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Richard 'Sugar Ray' Nowicki, amateur boxer, coach, dies at 87

Richard Nowicki is seen in this undated photo.

Richard Nowicki is seen in this undated photo.

You could say that Richard "Sugar Ray" Nowicki was a lover and a fighter.

He loved people, and his passion was boxing.

A former amateur fighter who turned to coaching, he also was known by many along the Northport-Huntington line as their friendly bus driver.

"When in doubt, jab it out" was his motto as a boxer. But outside the ring, "No one is a stranger, everybody is a friend," were the words he lived by, said Kathleen Nowicki, his wife of 59 years.

Nowicki, of Huntington, died June 4 at the Huntington Hills Center for Health and Rehabilitation. He was 87.

If you ever needed a ride, Nowicki was there for you. He drove the Northport to Huntington HART bus route for 26 years and often turned passengers into new friends.

"You'd hate going to the mall with him on a Saturday because he would talk to everyone," said daughter Katherine Nowicki, also of Huntington, who described her father as her best friend. "He knew everybody."

He also made friends in and out of the boxing ring.

Nowicki, who moved from Astoria in 1966, began boxing as an underage 16-year-old. His wife said he fought under the name of his 19-year-old brother, Al, who died in 1996.

He was also known as "Sugar Ray" -- or simply "Ray" -- a nickname he chose in honor of middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson.

"Before we had kids, every vacation we went on was to someone's boxing camp," said Kathleen, adding that Robinson's summer camps were high on their list.

Nowicki fought mostly at the Sunnyside Garden Arena in Queens and won more than 15 fights, according to his daughter.

Nowicki's love for boxing didn't stop when he hung up his gloves. While driving for HART, he also volunteered as a boxing coach at Youth Directions and Alternatives in Huntington. He coached many local fighters, including Golden Gloves finalist Tony White.

White, now a trainer himself, said he uses some of Nowicki's old-school tactics.

"He saw something in me when I was just a kid," White said. "He instilled a confidence in me that I never had."

In addition to Kathleen and Katherine, Nowicki is survived by two other children, Christine and Denise; son-in-law Vincent Gray; and six grandchildren.

A funeral Mass was celebrated on June 9 at St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station.


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