Rest in Peace Stan Hochman, 1991 NAT FLEISCHER AWARD WINNER, LEFT LEGACY OF EXCELLENCE
Finding anything or anyone in boxing that meets with universal approval is difficult, but it does happen in rare instances. Who’s going to dispute that Sugar Ray Robinson was an artist in the ring? Or that Stan Hochman was just as masterful in crafting some of the finest sports stories ever, more than a few of which were about the sweet science?
Hochman, the longtime Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist whose long list of honors includes the 1991 Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism and 2014 induction into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame, was 86 when he passed away on April 9 in Bryn Mawr Hospital, in suburban Philly.
How good was Mr. Hochman? Consider his lead to a story published in the Daily News on March 9, 1971, after the epic first matchup of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden.
Rest in Peace Stan Hochman
“Let me go get my face straightened out … I’m not this ugly,” Frazier is quoted by Hochman, who went on to eloquently elaborate on that telling first sentence:
The words came slushing through a chunk of ice he was grinding between his aching teeth, trying to chill the pain in his jaw into submission. There was a lump under his right eye and a lump under his left eye and a lump on his forehead and a crackle of dried blood alongside his left nostril.
Handsome, he wasn’t.
“All those things you guys have been writing about me,” he said, working hard to arrange those lumpy features in a smile, “what you got to say now?”
All those things people had been writing, had been taunting words of Muhammad Ali, that Frazier was too slow, too dull, too heavy-legged and too homely to be a champion.
And while Frazier was clutching ice to his lumpy face, Ali was hunched in a police car, its siren screaming as it screeched through New York’s clogged traffic to a hospital to assay the damage to a jow that was swollen like a soggy jack-o-lantern.
Had Ali been able to talk, he might have echoed Frazier’s words. All those things those guys had been writing about him had been churned into so much confetti in a terrifying-wonderful savage-skillful bitter-sweet kind of fist fight.
It was that kind of mastery of the language and the moment that stamped Stan Hochman as among the best of the best.
“He was just good. A good writer, a good reporter, a good commentator and a good man,” said longtime HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant, who, as the Daily News sports editor in 1959, hired Hochman and thus launched a nearly 56-year career that made Philly’s Stan the Man as much of a city icon as Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Wilt Chamberlain, Mike Schmidt and Bobby Clarke.
Mr. Hochman, who also was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, is survived by his wife of 55 years, Gloria Hochman; daughter Anndee and her partner Elissa Goldberg; and granddaughter Sasha.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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