Gil Clancy was a Hall of Fame boxing trainer and an award-winning television commentator. Above all else, though, he was a teacher.
Clancy, who was born in Rockaway Beach and lived much of his life in Malverne, earned a master's degree in teaching from New York University. But his most famous pupils were some of the biggest names in boxing: Emile Griffith, Oscar De La Hoya and George Foreman.
Clancy died Thursday of natural causes at an assisted living facility in Lynbrook, said his daughter Kathleen Burke. He was 88.
"He was the ultimate teacher," said Burke, who lives in Malverne. "He began as a schoolteacher and it just continued with the fighters. It didn't take a lot of words, but when he spoke, the point came across. He just had a presence. We were lucky to have him."
So were his fighters.
"He was not just a molder of champions, he always had a special relationship with his fighters," said boxing historian Ron Ross of Oceanside. "That was best exemplified with Emile Griffith; Gil was a father figure to Emile."
Clancy began working with Griffith when the fighter entered his gym with cutman (the person in a boxer's corner who treats injuries) Howie Albert as a teenager. The trio stayed together for 20 years, 112 pro fights, and won the welterweight and middleweight titles along the way. They remained close for the rest of Clancy's life and, according to his daughter, Griffith spoke to his trainer just hours before he died.
They were together for the controversial rematch with Benny "The Kid" Paret in 1962 that saw Griffith, with Clancy shouting encouragement, knock Paret unconscious and, with Paret propped against the ropes, hit him repeatedly for several seconds before referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight. Paret never regained consciousness and died 10 days later.
Clancy also worked Joe Frazier's corner when he beat Muhammad Ali in 1971 and worked Ali's corner during some of his early fights in New York. Clancy also trained Jerry Quarry, Rodrigo Valdez, Ken Buchanan and, briefly, Gerry Cooney. One of his last titleholders was 1982-1984 WBC featherweight champ Juan LaPorte.
"He loved the sport and he loved his fighters," said LaPorte. "Gil knew exactly what to tell a fighter in the ring."
When his training schedule scaled down, Clancy called fights for CBS, HBO and MSG. In 1983, the Boxing Writers Association of America gave him the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Broadcasting Journalism. The BWAA also named him manager of the year in 1967 and 1973. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
"Gil Clancy was a beloved member of the boxing community and was a part of the HBO Sports family for many years," said Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports. "We and the rest of the boxing world mourn his passing."
Clancy is survived by five children, 18 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, died 16 months ago.
Visitation will be at the Walsh Malverne Funeral Home on Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A Mass will be celebrated Monday at 9:45 a.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in Malverne.