The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other 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
Other Sports
  • 042014 old white Happy birthday to The Old White

    As Greenbrier owner Jim Justice proudly stood behind the podium on the first tee box addressing a crowd at the 100th anniversary of the historic Old White TPC Course, a surprise guest emerged from the bushes by the tennis center.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042014 bubba Watson becoming a West Virginian

    Greenbrier owner Jim Justice was glued to the television a week ago today, watching Bubba Watson try to chase down his second green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041914 old white Old White to celebrate 100 years

    The home of The Greenbrier Classic will be having a birthday today, and the celebration should be something special.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mullens, Pineville to meet in Anderson Memorial

    After many years away from the sideline, legendary Mullens High School coach Don Nuckols is returning to the game of basketball.

    April 19, 2014

  • 041914 D'Antoni Lakers mum on D’Antoni

    Mike D’Antoni was still the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach when he left their training complex to spend the Easter weekend out of town with his family.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • D’Antoni’s Lakers future still unclear

    With the Los Angeles Lakers season officially over — the Lakers beat the Spurs 113-100 Wednesday but finished 27-55 overall, the most losses in the club’s history and the franchise’s worst winning percentage since the Minneapolis Lakers in 1957-58 — Marshall fans will be keeping a close eye on what’s going on in Tinsel Town over the coming days.

    April 17, 2014

  • 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