The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

April 7, 2013

Cook remains a Toughman constant

Beckley resident has been a judge at all but 1 of 34 Beckley events

BECKLEY — There have been many changes and trends throughout the 34 years of the Southern West Virginia Original Toughman Contest, but one thing has remained the same.

Joe Cook has been around boxing since he moved to East Beckley in 1949.

“I had these neighbors of mine, the Tanners — these are the same Tanners that later would become sheriff and magistrate — the only sport they participated in was boxing,” Cook said. “That’s what started me down the road.”

Through the influence of his neighbors, Cook eventually started boxing in club promotions before becoming a judge.

“We were always boxing,” Cook said. “Someone would set up a fight or a bunch of fights and that’s where we started. There was the Golden Gloves, but I never fought in that.

“When professional fights would come to Beckley, I would judge them. I started judging in the late 1960s and have been doing it ever since.”

Cook has been a judge at the Toughman since its inception, missing only one event — last year, when he was on vacation.

Through the years, Cook has been a part of plenty of memorable Toughman moments.

“There were some outstanding fights,” Cook said. “Guys like Eddie Williams, who is the grandfather of several who are fighting this year, was in the championship match with Scott Morris. It was a very close fight but Morris won it.”

Seventeen years later, Cook would be a judge when Scott’s son, Matt would win the championship. Now he’s watching Williams’ grandkids Dell and Marissa Long compete for championships of their own.

“Boxing is something that’s just passed on in families,” he said. “Scott passed it on to Matt. Butch (McNeely) passed it on to his kids, Ashley and Hope.”

Not all of Cook’s memories come from classic brawls between two top fighters.

“There’s been some humorous moments. I can remember someone who came in with combat boots on,” Cook said with a chuckle. “Occasionally, I can recall where someone would try to jump over the ropes. Sometimes they would make it. Sometimes they wouldn’t.”

While tough fights and the occasional silly moment are what make the Toughman great, it’s more than that for the longtime judge.

“This is the only time of the year I get to see guys like (promoter) Jerry Thomas and (trainer) Carl Murdock,” he said. “Carl and I have been doing these things for decades.”

Cook hopes to continue the tradition for many more decades.

“I want to do this as long as I can,” he said. “I sure do.”

— E-mail: jrollins@

register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.

Text Only
Latest Sports
  • Steelers to retire Hall of Famer Greene's No. 75

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are retiring Hall of Fame defensive end Joe Greene's number No. 75.

    July 30, 2014

  • Steelers' Bell looking for more decisive, productive season

    Le'Veon Bell kept watching the tape over and over, equal parts pleased and puzzled by what he saw.

    July 30, 2014

  • Charges dropped against WVU RB Smallwood

    Prosecutors said all charges against 20-year-old Wendell Smallwood, who had been charged with witness tampering in the case, have been dropped.

    July 30, 2014

  • cato Word is out on Marshall's Cato

    Rakeem Cato is easily the face of Marshall football. He also has been mentioned as a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. That status is legitimate.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • bush Bush making Saints look good

    For his first four seasons, Rafael Bush was simply looking to land on a roster — any roster.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Practice, not temps, heats up for Saints
    The temperatures may have only been in the low 70s Tuesday afternoon at the Saints new practice facility at The Greenbrier, but now a third of the way into the 15 practices, it’s clear that the heat has turned up with playing time and positions on the line.

    July 30, 2014

  • Bowles has a support system
    Colin Bowles, the 14-year-old little brother of Corey, is coming into his own as a successful athlete. The younger Bowles competed last week at the U.S. Junior Amateur in The Woodlands, Texas, making the cut before bowing out in match play. Right there beside Colin, as he has been his entire life, was older brother Corey,

    July 30, 2014

  • Terre Haute hands Miners 2-1 loss in 11 innings

    Ryan Sabo singled home Clayton Smithson in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Rex to the win and put the West Virginia Miners’ postseason hopes in serious jeopardy

    July 30, 2014

  • WVU’s Smallwood waives preliminary hearing

    West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood, arrested on a felony charge of witness intimidation in a first-degree murder case, waived his preliminary hearing Monday, his case now being moved to Superior Court, where more serious crimes are argued, according to The News Journal.

    July 29, 2014

  • Steelers LB Spence caps lengthy comeback

    The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.

    July 29, 2014

Saints Training Camp