Arthur Donovan refereed fourteen heavyweight championship fights from 1933 to 1946. The son of Professor Mike Donovan, the noted American middleweight champion and boxing instructor, Donovan grew up around boxers, and Gentleman Jim Corbett befriended the youngster when he came for a visit. Against his father's wishes, Donovan boxed professionally for a time, under an assumed name.
When his father retired as boxing instructor at the New York Athletic Club, Donovan took the job and held it for exactly fifty years to the minute. He also served two tours in the military, and after World War I, tried unsuccessfully to revive his boxing career. In 1923, James Farley, New York State Athletic Commissioner, urged Donovan to become a referee. Donovan agreed and was immediately called for important fights. He became a favorite of fans, who often asked him for autographs. Donovan officiated at twenty Joe Louis fights, including both Schmeling bouts. After retiring as a referee, Donovan continued in his instructor's job, which he had never left.
Donovan's son, Art, is a well-known television personality and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a career with the Baltimore Colts.
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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.
Born: Aug. 13, 1891
Died: Sept. 1, 1980