard nosed, no nonsense referee who refereed some of the biggest bouts in Nevada during the end of the 20th Century. He was known to maintain order while letting the boxers fight their fights. Mitch Halpern began refereeing bouts in 1991. He was mentored by the legendary Nevada referee Richard Steele, who taught Halpern everything there was to know about being a boxing referee.

On 05/06/95, Halpern would referee a bout between Gabriel Ruelas and Jimmy Garcia. It was the co-feature on a big Pay Per View card held at the outdoor arena at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas. It was a fight in which Garcia absorbed alot of punishment over the course of 11 rounds, before Halpern stopped the fight. Moments later, Garcia collapsed in his corner and was taken to the hospital, where he would later die due to injuries sustained in the bout.

It was a tragic event on a big stage and many in the boxing media criticized Mitch Halpern for Garcia’s death. This didn’t stop Mitch from refereeing and he continued on with his career.

On 11/09/97, Halpern would referee the biggest fight of his career, which was the first bout between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. It was a tough, physical fight which included a lot of clinching, holding and hitting on the breaks. Halpern had to call time several times to warn the fighters and he did so in a very authoritive way.

Near the end of the 10th, Holyfield caught Tyson flush and put a pounding on him. Halpern almost stepped in to stop the fight, however he let the round come to a close. He would then stop the fight in the 11th after Holyfield again battered Tyson.
Halpern was chosen to work the Holyfield Tyson rematch seven months later, however the Tyson camp hotly contested Mitch Halpern being the referee; therefore Halpern stepped down and was replaced by Mills Lane.

Tyson would be disqualified in the third round after he bit Holyfield twice on his ears. Had Mitch Halpern been the referee, Tyson wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to bite Holyfield a second time. Halpern would have disqualified Tyson immediately.

Halpern would close out 1997 by refereeing the next two mega bouts in Las Vegas when he worked the highly anticipated showdown between Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero as well as the Heavyweight Championship unificiation bout between Evander Holyfield and Michael Moorer. Halpern would close out the millenium by working the last two mega bouts of the 1990’s when he refereed Oscar De La Hoya vs Felix Trinidad as well as the second bout between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, which crowned the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world. Halpern would start the new millenium by working another highly anticipated bout when he refereed the first bout between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera which was an all out war.

Mitch Halpern was at the top of his game and was considered the best referee in Nevada; however it was all about to come to a tragic end. On 08/20/00, Mitch Halpern was found dead from to a gunshot wound to the head, that was ruled a suicide. It was a huge loss and many within the boxing community that were close to Halpern were shocked as he appeared to be very cool and collect.

On 08/26/00, an HBO Boxing After Dark card was held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. All the referee’s working, wore a patch on there sleeve in honor of Mitch Halpern. The main event was a heated battle between Fernando Vargas and Ross Thompson, which was refereed by Joe Cortez. During the pre fight instructions, Cortez said “This one’s for Mitch. Mitch, we love you, we miss you”.

Mitch Halpern was a special referee, who didn’t put up with any nonsense from any fighter, regardless of who they were. As I stated earlier, the life of a boxing referee can be a diffictult one. Did the pressures of being a boxing referee get to Mitch Halpern? In the end he was a very good referee who was on his way to greatness, only to have his life ended too soon.

Forgotten Legends: Frankie Randall

Frankie Randall

By: Steve Gallegos

We continue our ‘Forgotten Legends‘ series with another very underrated fighter who never got the due he deserved. A tough pugilist who wouldn’t let the politics and bad breaks of boxing keep him down. That fighter was former three-time world champion FrankieThe SurgeonRandall.

Randall was a tough, boxer puncher who could bang and he made history during his career while being dealt some very bad hands as well. Frankie Randall was born in Birmingham, AL and grew up in Morristown, TN. He turned pro in 1981 and went 24-0 with 19 KO’s from 1983-1985 before losing his first bout to future world champion Edwin Rosario. He also KO’d and drew with another future world champion in Freddie Pendelton and despite Pendelton’s subpar record, he received a world title shot long before Randall did. Randall continued to press on knowing that one day he would get his world title shot.

After losing his second bout to Primo Ramos in 1987, Randall signed with promoter Don King and went on a 17 fight win streak including a seventh round TKO over Edwin Rosario in a rematch. Finally after 51 fights, Randall would get his first title shot against Mexico’s legendary Julio Cesar Chavez. “El Gran Campeon Mexicano” came into the fight with an outstanding record or 89-0-1 and was looking for win number 90 in his quest to reach 100 victories. Prior to the fight, Randall studied Chavez’s last bout with Pernell Whitaker in which Whitaker outboxed and dominated Chavez. He saw some holes in Chavez’s game when faced with a good boxer and was confident he could capitalize on those weaknesses. He also said prior to the bout that he had a surprise that he was going to unveil in the fight.

They met on 01/29/94 in Las Vegas, NV at the brand new MGM Grand Garden Arena for the WBC Super Lightweight title. When the opening bell sounded, Randall was a 15-1 underdog; however he would defy the odds with a huge statement. Randall came out, showing no fear of Chavez and took the first three rounds as he landed crisp combinations. During the middle rounds, Chavez started to come on; however Randall wasn’t phased by Chavez’s punching power and gave as good as he got. The seventh round is when the tide began to turn in favor of Randall.

Chavez had been throwing low blows for most of the night and in the seventh round, Chavez was deducted a point from Referee Richard Steele after Chavez landed a huge low blow that staggered Randall. Randall would have a huge rally in the 8th and as the fight headed into the championship rounds, it appeared that Chavez would need a knockout in order to keep his title. The 11th round was the most crucial round of the fight as Chavez once again landed another bad low blow which caused Richard Steele to once again deduct a point. Moments later, Randall would unleash the surprise he promised before the fight as he landed a huge straight right hand that put Chavez down for the very first time in his career.

