George Katz, a colorful and charismatic devotee of the “sweet science”, was born in South Philadelphia and lived there his entire life. Katz’ career was eclectic and varied ranging from ownership of a billiard parlor to serving as Secretary to Philadelphia Mayor Joe Clark. In the 1940’s he turned to boxing full-time and managed such well known fighters as Gil Turner, “Toothpick” Brown, “Kitten” Hayward and briefly Sonny Liston.
Under Katz’ management, Gil Turner was undefeated in 31 fights before losing in a rousing welterweight title fight to world champion Kid Gavilan before 39,000 fans at Municipal Stadium. Turner fought what was then a record 35 times on TV which included bouts with former or future world champions Gene Fullmer, Ike Williams, Johnny Saxton, Joey Giardello, and Carmen Basilio.
Katz signed an agreement to manage former Heavyweight Champion Rocky Marciano’s comeback attempt just before Marciano’s untimely death in a plane crash. But his greatest regret was that he turned down an offer to manage Joe Frazier because he thought he was too short to be a heavyweight.
George Katz was a dashing, dapper man-about-town who dressed sharp, slept late and operated from a booth in Lew Tendler’s Steak House at Broad and Locust. He was easily identified by his diamond stick pin and diamond pinky ring.
Katz was known as a careful manager who brought his fighters along slowly until he was convinced they were ready. In the corner with all his fighters, he pioneered the “Team” approach with his sweaters monogrammed with “Katz’ Kittens”. A great advocate for his fighters, he advised them during and after their careers.
Decades earlier Katz had been devastated by the death of his wife when his only daughter, Bunny, was just six years old. He never remarried. He raised Bunny together with his in-laws and her aunts in a third floor apartment with his cigarettes, ever-present Coca-Cola and a safe stuffed with scrap books and memorabilia. Nationally respected, he was great copy for sports writers. Katz’s funeral was covered in the NY Times and was attended by luminaries in politics, sports and show business.