MANNING - Internationally known boxing referee Tony Weeks may have been born in Brooklyn, New York, but the 61-year-old has strong ties to Clarendon County.
As a youngster, Weeks traveled south and spent almost every summer in Alcolu at the home of his grandparents, Alan Hammett Sr. and Annie Hammett.
In between boxing bouts, Weeks was in Clarendon County recently visiting family and friends.
"We were childhood friends," said Jacquie Blackwell, who works with the Third Circuit Solicitor's Office. "We came up together. He's a great guy. He's humble and comes from one of the greatest families I know."
Weeks was working in a federal prison when he called his first bout, launching a career that takes him around the world.
"I fell instantly in love with the sport," he added. "I credit Beto Martinez, who was the trainer that day, with getting me started in my career. He was the one who contacted the Arizona State Boxing Commission and told them I had the good, natural movements of a great referee."
Weeks said the late Muhammad Ali was the best boxer of all time.
"You knew what he stood for," Weeks said. "He had showmanship. He was a self-promoter, and he packed the folks in."
Weeks said what truly set Ali apart from other boxers was "the beauty of his art."
Weeks said the "dream match" of all time was between Ali and Smokin' Joe Frazier, "hands down."
Week's remembers the match like it was just yesterday. It was March 8, 1971, in Madison Square Gardens.
"The world stopped to watch," he said with a smile. "Frank Sinatra didn't have tickets. He contacted someone at Life magazine, and they hired him to take pictures. He was standing there, right at ringside."
That fight became known as "The Fight," he added.
When asked about the perceived brutality of boxing, Weeks said there was brutality in almost every sport.
"There's beauty in the art of boxing," he added. "Each boxer is different. Their movements, the way they train and their talent make each one special."
What makes a good referee?
"Good instincts, the ability to make the call on the spot and training," Weeks said. "You can't look indecisive. After a fight, you're mentally exhausted. For 12 rounds, about 45 minutes, you are steadily in motion, watching and ready to step in if needed."
Weeks called boxing a wonderful sport for youngsters.
"Boxing teaches self-discipline," he said. "It's physical and mental. It teaches showmanship and how to control your emotions in the ring."
Weeks just returned to the United States after spending time in Germany and Colombia. Next, he's headed to Africa, China and Brazil.
"What's better than getting to travel all over the world and getting work in a sport that I love," he said. "I have the best of two worlds. I really love my job."