Longtime New Orleans boxing promoter Les Bonano passes away

Published: May. 22, 2022 at 4:27 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Les Bonano, the former New Orleans police officer and Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office official who became the leading figure in the city’s boxing scene for more than 50 years as a promoter and trainer, passed away Saturday night, family members confirmed. He was 79.

“Our precious dad passed during the night,” daughter Deslie Bonano-Broussard wrote Sunday in a social media post. “I have no doubt he has entered God’s kingdom and is reunited with his parents, brother Ronnie, sister-in-law Judy and all of his loved ones that entered heaven before him.

“He will be tremendously missed by all who knew him. Thank you for the outpouring of love, prayers, and support.”

Bonano also was the father of sons Derrick Bonano and Deano Bonano, Jefferson Parish’s District 2 Councilman.

“He was very dedicated to his grandchildren and absolutely loved spending time with his family,” his daughter told Fox 8. “That was his top priority.”

Les Bonano had an extensive career in law enforcement. The Hollygrove native attended Fortier High School and earned criminal justice degrees from St. Mary’s Dominican College and Loyola University. He joined the NOPD in 1965 and served more than 17 years on the force before retiring from the detective bureau in 1982. He went to work in January 1982 for former Orleans Parish Sheriff Charles Foti, a close friend for whom he served as Chief Deputy for more than 10 years until 1992.

But Bonano’s true passion was the fight game. He trained, managed and promoted professional boxers for decades, particularly those from Louisiana. Among the fighters whose careers he helped shape were former IBA light heavyweight champion Dominick Carter, two-time NABF super middleweight champion Paul Whittaker, top lightweight contender John Duplessis and former Golden Gloves champion Anthony Stephens.

Bonano also was credited with lowering tensions inside the former Orleans Parish Prison by starting a sports program for inmates in the mid-1970s that began with basketball tournaments but later expanded to include boxing. His success with the inmate boxing program inspired Bonano to eventually open a gym on Broad Street through which most of the city’s most talented fighters passed.

Bonano also learned to promote fighters and boxing events in the region, eventually teaming with renowned promoters such as Bob Arum to bring some of the sport’s biggest names to the Gulf Coast region for fights in Bay St. Louis and New Orleans.

“From the small local gyms to seeing Muhammad Ali fight Leon Spinks in the Superdome,” Derrick Bonano said.

In 2021, Bonano was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, which he called the greatest honor of his life.

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