Remembering a true champion: Ray Menefee
The boxing fraternity was saddened this week by the news that former fighter and promoter Ray Menefee passed away. The 73-fight veteran, who was a Midwest, club fight staple throughout the 1980s and ’90s, succumbed to complications resulting from a tragic accident years ago.
Menefee was indeed a lifer in the game who stepped through the ropes as both an amateur and a professional, trained fighters and promoted fight cards. During his almost 20-year professional run, he fought some very good boxers. Menefee squared off against 19 undefeated fighters, recorded 29 wins (17 KOs) after turning to the paid ranks in the late 1970s. After he wrapped up his fighting career (and sometimes during it), he focused on promoting fights and ran very successful shows for years in the Midwest area.
UCNLive caught up with lifelong friend (and one of his former fighters) John Determan, who took a few moments to remember his friend.
“Oh, man; we go way back”, Determan said, “back to my amateur days in Lincoln. When I was attending the University of Nebraska, he was training me while I fought in the amateurs. I ended up living with him for a year. We were so close, like brothers from another mother, you know? Then I turned pro and he got me fights all over the place. Just great memories, so many laughs and great memories. Back in the days when they were less rigid about the federal IDs, we could fight often and anywhere. It was a great time. He did a lot of shows in Lincoln,” he said.
“He worked a lot with Bruce ‘The Mouse’ Strauss; they did a lotta work, put on a lot of great shows. Man, he took me all over the country fighting; we had so many laughs and good times. When he was promoting he just always wanted to put on a good show. He was a very good promoter who really connected with people. He really loved boxing”.
Determan, who works with his son, undefeated bantamweight prospect, Johnny “The Law” Determan, remembered how his friend often spoke about his own son, also a former professional and 113-fight veteran, “Tough” Tony Menefee.
“He was always talking about Tony,” Determan said. “He really loved his son; he was always talking about how he was worried he hadn’t been a good enough father to Tony and he really loved his son. He was always speaking about Tony. He really promoted Tony; he was his pride and joy. Tony had been a good amateur and was a real solid professional. He beamed when I remember him speaking about Tony; he just really loved his son and was very proud of him.”
Living the last decade-plus in an assisted care facility, Menefee’s visitors included the likes of Omaha heavyweight legend Ron “The Bluffs Butcher” Stander, who challenged Joe Frazier for the world heavyweight championship and current WBO junior welterweight superstar Terence Crawford. Looking back on his friend has been difficult since his passing but Determan has nothing but fond memories of a man who devoted his life to boxing.
“He always dreamed of owning a gym and he finally opened one up in his garage. He loved it. He just loved working with any fighters, from a real good pro to a young kid just starting out. He connected with people; he had a personality you wouldn’t forget. He used to make me laugh till I cried,” Determan said.
Pondering reflectively, Determan said in closing, “Ray had his issues, like everybody does, but we had some great talks, some hard talks. After he was injured, it was very hard to see him like that. I prayed for him a lot. He had been such a strong personality; I struggled seeing him like that but I just think about how many smiles he brought to people and how many people he made laugh. He was so kind-hearted and encouraging; he’d do anything for anyone.”
Ray Menefee: Rest in peace, champ!