Rego was ‘one in a million’
Allan “Forty” Rego was a coach and mentor to virtually every noteworthy local boxer of the past 50 years.
Called a quintessential “confidence man” by Troy Darrell, arguably his most successful protégé, the careers of those Rego helped shape reads like a who's who of Bermudian boxing.
Clarence Hill, Quinn Paynter, Roy Johnson, Norman DeSilva, Anthony Fubler, Gary Hope, Teresa Perozzi and Nikki Bascome are just some of the names to have worked closely with the island's most revered trainer.
Tributes from many of those fighters, and the wider boxing fraternity, have poured in since Rego died of cancer on Saturday. He was 86.
Darrell described Rego as having “a heart as big as the ocean” and said he had been a valuable and trusted confidant throughout his career.
“Forty was like a father to me,” Darrell said. “I first met him in 1968 at the Pembroke Youth Centre and from there we just kicked it off and had a good relationship.
“He used to drive me home from the youth centre when I was in my early teens, as I used to live in Southampton. I could call on him anytime.
“He was already working with guys like Norman DeSilva and Roy Johnson, and he later got involved with myself, Anthony Fubler and Quinn Paynter. We travelled around the world together.”
Rego accompanied Darrell to Miami in the mid-1980s when he was first introduced to fabled trainer Angelo Dundee, who formerly coached the legendary Muhammad Ali.
Darrell, a former middleweight title contender, said Rego stayed with him at his hotel for two or three months at a time and remembers his friend as a master motivator and an advocate of the power of positive thinking.
“Forty could really lift you; he gave you so much confidence that you didn't fear anybody,” said Darrell, who retired from professional boxing in 1991 with a record of 26 wins and three defeats.
“He made you feel like nobody could beat you and used to say things like, ‘They think they've met the best, but they haven't seen the rest!'
“He would go above and beyond for his fighters. That was Forty; he never told you that you couldn't do something. That was one of his biggest strengths.
“I went to see him at the hospital every other day. I'd spend two or three hours with him watching Gunsmoke [the western television show]. It's a really sad moment.”
Rego earned his moniker “Forty” — a nod to the speed limit — because of the pace in which he completed his tasks while working on a farm as a boy. He grew up on Spring Hill, Warwick, and started boxing, informally, at 15.
His first amateur bout was in 1951 at Tin Top on Sound View Road in Sandys against Neville Tatem, with Rego going on to box at the NCO club at Kindley Air Force Base and King's Stadium in Pembroke.
A two-fight professional career finished with a knockout win over James “Buster” Samuels at the Tennis Stadium in 1957, but it was not until he started training DeSilva, his first fighter, that he found his true calling.
Rego was already a respected figure in the local fight scene when he impressed Sammy Wilson, who ran PYC, with his boxing acumen while helping to prepare Johnson for a rematch in 1968.
It was at the Angle Street facility — a breeding ground for Bermuda's greatest boxers — where Hill, the Olympic Games bronze medal-winner in 1976, first met Rego.
Hill, a southpaw heavyweight, describes Rego as “one in a million” and said his influence on Bermudian boxing was incalculable.
“Forty inspired many Bermudian boxers and he did something positive with his life,” Hill, 66, said. “He can't be replaced; there will never be another Forty Rego. My gosh, he's going to be missed. I met Forty in 1976 at Pembroke Youth Centre after I came back from the [Montreal] Olympics. We became friends and he did some work with me and helped me out as an amateur. I was trained by Stanley Trimm at the time.”
Hill said Rego's passion for boxing remained undiluted right up until his death and praised him for continuing to produce local boxers such as Bascome and Andre Lambe.
“Like everyone he had his faults and we had our little ups and downs,” said Hill, who won 17 and drew one of his 21 pro bouts. “But I always respected him; he was a good person.”
Rego opened his own gym at his home on Cross End Lane in Warwick in 1980. It was inside that converted garage, complete with makeshift ring and punchbags, where Teresa Perozzi, the former women's WBA middleweight title-holder, refined her technique.
