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
  • 041714 millard Kickoff time set for WVU-Alabama

    West Virginia football fans can now start counting down to the exact minute, instead of just the day.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Questions raised about Turnbull’s firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.

    April 17, 2014

  • Gettin’ ready for gobbler season: Step 4 — the setup

    This just in — in a recent study on turkey hunting and turkey hunters it was found that 98.7 percent of the time when hunters were unsuccessful when calling in a gobbler, the hunter made some mistake during the last 50 yards of the bird’s approach.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041714 wright Former Red Devil star realizing dream of playing D-I basketball

    When former Oak Hill High School standout Kalif Wright was a kid, he would play EA Sports’ NCAA March Madness video games and dream of one day getting a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • McClung moving from mound to dugout

    Seth McClung was getting his daughters Madison and Fallon inside and ready for their baths when his phone rang. He’s said before that he enjoys the role of “daddy day care.”

    April 15, 2014

  • First stop Waffle House; next stop The Greenbrier

    Bubba Watson decided to keep his post-Masters victory more low key this year. Instead of going to New York for a media tour, he headed home to Orlando, Fla., and kept plans for a five-day vacation with his wife.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pick 3: Cam Huffman's answers

    Is Mike D’Antoni the best hire for Marshall basketball if the Herd can land him?

    April 15, 2014

  • Pick 3: Gary Fauber's answers

    Is Mike D’Antoni the best hire for Marshall basketball if the Herd can land him?

    April 15, 2014

  • Polands share life, coaching

    Married since 2011, Ashley and Dan Poland share the good times and the bad times that every husband and wife face. Be it an unexpected tax refund or a busted water pipe, they go through it together.

    April 15, 2014

  • fayetteville Who needs the beach?

    The word seems to be getting out about the Spring Break Wood Bat Classic.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

NCAA Hoops
AP Video