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'Dedicated' Kaplan, Hall of Fame historian, dies at 88

Hank Kaplan, one of the foremost boxing historians in the world, died Friday morning at his home in Kendall, Fla., after a brief illness. He was 88.

Kaplan died after battling cancer for nearly a year, his daughter, Barbara Haar-Kaplan, said.

Kaplan was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., in 2006. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native's rise came in the 1950s doing publicity for brothers Angelo and Chris Dundee, fellow future Hall of Famers, at Miami's famed Fifth Street Gym.

During this time, Kaplan began to amass one of the largest private collections of boxing archives, including photographs, documents and memorabilia dating to the 1800s, on his way to being recognized as one of the sport's most important historians.

"Boxing was his life, and my dad kept everything he stored in such pristine condition," Haar-Kaplan said. "But not only was he dedicated to his sport, he had a genuine concern for people."

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Kaplan moved to Miami in the early 1950s. He worked as quarantine officer with the Centers of Disease Control for 30 years while maintaining ties to boxing.

Kaplan was the founder and editor of Boxing Digest and served as a boxing consultant to various media outlets. He wrote for The Ring magazine and published boxing features and historical pieces for boxing journals around the word.

"One of the nicest things that happened to the sport of boxing was Hank Kaplan," said trainer Angelo Dundee, who first met Kaplan in 1951. "I know he did favors for millions of people."

Kaplan boxed in several amateur bouts and won his only professional fight. He joined the Coast Guard during World War II, choosing the military branch in which one of his idols, former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, had served.

Kaplan received the James J. Walker Award for long and meritorious service to boxing from the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2002. He served on the screening committee that helped approved members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.

"He was finally convinced to remove himself from the screening committee so his name could be submitted for nomination," said Ed Brophy, the Hall of Fame's executive director. "Hank was always thinking of others who were worthy of being selected."

The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced that its flags will fly at half-staff in his memory.

"Hank Kaplan loved the sport of boxing, its history and, most importantly, the boxers," Brophy said. "The Hall of Fame joins the boxing community in mourning the loss of our friend."

A funeral is planned for Monday at Mount Nebo Memorial Gardens in Kendall, Fla.

Information from ESPN.com boxing writer Dan Rafael and The Associated Press was used in this report.