Beside NOT behind every Great man, there`s a Great woman, and Gloria Mercante was just such a person. What a Champion Wife, Mother, Woman and what a character!
Gloria`s Husband was the legendary Referee Arthur Mercante. He enjoyed a fabulous and fabled career spanning six decades plus, as the Third Man in the Ring and it was the love and support of Gloria, who was with him every step of the way, that paved the road to fabulous success. It was a TEAM effort. None of this could have been possible without Her.
Gloria has passed away aged ninety six. A strong life of a strong women. Together they had four Sons and there are four Grandchildren. Gloria`s Wake will be on Wednesday and the funeral on Thursday. Rather than a lament, this is a celebration of a life so well lived, a love story. A story of family plus friends. The Mercante Family, and the WBC Family, encompassing one hundred and seventy nations. Wow!
The Mercantes are part of World Boxing Council folklore and legend, because they helped write so many chapters of WBC history. Together they will forever be remembered and always held in the highest esteem as well as greatest and dearest affection. Deeds which match the words adding up to unparalleled achievement. We are humbled, we are sad… but so very proud of all they accomplished over the decades.
Their Son James has paid a marvelous tribute to Mum and Dad. Their combined dedication to fitness, boxing, family and friends of which there are so many the World over, who think the World of them. This is what makes Boxing so Great.
Gloria and Arthur were married for fifty eight years. James relates how on his Parents` first date he took her to see the Jersey Joe Walcott Vs Rocky Marciano fight live on close circuit film. She simultaneously fell in love with him and Boxing. It was then he knew he`d met the love of his life. She shared his enthusiasm for the greatest sport. A marriage and a lasting partnership. James encapsulated it with the words: “My Father wanted to see that fight so bad and he didn`t know if my Mother was going to like it or not, but he wanted to be with her and figured that it would be a good test if she would enjoy a night of boxing and she loved it. And he know right then and there, this was going to be the Lady for him!”
James Mercante then took a deep breath and said: “The memories are bittersweet. The memories of my Mum travelling the World with my Father and going to be boxing matches globally. They were great friends of Don Jose Sulaiman and the Sulaiman Family. Together they went from the Philippines, to Australia, Mexico and further. They had a wonderful life together. They were like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!
“Mauricio and the WBC sent us a clip of a fight the other night in Canada where they did a Ten Count on behalf of Lennox Lewis` Mum and my Mum. That was so cool and makes us so proud.
“Fitness was such an important part of my Parents` lives. It was an important part of My Father’s life as a boxing Referee. He was the most physically fit and presentable Referee. He was fit, he was handsome and strong. When my Father retired, George Foreman said that he wasn`t a tall man…five feet nine inches tall. George recalled that he didn`t realize how short of stature Arthur Mercante was when he saw him outside of the ring, because inside of it, he was a giant!
“My Mother started her own business called Gloria`s Slimnastics and Aquanastics in the swimming pools. As we used to eat breakfast, there were all of these ladies in leotards passing through our kitchen, going down to the basement to keep fit. And my Mum was a founding member of the WBC Wives Club. At the Conventions and the boxing matches around the world, she was always an organizer and people would rally around. She would arrange trips and lunches during the conferences. She was busy making sure the spouses were entertained and having fun.
“As a person my Mother was very loving, devoted, giving, loyal and dedicated to her family. She was a fantastic cook. She prepared delicious meals for all the family and my friends. Sunday was spaghetti and meatballs in the Mercante household and all of my friends also wanted meatballs on Monday for school. They stopped by on Sundays on their bicycles, knowing my Mother would be putting food on the table. She was such fun, beautiful. She looked like Sofia Loren. An absolute stunner.
“My Dad was a Referee for six decades. He passed away aged ninety in 2013. His career as a Referee spanned the Fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and two thousands. He refereed his first heavyweight championship fight in 1960. It was between Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson at the Polo Grounds. He`d been refereeing since the 1950`s. His last championship fight was in 2001 in Madison Square Garden. There was a big celebration after that. Don Jose was there. My Father was in six Halls of Fame. He has more championship fights than any Referee in the history of Boxing. He had the full support and encouragement of my Mum. She either travelled with him or supported him. The only time we wouldn`t have a full cooked meal was when he was travelling. Then we would order Chinese food. Then we knew that my Father was going away.”
The decision to donate money to the Jose Sulaiman Boxers Fund to help boxers who have fallen on hard times, in lieu of flowers for his Mum, was made by James and wholeheartedly supported by his three Brothers and the Family. James said: “The World Boxing Council did so much for my Father`s career. We saw what happens to some boxers. My Father never had a controversy in six decades. Never an early stoppage, nor a late stoppage. He always knew when to stop a fight, because he had four sons all of whom were athletes. As a parent you know and in the ring, he could sense when a boxer was too injured to continue. He would know by looking at their legs, their knees and their eyes. He would also be disturbed when he saw fighters who`d been champions in their day, or of championship caliber and when they retired, they would have no further means of income and no insurance. A number of them would end up destitute. That always struck my Father.”
James also spoke about the deep bonds of friendship and the loyalty engendered by boxing… which are for life. He recalls: “Father became close to Muhammad Ali, later in their lives. One time when my Father was in the hospital, when he was in his late eighties, a nurse was with him and the phone rang and she quickly hung up, saying it was a prank call. My Father asked who called and she replied that it was someone saying they were Muhammad Ali. She didn`t know that my Father had been a famous Referee. My Father mentioned that it probably was Muhammad Ali? The phone rang again and it WAS Muhammad Ali, who said he`d never had someone hang up the phone on him like that! My Father took the call and they talked for a half hour. It was a beautiful thing.”