Michael Rosenthal’s first boxing story was one he would rather not have written.
Rosenthal was a recent hire at the Los Angeles Daily News when the great Sugar Ray Robinson died on April 12, 1989. The rookie reporter’s boss, aware of Rosenthal’s love of boxing, asked him to write Robinson’s obituary and he did the job.
“I remember my boss liked the obituary, as if I had passed a test. That was my start as a boxing writer,” Rosenthal said.
The obit led to assignments covering hundreds of local and then out-of-town fight cards, a weekly column that ran for 10 years in the Daily News and most recently a six-year stint as Editor-in-Chief of The Ring Magazine.
Rosenthal’s body work has been recognized by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which is honored to name him the 45th winner of the Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. The voting of past winners determines the honoree.
“I’ve loved boxing since I was a kid,” Rosenthal said. “I could never have imagined I would one day make a living writing about it. And now this. The recognition of colleagues I’ve admired for so long is something I’ll always treasure.”
Rosenthal once gave up tickets to see his favorite band (The Who) in concert to watch the Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran rematch on TV. That’s love of boxing.
And his timing was good. As Rosenthal was cutting his teeth as a boxing writer, brothers Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas – who lived in the Daily News’ circulation area – were rising prospects. “I like to think we came up together,” Rosenthal said.
Then came another L.A. product: Olympic gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya, who took the town and ultimately the world by storm. Rosenthal attended the press conference in which De La Hoya announced he was turning professional and covered him – and the sport – the rest of the way.
In the end, Rosenthal has witnessed firsthand many of the biggest boxing events of the past quarter century – George Foreman’s KO of Michael Moorer, the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield ear-bite fight, Lennox Lewis’ demolition of Tyson, the phenomenal runs of De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, the dominance of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and much more.
“It’s been a hell of a lot of fun,” Rosenthal said. “I have a lot to be grateful for.”