Many watching the Pay Per View telecast will not forget Showtime commentator Steve Albert’s Howard Cosell moment when he yelled out “Oh down goes Chavez for the first time in his career”. It was the icing on the cake for Frankie Randall and when the final bell sounded, he knew he finally acheived his dream. The end result was a very close split decision win for Randall. While the judge’s final scorecards were closer than the fight really was, Randall was finally a world champion. Randall made history in more ways than one that night. Not only was he a world champion, he was also the first man to knock Julio Cesar Chavez down and defeat him. He was also the winner of the very first main event at the now legendary MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Chavez didn’t give the proper respect to Randall and instead blamed the loss on Referee Richard Steele for taking away points for low blows. The Chavez camp called for an immediate rematch and they would get one just a litte over three months later. Randall and Chavez met once again on 05/07/94 at the MGM Grand Garden arena in Las Vegas. The fight was once again action packed with both fighters having their moments throughout seven rounds.

In the eighth, the two men collided heads which caused a huge gash over Chavez’s eye. According to the WBC rules, when an accidental headbutt occurs, the uncut fighter loses a point; therefore Randall was deducted a point on the scorecards. The bout was stopped and the fight went to the scorecards in which Chavez was awarded a close technical decision. Had the unjust and atrocious rule of the WBC not been enforced, then Randall would have retained his title via a technical draw. Randall shook off the loss and would get another crack at a world title in his next fight when he faced WBA Jr. Welterweight champion Juan Martin Coggi of Argentina.

They met on 09/17/94 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and Randall dominated the bout, dropping Coggi three times en route to a unanimous decision victory. He would successfully defend his title twice before facing Coggi in a rematch. They met on 01/13/96 in Miami, FL and Randall would once again be dealt a very bad hand. In the fifth round, the two fighters collided heads and Coggi would go down and would be on wobbily legs causing the fight to be stopped and go to the scorecards. Coggi was awarded a technical decision and the WBA Jr Welterweight title.

Coggi apppeared to be acting more hurt than he really was and many felt he deserved an “Oscar” instead of the championship. Randall was furious, stating that he would rather lose the right way instead of the way he lost and it wasn’t right. He would face Coggi in a rubber match seven months later in Coggi’s home country of Argentina in which he would regain his title via unanimous decision. He was now a three time world champion; however his third reign as champion wouldn’t last very long.

On 01/11/97, he faced tough French challenger Khalid Rahilou in Nashville, TN. Randall’s scouting report on Rahilou was that he lacked power and was slow; however Randall’s observation was clearly mistaken. Randall came out and dictated the pace of the first three rounds as he pressed forward, oppossing his will on Rahilou, who was circling most of the time. As the rounds went on, Randall began having problems with Rahilou’s lateral movement and the tough French challenger began to land hard, fast combinations.

The tide turned for Rahilou in the eighth when he staggered Randall towards the end of the round. Rahilou dominated the ninth and 10th rounds with his quick combinations and went for the kill in the 11th, causing the fight to be stopped. Randall would take the next 18 months off and would cut ties with promoter Don King. He returned in July of 1998, winning two fights by KO and was once again in line for a possible world title shot, this time against Oscar De La Hoya; however he would lose to Oba Carr on 02/13/99 in a title eliminator bout.

It was pretty much the end of the road for Frankie Randall as a serious contender in the sport of Boxing. He would continue fighting for another 6 years going 3-12, including a loss to Julio Cesar Chavez in a rubber match in 2004. He retired in 2005 with a record of 58-18 with 42 KO’s. He is another of our “Unsung” heroes who never got the credit he truly deserved. He was a fighter who never had anything given to him, instead he went out and took it. He was a fighter who kept pressing on when the politics and bad luck of boxing kept trying to keep him down. He is much more than just the man who dethroned Julio Cesar Chavez. He was a true pugilist and a true champion.

Frankie Randall








Oscar De La Hoya Elected Into the International Boxing Hall of Fame

LOS ANGELES (Dec. 5) – Golden Boy Promotions is pleased to congratulate company President Oscar De La Hoya on his induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.  The announcement was made today by International Boxing Hall of Fame Executive Director Edward Brophy.

“I am honored and appreciative to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and I thank everyone who has been a part of this journey with me,” said De La Hoya, an Olympic Gold medalist and six division professional world champion known throughout the sport as “The Golden Boy”. “This is the dream of everyone who puts on a pair of gloves and steps between the ropes, and through the good and the bad, you always hope that when all is said and done, you put on good fights, entertained the fans, and will be remembered for what you did in the ring. To know that I will be in the Hall of Fame with the greats of this sport is humbling, but it’s also put a smile on my face that isn’t coming off anytime soon.”

“Knowing all the dedication Oscar put into this sport since the first time he stepped through the ropes, I couldn’t be happier to see him rightfully honored as a Hall of Famer,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “Despite all the fame and the money accumulated over the years, in his heart, all heever wanted was to prove himself as one of the best.  He did, and today’s announcement proves that he is one of boxing’s all-time greats.  Congratulations, Oscar and congratulations to all the members of the Class of 2014.”


Also announced as members of the IBHOF’s Class of 2014 was a former opponent of De La Hoya’s, Felix Trinidad, along with Joe Calzaghe, Barry Hearn, Richard Steele, Graham Houston, Neil Leifer, George Chaney, Charles Ledoux, Mike O’Dowd, Eugene Corri, and Tom Allen. The IBHOF induction weekend takes place in Canastota, New York from June 5-8, with the Hall of Fame induction ceremonyoccurring on Sunday, June 8.