Some sad news to report: we have lost another beloved member of the boxing community. Ring announcer Danny Valdivia passed away yesterday afternoon. His family said he suddenly collapsed and could not be resuscitated. The well-known emcee had undergone heart surgery in the past, according to his family. He was 75.
I have personally known Danny for over a decade, and this loss is painful for everyone in our local L.A. boxing community and beyond. It really is like a family; we see the same faces at various events around town and we get to know them. Now boxing has lost another brother. I will remember Valdivia for his professionalism, preparedness and promptness while reporting for duty. We saw him at both amateur and pro boxing shows, and Danny was always fully prepared–the epitome of a true professional.
And it is an understatement to say he loved boxing.
Offering my condolences to his family, I spoke with his daughter Leslie today and we reminisced about her dad’s love of the sweet science.
“He loved announcing!” Leslie says. “And he loved his family; he was the best dad in the whole wide world.”
And he was a hands-on dad, donating his time as the announcer at his kids’ high school basketball games . “When we were in high school, my dad was the voice of the Mariners at St. Monica’s in Santa Monica. This was in the ’70s and he was at all of our games.”
Her father was also generous with his time away from the microphone and outside of the ring. “My dad liked to give people gifts. He would find out what they liked, or what they collected,” his third daughter explains. “He was a giver. And he died doing what he loved. Yesterday afternoon, he was visiting a friend and his heart went out. It was sudden; he hadn’t really been sick or in the hospital before this.”
With his wife Helen, the couple have six children: Valerie, Stephanie, Leslie, Stacy, Daniel and Kristie. “My mom and dad were high school sweethearts,” marvels Leslie. “They met at Venice High.” She also tells me that Danny was a grandfather to ten grandkids and two great grandchildren. He celebrated his 75th birthday this past August, and his family truly was the cornerstone of his full life.
Besides his loving family, the other passion in his life was, of course, the sport of boxing. He spent decades working in all things pugilistic and even appeared on several TV shows and movies portraying a ring announcer on film.
But for those in Southern California, Danny Valdivia was a recognizable face, a mainstay at various live boxing shows, awards banquets and charity functions. I saw him frequently, recently at the World Boxing Hall of Fame induction, several local amateur shows, and also many professional boxing matches.
He was also honored many times throughout the years for his contributions to the sport. Valdivia spent over 40 successful decades in the center of the ring, working in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, Michigan, Mexico, just to name a few of the locations where his vocal talents were showcased on the canvas. Danny also worked with Spanish stations Univision, Telemundo and Galavision.
His experience through the years is like a history lesson; Valdivia was a participant in fight cards at some of Vegas’ landmark hotels like the Sands, the Hacienda, Aladdin, Ballys, Caesars and the MGM Grand. Local Angelenos may also remember Danny’s rich baritone during the 1984 Olympics as the boxing announcer at the L.A. Sports Arena.
Alway appreciated by his peers, he was a California Boxing Hall of Fame inductee and a “Battle of the Ballroom” Hall of Famer (he was their very first announcer 25 years ago).
On December 20, Valdivia was scheduled to be the Master of Ceremonies alongside Genaro Hernandez at the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Holiday Party where special recognition awards will be presented to Freddie Roach, Israel Vazquez, Timothy Bradley, Alfredo Angulo, among many other Southland boxing heroes. Sadly, the function may now be holding a poignant “Ten Count” to honor another boxing member gone too soon. Just last month, veteran official Lou Filippo passed away and now we have to say goodbye to one more of our fight aficionados. It is never easy.
Marty Denkin, who has been a fighter, manager, commissioner, referee, judge and more in his own career that has spanned over 50 years, has been rocked with the loss of his two close compadres, Filippo and now Valdivia. “We’re a family–a boxing family,” Denkin says to me. “And Danny was one of those guys who just loved the sport. I remember back when he would volunteer his time at Hollenbeck over 30 years ago, and back when he worked at The International in Pico Rivera (which is no longer there).”
Denkin’s daughter, Jackie, an MMA official, also remembers growing up and seeing the silver-bearded Valdivia at some now-historic boxing locations around town. “I used to love boxing at The International! It was a hall where they would just pack in the fans. Tickets were cheap and it was the best place to see boxing. And back then, I remember seeing Danny there when he had black hair!”
Like many other passionate and dedicated members of boxing, Valdivia worked right up until the time of his passing as Marty Denkin says the emcee was recently the announcer at one of Roy Englebrecht’s shows in Orange County.
Daughter Leslie adds a final footnote about her father. “My dad always would say ‘Keep Punching!’” she mentions, softly holding back tears. “When anyone had a hard time or was going through tough times, he would tell them, ‘Keep Punching!’”
And that sums of the spirit of this gentlemen of the ring. He loved–truly loved–boxing and contributed wholeheartedly to the sport, never asking for anything in return.
To Danny Valdivia, a “man on the mike” that was respected by all, we will remember him in our thoughts and prayers.
The family says his services will be held next Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. Mark’s Church in Venice:
St. Mark’s Catholic Church
940 Coeur D Alene Avenue
Venice, CA 90291-4929
Photos by Michele Chong: Danny Valdivia in the ring
Copyright © 2009 Michele Chong. All rights reserved.