Born: January 9th, 1915
Died: May 6th, 1982
When people talk about influential boxing figures in the capital city of Saint Paul, one name always comes up, and comes up quickly. It comes up because it has to. It comes up because he was the Alpha and the Omega of Saint Paul boxing from the late 1940′s to the early 1970′s, handling the careers and affairs of most of the top boxers. Someone once said, “If Emmett Weller would have managed the Flanagan brothers, then he would have been the boxing czar of Saint Paul, as then he would have had virtually every meaningful fighter in all of Saint Paul under his care.” Truer words were never spoken.
Emmett Dell Weller was born on January 9, 1915 in Saint Paul. His father Dell was a boxing trainer, who started Emmett off in the amateur ranks. Emmett was later taken professional by the well-known manager, Murray McLean, and had a successful career as a Lightweight, beating the Canadian Champion, Kid Taunch in 1935, as well as winning the state Lightweight Title in 1941 over his Minneapolis rival, “Mysterious” Billy Smith.
There are many trainers in professional boxing that know how to get their fighters in shape for a big fight, but few have it down to a science of when to push and when to taper off, thus avoiding over-training of the fighter, and leaving him stale for the fight. Emmett Weller had a knack for “peaking” his fighters; training them to just the right physical fitness level to be able perform at 100% of their abilities for their bouts. When he could not, he wasn’t too proud to bring in someone whose specialized knowledge might be the missing cog needed for his fighter to win, as was the case in 1961 when he hired former 1930′s Heavyweight contender, Charley Retzlaff, to work with Don Quinn on perfecting the right cross for his upcoming state title fight with “Timber” Jack Wagner. Weller was also a master strategist, a skill that showed itself many times in his fighters’ corners, such as when his Middleweight, Jimmy Hegerle, pulled out the victory over master-boxer, Jimmy Martinez in 1956, as well as when his fight plan for Lee Ballard resulted in a major upset over the undefeated Don Sargent in 1960. There are many to this day, who still believe that Ballard beat the immortal Del Flanagan in their first encounter in 1961, though the scorecards said otherwise, and 46 years later, Ballard was quick to credit the source of his brilliance that night, saying in a 2007 interview, “I gave Flanagan more than he could handle that night and everyone knew it. But what they didn’t know was that I was simply executing the fight plan given to me by Emmett Weller who had seen Del fight many times and designed a game plan for me. It worked, but Flanagan’s name and aura won over the judges.” Ballard must have been right about Emmett when it came to Del Flanagan, as Emmett was also behind the man who would one day take Del’s state Middleweight title belt, Duane Horsman.
Some of the well-known boxers that Emmett managed and trained at his infamous Weller Gym and Northwest Gym, include: Ralph Alvarez, Booker T. Ellis, Duane Horsman, Don Quinn, Dick Bighley, Jimmy Perrault, Al Andrews, Terry Rindal, Lee Ballard, Jimmy Hegerle, and of course, his son Don, who under his guidance went on to capture the Minnesota Welterweight title in 1961. In addition to managing and training boxers, Weller also promoted fights as well, including bringing in former Heavyweight champion, Joe Louis for an exhibition tour in the late 1940′s. In boxing, Weller always went the extra mile. The Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame believes in going the extra mile as well, and tonight in exchange for his lifetime of contributions, we offer him an eternity of recognition.