Editor’s Note: Portions of this article were taken from a Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame article by Mark Irwin.
Milford resident Jack Monroe knows a lot about boxing.
An article published in a Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame publication describes him as “the most knowledgeable boxing expert in our world today.”
The Rochester Hall of Fame recently honored Monroe with its Media and Historian Award, and presented it to him at a banquet May 2.
“Jack, your legendary career is well known in the Flower City, and has earned you a special place in our hearts,” wrote Mark Irwin, vice president of the Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame.
Monroe can rattle off names and matches of boxers who have highlighted the ring over the years with a precision and eloquence that mark him not only as a man who loves the sport but also one who has a mastery of the language.
Monroe was born in Bridgeport and grew up in Stratford. It was in Stratford that young Jack began his lifelong love affair with pugilism (boxing) at about the age of 13.
“I used to go to my grandmother’s in the mid 50s and watch boxing with my uncles,” Monroe said. “Boxing really captured my interest.”
In his teenage years in the 1950s, which was the golden age of televised boxing, his favorite fighters were middleweight great Paul Pender, who was from the neighboring state of Massachusetts, Joey Archer, Harold Johnson, Denny Moyer, Carmen Basilio, Kenny Lane, Tony DeMarco, Joey Giardello, and Joey Giambra, along with many others.
In the early 1960s Monroe was bitten by the acting bug and he attended the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He appeared in a number of local stage productions and a television commercial before setting aside his acting ambitions to take over his family business following the death of his father, Edward Monroe. Jack proceeded to become successful in the manufacture and retailing of high-end decorative window covers at Monroe Shade, which later became Stratford Shade and Milford Shade.
During Monroe’s long business career his love of boxing continued. He has been ringside at many of the most remembered contests, including those of many fighters who have been honored by the Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame, such as Muhammad Ali, Earnie Shavers, Rony Lyle, and several others.
“Not content to hide his unbelievable knowledge of our sport under a bushel, Jack’s writing has illuminated the pages of Boxing Illustrated, The Ring Magazine, Boxing Scene, IBRO Journal, as well as numerous newspapers, including The New York Post, various Brooklyn local papers, and the Boston Herald-American,” Irwin wrote.
Monroe remembers when he took the first step toward turning his passion for boxing and writing into what he describes as more of a hobby than a side career.
His sister was living in Brookline, Mass., and he knew that one of his favorite boxers, Paul Pender, lived in Brookline. So he asked her if she had a Brookline phone book.
Phone book in hand, he called Pender out of the blue and started talking to him.
“I knew more about his career than he did,” Monroe said with a laugh.
“Paul was a smooth boxer of exceptional skill with an absolutely accurate and damaging left jab,” Monroe said in his typical poetic and encyclopedic style of speaking about boxing.
He became friends with Pender and in the same way — just by reaching out and talking — he came to know other boxers as well.
“I got to meet so many fighters over the years,” he said, adding that they never shied away from talking to him.
“Fighters are the nicest people,” Monroe said. “I never met a boxer I didn’t like.”
He’s established close friendships throughout the world of boxing with well-known boxers like Iron Mike Pusateri, Billy Neri, Boone Kirkman, and Joe DeNucci, as well as referees, judges and fans.
“Everyone who has had the honor of spending time with Jack comes away with a sense of awe regarding his computer-like knowledge and tremendous understanding of the sport he loves,” according to a Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame write-up about Monroe. “Jack enjoys composing pugilistic poetry, and his odes have brought untold enjoyment to many. Jack also is an avid scrapbooker and collector of fight films.”
Monroe moved to Milford in 1976. Retired from his job now, he continues to attend boxing matches and writes and submits articles and photos to various publications.
Still fascinated with the sport and the boxers who made it great, he continues to pursue a goal, and that is to see some of the greats inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
“Too many of the great fighters, like Pender and others, deserve a spot there,” he said.