The world’s kindest fight writer left us on Boxing Day
Somehow, it seems kind of appropriate that I learned of my friend Royce Feour’s death on Boxing Day.
As a journalist who covered boxing for nearly 40 years in Nevada, Feour became synonymous with the sport in his beloved home state.
In the cutthroat world that is professional boxing, everybody has an enemy or someone who is out to get them.
Royce Feour, though, had no enemies. He was that rare commodity in boxing, an honest and kind soul who was respected and liked by the fighters, the promoters, the officials and his peers.
No one ever had a bad word to say about him and it’s why he is in a slew of Halls of Fame. He was a member of the inaugural class of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013, joining broadcaster Al Bernstein as one of only two journalists chosen that year. He was chosen for the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2005, the year after he retired. He won the Nat Fleischer Award in 1996, presented by the Boxing Writers Association of America, for career excellence in boxing journalism.
He was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, two years after his retirement from the newspaper business. He began at the Las Vegas Sun, but spent decades at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Despite being in the media for as long as he was, Feour was deathly afraid of public speaking.
I worked alongside him on the boxing beat at the Review-Journal for many years, and we covered many significant fights together, including those of Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya. It was emotional for me in 2006 when he called to ask me if I’d present him for induction into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
It was a great honor for him, but the months between the news he’d been elected and the night he was inducted were difficult for him. He didn’t want to have to get up and speak, and talked to me many times about asking Hall officials to skip him.
This went on until moments before he was to speak. His face was flush and his breathing heavy, so worried was he. I assured him he’d be fine and to just get up and have fun and talk about himself.
What I learned, though, was that talking about himself was the issue.
“I’m a journalist and I’m not supposed to be the story,” he said.
Those words should be a lesson for all journalists. He wasn’t the flashiest writer and he wasn’t always first on a story, but when Royce Feour reported news, you could count on the fact that it was accurate. After he’d triple checked something, he’d check it again a time or two just to be sure.
While the public got to know him mostly for his coverage of boxing, he was hardly defined by boxing. He loved animals, particularly dogs, and when he discovered Twitter, reveled in liking photos of dogs that his many friends would post.
Sometimes, I’d be on the phone with him as I was driving home. When I’d walk in the door, my Basset Hounds would get excited and make noise. Royce loved to hear that and would frequently ask me what they’d do when I came home following a lengthy trip.
He loved pictures of my dogs sleeping at my feet or under my desk.
He also loved Nevada, where he lived his entire life, and particularly Las Vegas. He literally lived in the shadow of The Strip his entire life.
He attended Las Vegas High School and the University of Nevada, Reno, and seemed to know every single famous person in both cities. He had a propensity to tell the same stories repeatedly, in intricate detail, so when I talked to him after I had interviewed Sen. Harry Reid, I was certain Royce would tell me a story of when he and Reid met as teen-agers or young men.
Whether it was politicians or judges or athletes or celebrities, nobody I knew seemed to know more prominent people than Royce.
He had a horde of friends because he was so kind and thoughtful. Gilbert Manzano, a former Review-Journal boxing writer who recently moved to Los Angeles to cover the Chargers for the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Daily News, put out a tweet upon learning of Royce’s death that summed him up better than anyone, even though the two hadn’t met.
Manzano was the recipient, as just about anyone in the sports media in Southern Nevada over the last 30 years or so was, of a kind note from Royce. Royce dutifully read the paper each day and then would scour the internet, and later inevitably would send a note to the writers of stories he enjoyed.
He did it for people he knew and people he didn’t know. He did it for famous journalists and those just starting out.
Post a photo of your pet on Twitter and he’d inevitably like it and retweet it. If there was a tweet about a dog needing a new home, he’d pass it along and urge someone to adopt it.
If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s proof in the form of his final three tweets, on Dec. 1, Dec. 8 and Dec. 12:
He had a wacky sense of humor and loved double entendre jokes. He had a loud laugh that would shock those who hadn’t heard it previously.
He wasn’t a braggart and never did I hear him boast, but he genuinely loved to celebrate the accomplishments of others. He was a huge baseball fan, and was loyal to the San Francisco Giants until the end, but he loved the sport at all levels.
He made it a point to attend Bishop Gorman High School games in Las Vegas, and got to know the families of many of the players just because he was so omnipresent.
Johnny Field, the son of his close friend, John Field, was called up by the Tampa Bay Rays early in 2018 and Royce couldn’t wait to call me. I’d heard about Johnny’s baseball exploits from Royce going back to his Little League days, and Royce bragged on Johnny like the son he never had.
Sadly, he died alone in his tiny one bedroom apartment in the shadow of the opulent Wynn Las Vegas. He was, apparently, dead for a while before Las Vegas police entered his apartment and found his body.
He was a rarity. In his younger days, he’d have closed down many a bar in Las Vegas, regaling visiting boxing writers with stories, if they ever closed the bars in his hometown.
In his later years, he lived a much quieter and simple life.
But in the 30 years I’ve known him, I have never heard him say a bad word about anyone, nor did I ever hear anyone say a cross word about him.
When you talk about a life well lived, you’re talking about Royce Feour. He was 79 and not in the greatest health over the last few years. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that slowed him terribly, as well as a foot injury that made it difficult for him to walk.
But despite not feeling well, he never lost his temper and remained kind and thoughtful until the end.
What better way to leave this Earth than with the respect of everyone you’d worked for and with and with no enemies, real or imagined.
RIP, my friend.