John R. Branca

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John Ralph Branca (July 14, 1924 – July 17, 2010) was an American Democratic politician who was elected to two terms in the New York State Assembly, and was appointed as Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission in 1983, where he sought to implement changes to enhance the safety of boxers and wrestlers.


Branca was born on July 14, 1924.[1] He grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, where he played baseball with his younger brother Ralph at A. B. Davis High School. In an obituary in The New York Times, his brother Ralph, who played in the major leagues for the Brooklyn Dodgers, said that "He was better than me at that point". He served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. After completing his military service he attended New York University where he earned a bachelor's and master's degrees.[2]

He was a coach and teacher at the local high school and served as Mount Vernon's recreation commissioner from 1962 to 1980. He was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1981 to 1983, sitting in the 184th and 185th New York State Legislatures. He was appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo as Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, with the goal "to revitalize and professionalize the boxing profession".[3] As commissioner, he pushed for the use of thumbless boxing gloves, added portable computers at ringside to allow officials to verify the boxing records of late substitutions on a card and supported the creation of a national system to track boxers after questions had been raised after the brain injury death of lightweight Isidro Perez after being knocked out in a fight to Juan Ramon Cruz in October 1983 at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden.[2]

Branca announced that he would have all three judges be women for a middleweight title fight between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Mustafa Hamsho, calling the move "a great publicity gimmick".[2] After Pat Petronelli suggested that "there's going to be a lot of blood and I don't want the three judges throwing up", Eva Shain was the only woman to judge the fight.[4] He resigned from the athletic commission in November 1984, 16 months after taking on the post, to run for Mayor of Mount Vernon, following the death of Thomas Sharpe in February.[5]

A resident of Deerfield Beach, Florida, Branca died at age 86 on July 17, 2010, due to vascular disease while at a hospice in Boca Raton, Florida. He was survived by his wife, Mildred, as well as by a daughter, two sons and four grandchildren. He was also survived by his brothers Ralph and Al.[2]


  1. ^ Social Security Death Index Search for "John Ralph Branca"
  2. ^ a b c d Goldstein, Richard. "John R. Branca, Advocate for Boxers, Dies at 86", The New York Times, July 31, 2010. Accessed August 1, 2010.
  3. ^ JOHN BRANCA HEADS SPORTS COMMISSION in the New York Times on July 13, 1983
  4. ^ Goldstein, Richard. "Eva Shain, 81, a Pioneering Boxing Judge", The New York Times, August 23, 1999. Accessed August 1, 2010.
  5. ^ Staff. "Branca Ready to Resign", The New York Times, November 14, 1984. Accessed August 1, 2010.
New York Assembly
Preceded by
Richard C. Ross
New York State Assembly
88th District

Succeeded by
Gregory P. Young