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Veteran boxing writer Jack Obermayer dies at 72

Jack Obermayer, ubiquitous at ringside at boxing cards big and small around the country for more than five decades that he spent chronicling the sport for a variety of publications, died at his home in Lindenwold, New Jersey, on Friday after a battle with liver cancer. He was 72.

Obermayer's dedication to boxing is virtually unrivaled, at least statistically. He kept track of the fights and locations where he covered events and the figures are staggering. He covered 3,514 boxing cards in more than 400 cities in 49 states.

During the 1990s, in addition to his writing, he also counted punches for CompuBox and "he often requested that I send him to Alaska for a fight," CompuBox owner Bob Canobbio said. Alaska was the only state that Obermayer, affectionately known as "KO JO," did not cover a fight in.

Obermayer, a friendly, approachable sort who typically was in his seat for the first bell of the undercard, wrote for a variety of publications, including Ring magazine, Boxing Illustrated, USA Boxing News and Flash Gordon's Tonight's Boxing Program, and later for various websites.

His column, called "KO JO Says," chronicled the fights he covered and humorously detailed his travels and inevitable stops at the classic diners he loved so much. He also worked for record keeper Fight Fax for a time and did occasional public relations work in the sport.

The first fight Obermayer covered was Muhammad Ali versus Doug Jones in 1963 at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he was born. Obermayer traveled to Verona, New York, to cover the John Molina-Ruslan Provodnikov card on June 11 and planned to also attend the next day's annual International Hall of Fame inductions in nearby Canastota. However, he was too ill to leave his hotel room and did not make it to either event.

Promoter Lou DiBella, friends with Obermayer for decades, honored him with a memorial 10-count during the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter card he promoted at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday night.

A former amateur boxer, Vietnam veteran and member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania boxing halls of fame, Obermayer received the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service from the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2010.

Veteran matchmaker Eric Bottjer, now with Roc Nation Sports, was one of Obermayer's best friends and, like many throughout the boxing industry, was saddened by his death.

"When I was 25, I quit my job as a reporter at a California newspaper and moved east. I wanted to get involved in boxing, and the big fights were in New York and Atlantic City," Bottjer said. "I dropped my bags off at my parents' home in Virginia and immediately drove to Philadelphia. There was a show at the Blue Horizon that night. (Hall of Fame promoter) Russell Peltz let me in -- both Russell and I still can't explain that -- and I went to ringside. I wanted to meet writer Jack Obermayer. I went to the nearest person sitting ringside and asked for Jack. 'Who are you,' asked the man. I explained my search. 'I'm Jack,' he said, sticking out his hand.

"For the next 27 years, I had my best friend, someone who always took care of me, counseled me, fed me and housed me. I slept on his couch once for five straight weeks. We traveled together to at least 500 shows in at least 150 different towns and cities. Some of the best times of my life were spent in a cramped car with Jack and his constant sidekick, Jeff Jowett, debating and laughing -- and, yes, eating crap diner food. To say I love him and will miss him is trite. He is a part of me and always will be. The best thing that happened by me quitting my job and driving East was going to the Blue Horizon that night and meeting Jack."

Obermayer is survived by his daughter, Ellen Kaplan, of New York, two grandchildren and longtime companion Darlene Dontonville. A funeral mass will be celebrated on Friday morning in Staten Island, New York.