Robert Duffy, left, in a family photo, played an outsized role...

Robert Duffy, left, in a family photo, played an outsized role in the Long Island boxing scene. Credit: Duffy family

Robert Duffy, a U.S. Army veteran and retired NYPD detective who played an integral role in Long Island's boxing community — serving as a promoter, inspector and deputy commissioner of the state's Athletic Commission — died Jan. 11 at his Massapequa Park home.

The cause was peripheral artery disease, family members said. He was 74. 

While not a trained boxer himself, Duffy played an outsized role in the region's prizefight scene.

He served on the Athletic Commission for 13 years; was co-founder and president of the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2015, and was the longtime president of Ring 8, a nonprofit that helps retired boxers, including veterans, in need of financial assistance.

Randy Gordon, of Dix Hills, the former chairman of the state's Athletic Commission, said Duffy was the “backbone” of the oversight body.

“He really made it what it was just because of his dedication,” Gordon said. “He wouldn't ask me 'How long do you want me to stay at the show tonight?' He would be the last one out of there making sure that every fighter got what they needed — if they needed to go to the hospital, maybe just get a stitch here or there. He would scour the dressing rooms and make sure everything was done and all the paperwork was turned in. You just don't find people like that.”

Duffy was raised in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, the youngest of two children of Thomas Duffy, who operated a newspaper stand, and Mildred Duffy, a homemaker. Robert Duffy's older sister, Maureen, died several years ago.

After graduating from St. Agnes Boys High School in Manhattan, a now-shuttered Catholic school, Duffy joined the Army, serving for a time in Panama. 

After returning home, he worked for two years as a U.S. marshal before joining the NYPD, where he served 22 years, retiring in 1993 as a detective in Queens' 111th Precinct.

Michelle Santoro, 39, of Massapequa, the youngest of Duffy's three daughters, said her father always had time to show his children love.

“My dad didn't miss anything for any of us,” said Santoro, a middle school home economics teacher. “He was there for everything. He was our biggest cheerleader, whether it was calling us at 6 in the morning for our first day of school, even as teachers, or putting a balloon on our car door for when we got up in the morning on our birthday, that's what my dad did.”

In the early 1970s, Duffy met Mary Healy, of Rockaway Beach, through a family member and the two soon married. The couple would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary next month.

Robert and Mary, 71, a retired medical assistant in a doctor's office, moved to Woodside, Queens, before settling in Massapequa Park in 1984.

“He was a very outgoing and friendly person,” said Merrilleen Heidrich, 49, of Middle Island, Duffy's oldest daughter and an elementary school principal in the Three Village school district.

“He was like the mayor of our town … He knew everybody and he would do anything for anybody.”

Heidrich said her father always gave back to veterans, whether serving in the local VFW, throwing an annual Super Bowl party at the veterans home in Northport or providing financial support for aging boxers who served in the military.

“He just wanted to make sure that they were remembered and supported after their careers were over and the limelight moved away from them,” she said.

In the boxing world, Gordon said, Duffy was a jack of all trades, wrapping fighters' hands, administering their drug tests and ensuring that medical forms were properly submitted.

“Whatever was required, Bob would make sure it got done,” he said. “He was only one guy and yet it seemed like he was doing the job of six different guys. That's how good he was.”

A funeral Mass for Duffy was held Friday in Massapequa followed by internment at Calverton National Cemetery.

Along with his wife, Heidrich and Santoro, Duffy is survived by daughter Margaret Devine, 46, of Massapequa Park; sons-in-law Brian Heidrich, Richard Santoro and Shane Devine; and eight grandchildren.

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