Howie Albert was born in the Bronx on Jan 18, 1922. While he ran track and played football for a local team, he fell in love with boxing when his father started taking him to fights at Madison Square Garden.
"When I was a kid...we lived in Harlem," said Albert. "That was a great neighborhood at that time. My father used to take me up to a gym at 116th Street called Grupp's gym. There was a guy named Benny Leonard training there."
Albert was in good company. Leonard went on to become one of the greatest lightweight fighters of all time and earned a reputation as one of the greatest Jewish athletes of all time.
Before managing, Albert earned an impressive 37-1 record as a fighter. He fought both as an amateur and during his service with the U.S. Army Air Corps.
He will never know whether he could have become the diamond belt champion.
"I joined the diamond belts in New York," said Albert. "It's like the Golden Gloves. I got to the finals and the night I was supposed to go, I had a bad cold. My mother wouldn't let me out of the house."
He fought at 160 pounds, junior for 16 years old and under.
Albert loved attending fights so much that he would take all of his dates to Madison Square Garden for the Friday night fights.
The Albert-Clancy Partnership
Albert was a businessman when he first tasted success as a boxing manager. He owned a millinery factory and hired a man who would eventually become world champion in two weight classes and an International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee: Emile Griffith.
"Emile Griffith was my delivery boy," said Albert. "It was in the summer in a factory and he asked me if he could take his shirt off because it was so hot in there. I took a look at that build and I couldn't believe it. I was a frustrated fighter. So I thought I would put him in the Golden Gloves. I brought my old boxing shoes and my trunks that I had at home and then I gave them to him. I was trying to teach him in the factory."
Albert read a newspaper article that said Gil Clancy, a man Albert would eventually co-manage many fighters with, was training an international amateur team. The team included some of boxing's biggest names, such as Floyd Paterson and Ralph "Tiger" Jones. Clancy trained fighters at the Department of Parks gym on 28th Street.
Albert introduced Griffith to Clancy and wanted him to fight in the Golden Gloves right away, but Clancy thought he should wait a year. Clancy would shortly change his mind.
Albert said, "After about three months [Clancy] said 'You know what? We're going to put him in the gloves.' I said 'Why?' He said 'Because he's beating the hell out of...all the pros I got in the gym.' He said, 'He's the most amazing kid. If I tell him to do one thing, he does it, and he said he never had to repeat anything.' "
The first year Griffith was in the Golden Gloves, he fought his way to the finals and lost a close decision to an Army champion.
The next year, Griffith fought in the open class and won the Golden Gloves title.
Albert and Clancy wanted Griffith to fight professionally because no amateurs wanted to fight Griffith.
"[W]e couldn't take him to amateur fights because nobody wanted to fight him," said Albert.
Griffith would eventually fight his way to a record of 85 wins and 24 losses. Twenty-three of his wins were by way of knockout. He won the world welterweight and middleweight championship belts.
He won the welterweight title by knocking out Benny the "Kid" Paret. Their rubber match became a somber moment in boxing history. Griffith backed Paret into a corner and connected with countless unanswered punches. The referee did not stop the fight in time.
Paret slumped through the ropes and was carried off in a stretcher. He went into a coma and passed away about one week later.
"After that, whenever [Griffith] fought at the Garden and got to that corner, subconsciously he backed out. He really didn't have the heart. I mean, he was a great fighter. He would do anything you told him to do, but that really got to him."
Albert's other fighters
Albert managed, co-managed and worked with a total of 69 fighters, including Juan Laporte, Kenny Buchanan, Cassius Clay, Charlie "The Devil" Green, James "Buddy" McGirt, Jerry Quarry, Rocky Rivera, Rodrigo "Rocky" Valdes, and Pernell Whittaker.
One of Albert's fighters was welterweight Harold Weston, who would eventually become matchmaker of Madison Square Garden.
Albert was in Weston's corner when he fought Thomas Hearns. Albert stopped the fight because Weston suffered a detached retina. Weston was rushed to a New York hospital. Albert said, "The first time they every used a laser was that time." Albert would not let Weston fight anymore.
Albert also co-managed George Forman when Foreman came out of retirement for the first time. Foreman knocked out Ron Lyle in the fifth round.
He worked a fight with Cassius Clay, a.k.a. Muhammad Ali, when Clay fought Sonny Banks in Madison Square Garden. Ali knocked Banks out in the fourth round.
Albert worked a lot of fights with two-time champion James "Buddy" McGirt. Albert said, "He's training all the top fighters now. Al Certo from Secaucus was his manager and I worked with him all the time."
On today's fighters
Albert believes today's fighters cannot be compared with the great champions of boxing history.
He said, "I don't think they could wipe their shoes. I turn off fights lately."
Albert also thinks many of today's fighters are overpaid and do not earn their salary the way the old-timers did.
"You see what it is today," he said. "The fighters want to get paid when they sign up. They don't earn it anymore. I gave a guy money to eat with, but that was it when Gil and I did it. But these guys want hundreds of thousands of dollars. You'd think they were the greatest thing that ever lived."
Albert has won numerous awards for his achievements. He said, "I'm very fortunate."
He won the following awards: James J. Walker Long & Meritorious Service, Al Buck Manager of the Year, Ring 8's Ray Arcel Humanitarian Award, and Ring 34's Lifetime Achievement award.
He said, "Ring 8 is an organization I belong to and it's an organization that helps indigent fighters. We do a great job over there."
Albert is an advisor and sponsor for the New York City Kid Gloves.
He has appeared on an HBO Boxing commercial and has also commentated on fights.
He is also a New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame inductee and regularly attends their meetings, which are held at the Faith Reformed Church in Lodi.