R.I.P. Sean Curtin – Boxer. Referee. Boxing Judge. Commissioner. Archivist. Author. Sean Curtin wore all of these hats. But Curtin, who passed away on Thursday, Aug. 11, at age 74 will be best remembered by his Chicagoland friends for his contributions to amateur boxing. For years, he was the glue of amateur boxing in the Windy City, the birthplace of the Golden Gloves.
In 1930, when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago initiated their CYO boxing tournament, America’s “second city” had a serious teenage gang problem. Teaching young boys to box was seen as a means of alleviating this scourge. Sean Curtin, who learned to box at a CYO youth center and went on to become an AAU state champion and have six pro fights, came to believe wholeheartedly in the axiom that boxing was a useful tool for building a more peaceful society. “Boxing is just a great sport,” he told a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. “It builds character and confidence, and most of all it gets frustrations out.”
Curtin went on to head the CYO boxing program. He would be appointed to the Illinois Athletic Commission, serving for a time as the agency’s chairman. And he served the sport at the amateur and professional level in many other capacities.
Curtin was the third man in the ring when the great Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. made his lone Chicago appearance in 1995. That was an easy assignment. Chavez made short work of his opponent, Craig Houk. Curtin stopped the contest in the opening round. The previous year, he had the distinction of refereeing the first female match sanctioned by USA Boxing, the national governing body for amateur boxing.
R.I.P. Sean Curtin
As a boxing historian, Sean Curtin had few peers. He collaborated with J.J. Johnston on two books: “Chicago Boxing” and “Chicago Amateur Boxing.” Published by Arcadia Press, both paperbacks are pictorial histories bursting with wonderful black-and-white photographs, many of which had never been published. “Chicago Boxing” has a foreward by the celebrated playwright David Mamet.
Curtin left the athletic commission in 2003 and moved to Michigan. Between 2005 and 2012, he refereed 75 fights in the Wolverine State while also working as a judge and inspector.
His reasons for leaving his beloved Chicago were two-fold. The CYO citywide boxing tournament, which once attracted 18,000 to Chicago Stadium, gradually became less and less relevant and was eventually abandoned by the Archdiocese in a cost-cutting measure. And he was on the outs with the Illinois Athletic Commission that he had served so faithfully.
Curtin wasn’t pleased when Ron Puccillo was named the Illinois boxing chief in 2003. Puccillo didn’t have a boxing background. “Would you hire a baseball manager that didn’t know baseball?” he said.
Sean Curtin knew boxing and the sport is poorer without him.
R.I.P. Sean Curtin / Check out more boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.