LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Many who knew Harry Reid well will describe him as a fighter. But did you know that before becoming a politician, Reid was an amateur boxer who became a lifelong fan and advocate for the sport?
13 Action News spoke with James "Smitty" Smith, the longtime host of the boxing show "In This Corner," and who interviewed Harry Reid in 2018 leading up to his induction into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
"He loved the fight game, he loved fighters, and I was really honored to be able to sit and interview him on my show," said Smith. "Harry told me that, as an amateur fighter, he realized right away that he wasn't cut out to do this as a professional, but some of the things that he picked up inside the squared circle, the discipline and the tenacity, would serve him well in his tremendous career in politics," said Smith.
The two talked about Reid's teenage years as an amateur boxer at Basic High in Henderson, and how that experience led to his lifelong love of the sport.
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"He was, more than anything, a boxing fan. He loved the pugilism, he loved the sweet science, and he had a, like I do and all of us that are addicted to the sport, he had a real love for the fighters themselves and that's why he tried to do so many things for this sport," said Smith.
During his 30 years in the United States Senate, Reid still found ways to give back to the sport, befriending many of the best boxers, appearing ringside at some of Las Vegas's most legendary title fights, and helping to pass the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, to better protect boxers and the integrity of the sport.
"He got to know the fighters and he saw the impact that boxing takes, the toll that it takes on the fighters, and I think he felt, along along with [John] McCain, that anything we can do to help these gladiators, and that's what they are, help them in any way with their future inside, and perhaps more importantly, outside the ring, L.A.B. I call it, life after boxing, I think that's what he really had a passion for and wanted to do," said Smith.
Even though Reid himself wasn't cut out for a career as a pro boxer, Smitty believes the lessons he learned in the ring as an amateur helped make him the legendary legislator and leader he's remembered as today.
"Any of us that have climbed inside that squared circle, whether it's as an amateur or as a little club pro like I was, it instills a confidence in you. And I think when you're doing what Harry had to do, and all the tumult that is Washington and and the political situation, just knowing that, 'Hey, I've been in the ring and I have fought professionally, I can handle this. These conversations we're having, bring it on," said Smith.