Stephen Acunto Interview
(American Association for the Improvement of Boxing)
It was back in 1969 that famed boxing instructor Stephen Acunto, along with Rocky Marciano, formed the American Association for the Improvement of Boxing.
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Mr. Acunto spoke with us about his organization and the sport of boxing.
Q. Mr. Acunto, why did you and Rocky Marciano decide to start this organization?
A. Well, we attended a hearing in Washington in 1966 before the Interstate Commerce Committee of the Congress, to support the Harris Bill to establish a national boxing commission. The bill was later passed by Congress, but tabled by the Senate. Both Rocky and I were discouraged by the set-back of the bill, so we decided to form an organization, the AAIB Inc. that would concern itself with medical safety, administrative competence, and elimination of corruption in the sport. The organization which is now 26 years old has been responsible for advancing the sport in high schools and colleges. We have produced a film, video, posters and instruction manual and other items which help perpetuate the sport and improve its image. Clinics and seminars have been held. Most recently we conducted a clinic for 200 rookies, the New York City Police Academy Training School on boxing fundamentals and self-defense. We also train students and coaches at the local college in Westchester County. We try to inspire young people to box safely using proper equipment and conditioning themselves. We award trophies giving recognition and introduction at our annual Boxing (Box-A-Rama) Function. It's also attended by Champions in the Ring. Last year, for instance, we honored Roy Jones, Jr., Bobby Czysz and before that Pernell Whittaker, Willie Pep, Sandy Sadler, Marvin Hagler, Carlos Ortez, Evander Holyfield, Vinny Pazienza, Joe Frazier, Boom Boom Mancini, Jose Torres, Vito Antuefermo, Alexis Arguello and many, many others before sell-out crowds.
Q. You have been friends with Rocky for how long?
A. From 1965 until he died in 1969 in a plane crash in Iowa. Rocky and I were friends and worked together at various boxing ventures.
Q. What kind of a guy was Rocky Marciano? What did he busy himself with after
he retired from the ring?
A. Rocky was a serious person dedicated to the improvement of boxing. Following his retirement he made personal appearances and was involved in various business enterprises and investments.
Q. Your position in the boxing world was what? A manager? A promoter? A trainer?
A. I was a former boxer, coached at several colleges, and a deputy commissioner of the New York State Athletic Commission and Boxing Director at SUNY Westchester. I retired from the post of Director of Plant Prevention of the Westchester County of Public Safety. I write boxing columns for several publications and was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1988.
Q. Some people do not see boxing as a sport and question where the sport
is, in two guys jumping into a ring, and trying to knock each other out. You
would say what to that?
A. People who are not knowledgeable about the sport can summarily treat it as an activity where two people stand toe-to-toe and slug it out. They miss the key to the sport, which is an art and science, the enormous training, conditioning, dieting, sacrifice that goes with it. Learning styles. Planning offensive and defensive moves. All of the vast amount of background training that goes into making master boxers like Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson, Pernell Whittaker, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali, Roy Jones, to mention some of the ring greats that we have seen in the past and present.
Q. There have been calls for the establishment of a Federal Boxing Commission,
but nothing ever seems to develop. Why is that?
A. A numbers of Bills have been passed for a national boxing body. As I explained before, they have been stopped along the legislative way. Currently, the Senator John McCain Bill is waiting to be passed. We have been in contact with their office and we support the Bill completely.
Q. What is it that you would like to see improved in boxing? What is your
A. We would like to see only the eight original classes of boxing, not all these pseudo titles created by different organizations to satisfy the networks. The only people to be recognized as Champion are boxers who win the title in the ring versus other champions, and must be Number One challengers when they do so, and not designated by the maneuvers of promoters.
Q. During Mike Tyson's rape trial, did your organization
offer any words of support to Mike? Is it your belief that Mike Tyson did
in fact rape Desiree Washington, or do you believe he was framed?
A. We have no proof that he raped Ms. Washington because he has denied the allegations and claimed he had been set-up. Whether this is true or false cannot be known to us. But, all that is in the past and based on Mike's performances he appears to be serious about boxing and his comeback. Let's give him a chance based purely on his ability to fight at this time.
Q. How is it that Mike Tyson can come out of prison and side-step the legitimate
boxers he should be fighting? What's going on here?
A. Because the sport is not structured properly and controlled with regulations under a national administration, the various pseudo sanctioning groups keep the sport in disarray, and each body wants its own champion to barter with. We're talking about the alphabet soup groups (WBA, WBC, and IBF). Although (George) Foreman, who should retire, is the only bonafide heavyweight champion, the true Number One challenger at this time is Riddick Bowe.