When it came to boxing, Duva treated family members like business partners and his fighters like family. "There were times when his fighters' kids didn't have Christmas presents," says Donna, "so he would take ours and give them to them." Every Sunday, 15 or 20 members of Duva's extended family—many of them black or Hispanic—would show up at the Totowa house for dinner, and Enes would cook huge quantities of pasta to feed them all.
"He brought Hurricane Carter to the house for dinner once, and I almost died, he was so scary looking," says Dan of the former middleweight contender who served 19 years for murder in a celebrated case. "Until about 10 years ago, all the important boxing decisions had to be made around his kitchen table."
Shortly after graduating from Seton Hall Law School in 1977, Dan decided to move the family business out of the kitchen and, more to the point, out of his father's pants. "The first thing we had to do was stop the left pocket, right pocket accounting method," says Dan. He did that by forming a promotional company called Main Events, by renting a house in a residential neighborhood of Totowa to serve as the company's offices and by installing Donna as the office manager, Dino as the comptroller and Kathy as the publicist. The offices had partitions that didn't extend all the way to the ceiling, so instead of using the intercom system that had been installed, the Duvas communicated with one another the way any family does—by yelling back and forth at the top of their lungs. The only time they seemed to get tongue-tied was during strategy sessions, so Dan went out and bought a table like the one in Lou's kitchen. They've been the busiest promoters in boxing ever since.
Main Events did stumble, though, when Dan decided to diversify. In 1975, he decided that Main Events would promote a martial-arts show at Ice World, a converted skating rink in Totowa that seated 3,000 people. The exhibition drew 67 fans, and a lot of them might not have come had it not been for a typesetting error on the posters, which promised a "marital arts" show. But when Main Events stuck to boxing, the Duvas prospered. During one stretch, they sold out 18 straight monthly cards at Ice World.
Duva was finally a person of importance in boxing. "It took him nearly 60 years to find himself," says Kathy. "Not until seven or eight years ago could he actually support himself from the fighters."
To help make ends meet during one of the lean years, he worked a few shows for promoter Bob Arum. Duva says that the relationship ended disastrously in 1977, when he paired a heavyweight from Wayne, N.J.. named Lou Esa against John Tate in Las Vegas. "Esa would have given Tate a good fight." says Dan, "but he got arrested the day before the fight and didn't tell anybody. He spent half the night in jail, then got stopped in the third round." When Arum was criticized for promoting a mismatch, he blamed Duva and cut his paycheck to drive home the point. Arum claims the incident never happened, but Duva insists that he tore the check into pieces. In any case, he and Arum remain bitter rivals.
Duva's resourcefulness was frequently tested during his years at Ice World, which is now a Rickel Home Center. Esa made his pro debut there on a night when his opponent vanished after the weigh-in. Duva once again went into the audience, this time finding a retired New York City policeman who was willing to stand in, if not up. The cop, whom Duva dubbed Angelo Garafolo, was balding and overweight and had little boxing experience, so Duva told him just to dance around and try not to get hit. But Esa knocked Garafolo out in four rounds.
A reporter for the Passaic Herald News, Augie Lio, thought he smelled a 260-pound rat and started asking Garafolo questions—once he had regained consciousness. Duva told Lio that Garafolo was Italian and spoke no English, so Lio began questioning him in perfect Italian. Garafolo, whom by this time Duva had taken to calling Angie, just stared off into space because he spoke no Italian. Duva insisted that for generations the Garafolos had spoken only an obscure regional dialect. Lio finally threw up his hands and went to press with an account of his suspicions.
In the wake of Muhammad Ali's 1974 bout with George Foreman in Za�re, Duva sensed that heightened awareness of Afro-American culture had created a demand for a fighter descended from African royalty. "Suddenly every black guy you met was from Zaire," says Duva, who was looking for an opponent for an Irish pug he was managing named Christy Elliott. "I knew of a guy down in Camden who worked on a garbage truck and passed himself off as an African prince. He was fighting prelims, so I offered him a main event with Christy if he would fight as Prince Nitika Tarharcker."
The prince informed Duva that His Highness not only would take the fight, but he also would throw in the Tarharcker royal court—his bongo-playing brother, and his sister, who could dance up a storm. Duva arranged to have six bagpipe players march into the ring at the Teamsters Hall in West Paterson with Elliott. Irish fans turned out in force—dock-workers from Kearny, policemen from Parsippany—to support Elliott. Tarharcker's entrance lasted 15 minutes and was followed by an equally clamorous procession featuring Elliott and his wheezing entourage of bagpipers and leprechauns.