One of the most respected men in the history of boxing, Ray Arcel trained a record twenty world champions. Born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1899, Arcel grew up in a tough New York City neighborhood.
He learned his trade from Frank (Doc) Bagley, who once managed Gene Tunney and Dai Dolling, who handled Harry Wills, Jack Britton, and Johnny Dundee. In 1923, Arcel developed his first champion, flyweight Frankie Genaro. In 1925, he helped bantamweight Charley Phil Rosenberg lose 37 pounds in three months in preparation for a winning title fight. From 1925 to 1934, Arcel worked in partnership with trainer Whitey Bimstein. Among the champions Arcel and Bimstein handled were Jackie (Kid) Berg, Lou Brouillard, and Sixto Escobar. Arcel also worked with Barney Ross, and managed and trained his early idol, Benny Leonard, in a comeback try. Arcel first handled a heavyweight champion when he trained James J. Braddock for his bout with Joe Louis, which Braddock lost. Over the next several years, Arcel trained fourteen Louis opponents before producing one who could beat the Brown Bomber. In 1950, Arcel and Ezzard Charles-who won a decision over Louis-ended the parade which had come to be called "The Meat Wagon." During this period Arcel also guided many fighters in lower weight classes to championships. The list includes Tony Marino, Ceferino Garcia, Billy Soose, and Tony Zale.
In the early fifties, Arcel apparently ran afoul of organized crime after arranging fights for the ABC television network. The matches competed with other network television fights run by the International Boxing Club (IBC), reputed to have underworld ties. In September 1953, in front of a Boston hotel, Arcel was struck on the head with a lead pipe. Many believed that the assault was related to his work in television. Arcel recovered but dropped out of boxing soon after the incident. Not until the early seventies did Arcel return. He trained Peppermint Frazier for a title bid, then began an eight-year association with Roberto Duran, seeing Duran to a win in his first meeting with Sugar Ray Leonard. Arcel broke with Duran following the second match with Leonard in 1980, when Duran uttered his famous "no mas" and quit the fight.
Arcel capped his career with three years of work with Larry Holmes, training him for his title defense versus Gerry Cooney in 1982. For that fight, Arcel teamed with Eddie Futch. He then retired but continued to follow boxing and to comment on the sport until his death on March 6, 1994. Arcel trained over two thousand boxers and won the admiration and respect of his fighters, his peers, and the media.
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Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.