Larry Hazzard, Sr., “You Name It and He Did It in Boxing!
By: Ken Hissner
Some people serve as boxers, martial artists, referees, judges, commissioners, chairman of officials, school principals, International Boxing Hall of Famers, or even literary authors, and actors. We can go on and on. However, few have filled all of these positions; except Larry Hazzard, Sr.
Hazzard was a 3-time Golden Gloves Amateur Boxing Champion in the 60’s and also won an AAU title. After graduating from Central H.S. in Newark, NJ, Hazzard received a Bachelor’s degree in education and a Master’s degree in administration from Montclair State University. He held positions as a physical education teacher, girls track team coach, athletic director, vice principal and principal for various Newark public and charter schools.
Hazzard earned a black belt in Ju Jitsu and was a martial arts instructor for 12 years. In 1967, at the age of 23, he became an amateur boxing referee and in 1978 he advanced to the professional referee level, where he was the “third man in the ring” for many events and title bouts around the world for sanctioning organizations such as the IBF, WBC and WBA. It was a time when boxing was blossoming along with the Atlantic City casino industry. He sometimes worked shows twice a week and quickly became known as the top referee in the Garden State and one of the best in the world.
In December 1985, Governor Tom Kean appointed Hazzard as Commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Hazzard quickly implemented his “no-nonsense” approach toward regulating boxing, and all other combative sports. During his tenure as commissioner, Hazzard initiated many new policies and procedures, which were adopted throughout the world as standard practices for the improvement of combative sports. He is most known for his strict regulation and innovations such as replacing the mouthpiece during competition, the use of rubber gloves for all referees, physicians and cornermen, and comprehensive medical testing requirements, including Brain CT scans, ophthalmology exams and communicable disease screenings for HIV, Hepatitis B and C. His accomplishments propelled New Jersey as leaders in the combative sports industry and as a result, Atlantic City became a major venue for some of the largest and greatest boxing events in modern day history. He is especially proud of his success in standardizing championship rules for both boxing and mixed martial arts, which have been adopted around the world as the Unified Rules of Conduct for Professional Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts Championships.
Hazzard has denied rumors that he was fired in November 2007 by former Attorney General Anne Milgrim. “I left because it was the right thing to do at the time”, said Hazzard. Milgrim, herself, has been quoted as saying, “Hazzard did nothing wrong… We’re just going in a different direction.”
After a short retirement as NJ’s commissioner in 2007, he travelled around the world as Chairman of Officials, Education, Development and Supervision for the IBF from 2008 to 2010. In 2012 he was hired by NBC Sports Network to serve as their television expert for scoring and rules interpretation.
The author of two publications entitled “A Conceptual Approach to Refereeing” and “The Ringleader: A Boxing Referee’s Guide to Greatness”, Hazzard’s diversity does not stop there. He also appeared in Hollywood’s movie “Ali” where he played the part of Ali’s mentor, Zack Clayton, as the referee for “The Rumble in the Jungle” pitting Ali regaining his title from then champion George Foreman. Other acting credits include film appearances in “Homeboys” and “Undefeated”, as well as a cameo appearance in the television series, “Oz”.
Hazzard was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2010 he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in the Non-Participant category for his longtime contributions to the sport as both a referee and administrator. He admitted it was one of the few times in his life that he was nervous when he got the call. He has received numerous other awards and recognitions over the years, as well.
In 2014 Under Governor Chris Christie, Hazzard was reappointed to the NJ State Athletic Control Board to regain his thrown as commissioner, continuing on his history-making journey of protecting the health and safety of contestants and preserving the integrity of combative sports. With many casinos closing over the past few years, Atlantic City is no longer the leading venue for major boxing events as it had been in years past. In 2016, New Jersey has only hosted 8 boxing shows but Hazzard is working diligently to revive major boxing events around the state. “We had 9 boxing events cancelled for one reason or another over the past 3 months,” said Hazzard. “It’s going to take some time, but we’re confident that major boxing events will return to NJ soon. We have already begun to attract Showtime, ESPN Sports and PBC televised events; not to mention the excitement that MMA and Professional Kickboxing has been bringing to NJ as well. We anticipate another PBC event with Danny Garcia, before the end of the year”, he continued.
Hazzard will turn 72 in December and he could pass for someone in his 50’s. He has always kept himself physically fit and is a dapper dresser. At a press conference Hazzard, the Honorable Mayor Eric Jackson and Renee Aiken of Boss Lady Promotions highlighted their promotion on May 1st at the Sun National Bank Center, 81 Hamilton Avenue in Trenton. Featured in the main event is well known Paulsboro, NJ, heavyweight Chazz Witherspoon along with a 10 bout undercard that includes “Bridge Wars” with NJ vs NY amateurs opposing one another. It’s the 1st Annual Mayors Cup. It will certainly be a full night of boxing.