My Friend – George Latka

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian

I was saddened to learn that on December 26, 2007, George Latka passed away.

When I first saw George Latka, it was at the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium in the early sixties. I was just a young teenage kid learning my trade in boxing and what I saw that night was an outstanding referee at work.

latka My Friend – George Latka

Little did I know then that, later in my life, I would connect with George and his lovely wife Trudie as best friends. That instantly came into effect when I entered my ten-year tenure in the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.

George, also known as “the professor”, is the only person to ever be inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame as both a referee (1988), and as a boxer (1992).

George started boxing as an amateur in Gary, Indiana and entered the Golden Gloves in 1934, with a group of boxers that also featured former Middleweight champion Tony Zale. George won titles in the Golden Gloves tournament in 1934, 1935, and 1936, later entering San Jose State (also in 1936) – when major colleges offered scholarships in boxing. He finished up his college education at UCLA.

Turning pro in 1937, George fought fighters such as Richie Lemos, Petey Scalzo, Ray Lunny, Baby Arizmendi, and Sammy Angott. He even had a bout with Joe Ponce, who later became a renowned manager for former Featherweight and Junior Lightweight champion Bobby Chacon.

After a successful career as a boxer, George retired in 1942 with a ring record of 26-7-9, and was never knocked out in his professional career of 42 total bouts. He then went on to teach actors in Hollywood the basic boxing techniques for “tough guy” movie roles.

George started his career as a referee soon after, quickly moving to the top of the profession, and later became a judge in boxing. He was a referee in many major bouts, probably the most memorable being the Sugar Ramos vs. Davey Moore World Featherweight championship in March 1963 at Dodger Stadium in L.A. Moore died two days after that bout, a fight that George, and the world of boxing, would never forget.

On a personal note, I will always remember a special day in my life during March 2007, when George and Trudie made the drive north to Santa Barbara from Orange County to come to my home for a visit, and to view my personal boxing collection. How ironic it is that when I first saw George at the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium as a young boy it was 1961, the same year I started to collect and began my avid love for the sport of boxing.

May his soul rest in peace in heaven – George Latka, “the professor”, a true icon in boxing!

8 thoughts on “My Friend – George Latka

  1. George must have been a special person. Did he share any stories of the actors he worked with. I believe Johnny Isadora(?) was the one who said John Wayne and Gary Cooper were he-men but couldn’t be good boxers while John Garfield (Body & Soul) who was an amateur and Elvis Presley (Kid Galahad) could have been good boxers. I may have asked you in the past but do you have anything on Chuck Walker’s record as a pro? I have 7-1-1 and am missing 4-6 fights all wins per Chuck. I did a story “White Chocolate” on http://www.boxingtribune.com on him and have done stories on 5 other 1976 members on either BT or http://www.fighters-of-faith.com with 5 more to go to round out the team. Are you in Texas?

  2. I worked for George and Trudie at thier tavern “Latka’s Golden Glove” in Huntington Beach California. The world was made a better place for us to live with George in it. I will always miss him but consider myself very lucky that he touched my life.

    God Bless You George! We will take good care of Trudie for you…

    Love Beckah and Rodger Kiinker

  3. With my daughter living with her mother at the end of Bolsa Chica, I would wander down to the Golden Glove to pass the time shooting pool with George and listening to his stories. Hours could be spent reading the boxing posters and newstories plastered on all the walls. He was a gracious host and a darned good pool player to boot. What touched me was not the amazing life he had led, but that he looked upon himself as extremely lucky to have lived it. I have missed the Golden Glove for a number of years and, now, will miss it even more.

  4. I never knew George as well as most of you, and that is because I was so young. George, bigger than life, but just a wonderful man to me when I was growing up, used to play poker games with my dad for over 25 years. When he came to my house, he used to call me champ, would always set me up in a fake ring to see how I would react, and would make me feel so special. He would invite my dad and I over to fight nights at the irvine marriott and we had a blast. I hope trudy the best and I know she knows she had someone very very special in her life!!. All the best George! Good luck up there! :) Love Steve

  5. I was a local at Georges and Trudies pub for many years in HB just down the way from the place I grew up. B oth of them were gracious and wonderful people I am day late and dollar short to learn that George passed Beautiful Man and Wonderful Woman they are RIP don

  6. late 70’s and early 80’s I was in lataks almost everynight playing pool and of course drinking schooners for 1.75 with 25 cents to play pool.George and Trudy were always kind and would play pool for them when they need
    Those days were good and tuff but always fun in memory.
    THANKS FOR THOSE MEMORIES GEORGE,TRUDY AND OLD FRIENDS FROM A GREAT BAR THATS NO MORE.Go buy painted sign is still on side of building.

  7. George worked for Douglas AC Co. and I met him when I hired in there in 1966. We had an annual department fishing trip (sans fishing gear).This was at Lake Isabella and we mostly played poker and had a beer or two. June 1967 the trip was the same weekend as the Patterson-Quarry fight at the LA coliseum (during the tournament to fill the heavyweight title vacancy). George was selected as a judge for that bout. George got me in free at ringside so that I could drive him to the lake afterward…He introduced me to a number of the contenders and Rocky Marciano…I was thrilled!!…The coliseum crowd that night was in awe of the endless flurry of punches thrown by Patterson and was quite sure he had won the fight….Ref. John Thomas and Judge Dick Young scored the fight even…George had Quarry by 7-6…a draw and a decision not well received by the crowd…George was the focus of much abuse from vocal fans as we walked out thru the tunnel…I was somewhat surprised myself by his decision and after waiting maybe an hour while driving upto the lake I carefully brought up the subject…George comments: ….”Patterson’s rapid fire little flurries couldn’t hurt anybody like Jerry”

    Played poker at his home in Sherman Oaks, in Huntington Beach and played alot of pool at the Golden Glove. George was one great guy. RIP George!!

  8. I met Archie Moore at Latka’s in 1991. He was there to promote his biography, Archie Moore, The Ole Mongoose. He autographed his book and a small print of him sitting on his stool during a fight. The sad part was that only about 15 or 20 people were there to meet him. That was just one of many good times I had at the Golden Glove.

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