BOXING WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
The object, goal and purpose of the Boxing Writers Association of America is to foster the highest professional and ethical standards in boxing journalism, both print and electronic, and to promote better working conditions for those who cover and report on the sport.
The BWAA is a natural outgrowth of an organization born in February 1926 in a midtown Manhattan hotel and christened the Boxing Writers Association of Greater New York. The group was formed to improve conditions at boxing shows for New York writers and their visiting colleagues and, in a general sense, to enhance the sport as a whole.
Of the seven founding fathers of the organization, many came from newspapers long vanished from the city’s newsstands: The New York Sun, Evening World, American, Evening Graphic and the Bronx Home News.
Some of those Jazz Age journalists who were among the BWAA’s pioneers, however, went on to become famous in allied fields of writing. Damon Runyon and Paul Gallico graduated to short-story and script writing. Ed Sullivan of the Graphic later became an internationally famous columnist for the New York Daily News and a major television personality. Nat Fleischer stayed closer to home and went on to found The Ring Magazine.
Shortly after the founding of the BWAA’s forerunner, the group decided to stage a dinner to celebrate the achievements of those within boxing, with the hope that the affair would become an annual event.
It did and is still running strong today.
The annual awards dinner quickly became the cornerstone of the BWAA’s yearly activities and its principal source of revenue. After hotel hopping for several years, the BWAA found a permanent home for the dinner, with the repeal of Prohibition, at the famed Ruppert Brewery on the upper Eastside of New York.
It was there that the BWAA first presented an award of its own. The year was 1938 and the award was named the Edward J. Neil Trophy in honor of one of its founding fathers, an Associated Press sports reporter who was killed on assignment while covering the Spanish civil war.
The original deed of the award stated that it be given to “an individual who did the most for boxing in the previous year.” The first honoree was former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, who had been retired for several years. Gradually, the award went to those voted Fighter of the Year.
Two years later, the James J. Walker Award was established in honor of the former New York mayor and state legislator who in 1920 sponsored the law that saved professional boxing in New York. The award is for long and meritorious service to boxing.
The BWAA finally got around to honoring its own in 1972 with the Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism, established to honor the memory of one of the BWAA’s founding fathers. Additional awards have been established to recognize accomplishments in the sport and to preserve the memory of some of its most notable members.
The BWAA plays a significant role in the enshrinement of new members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. Full members of the BWAA are polled for their insight on each year’s pool of eligible fighters. The results heavily influence each class of inductees.
The annual writing contest, known as the Barney Awards in honor of the late president of the BWAA Barney Nagler, was started by BWAA president Bernard Fernandez in 2001. The Barneys are open to all BWAA members who had stories published in the calendar year running Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. An annual photography contest was added in 2004.
Annual dues for membership are $40, or a sum to be determined by a vote of the officers and board of directors, for both full and associate membership. Dues should be payable upon submission of a member’s end-of-the-year award ballot.
Today, with members nationwide and from several countries, the BWAA has moved into the 21st century representing print and online journalists. Qualified journalists interested in joining should see our “Members” page.
Board of Directors
Keith Sullivan, Esq.
Senior Advisory Board
Anthony Carter Paige
Anthony Carter Paige