Perozzi said Rego was a champion for women's boxing when the sport for the fairer sex was in its infancy and a staunch supporter of her ring exploits.
“I'd say the majority of what I did with my career amateur-wise was as a result of him,” said Perozzi, who retired in 2014 with nine wins and three draws from 16 pro fights.
“When I wanted to get really serious and do something with boxing, everybody was telling me, ‘You have to go up Forty Rego's gym'. We were pretty much the pioneers of women's boxing [in Bermuda]. He didn't know much about women's boxing at the start, but he had more knowledge than anyone else [in Bermuda] and we learnt things together; I trusted him.
“Whatever trip, whatever tournament I had overseas, he was all for it. I remember his wife, Joanne, would be baking popcorn, we'd have a bake sale and we'd just go.”
The southpaw's fondest memories of her time with Rego are when he and Darrell were working in tandem to eradicate her flaws.
“Unfortunately, I didn't start [my career] with [Rego and Darrell],” she said. “I think I developed some habits that, had I started with them, I never would have had.
“I loved working with him and Troy, just the three us; they were my happiest memories.”
Perozzi, 44, said that although the Bermudian boxing landscape had changed over the years, Rego had remained a prominent and influential figure throughout.
“I don't think anyone will be able to fill his void,” Perozzi added. “I can't imagine going up the gym without him being there. I know it will carry on, but it won't be the same.
“Even though he knew he was slowing down physically and would let other guys step in, he was always right there. It will be weird to be at a show and see Forty Rego's corner and for him not to be there.”
Rego was actively training fighters until just months before his death; he fell ill shortly after Bascome's knockout defeat by Portuguese Fábio Costa in his professional welterweight bout at the Fairmont Southampton hotel last November.
Although the one-on-one relationship of trainer and fighter is usually intense and multifaceted, Rego's strong connection with Bascome always seemed extra special.
Bascome, 27, was a small boy when he and a group of neighbourhood friends stumbled up Cross End Lane to punch bags for fun at Rego's gym.
The pair struck up an immediate understanding, with Bascome describing Rego in a recent interview with The Royal Gazette as “a father figure” who taught him valuable life lessons inside and outside of the ring.
Lambe, the most recent pugilist to come off the Cross End Lane conveyor belt, said Rego's legacy would live on through the likes of Bascome and himself.
“He was such a welcoming person and felt like family immediately,” the 22-year-old amateur said. “I'm happy to have had someone like Rego in my life; he instilled in me a fire that I didn't know I had, not just in boxing but life in general.
“He was a friend and spent a lot of time with us outside of boxing. He took the time to learn about you as a person and that helped things come together in the ring. I know he's not gone and that he's looking down on us. We're still going to work hard to make him proud. He will live through all of the stuff he taught us.”
Steve Smoger, the International Boxing Hall of Fame referee, became friends with Rego after making numerous trips to the island over the past few years to officiate bouts involving Perozzi and Bascome.
A veteran of more than 200 title fights, Smoger said Rego's death marked the end of an era for Bermudian boxing.
“I truly liked and admired him,” Smoger, 67, said. “He was an old-school boxing coach who always had the best interests of his fighters at heart.
“I always looked forward to seeing him on my ‘fight trips' to beautiful Bermuda. When he saw me, he would say, ‘Hey Smoger, how are you? Welcome back to Bermuda!'”
Nathan Dill, the Bermuda Boxing Federation president, said Rego was unquestionably the “elder statesman” of Bermudian boxing and a pillar of the community.
Dill said: “For years, he would train youth out of his home gym at no cost and could be found at each and every boxing event.
“He was a wealth of knowledge, loved and feared but undeniably respected. His one whisper was equal to a hundred shouts, as whatever Mr Rego said or suggested became the gospel of what was to be or what should be. The island has truly lost one of its sporting heroes.”
Dill said the BBF's upcoming event, “The Next Greatest” at CedarBridge Academy on February 17, would be dedicated to Rego's memory.
Garon Wilkinson, president of the Bermuda Sanshou Association, said Rego was a “grandmaster of boxing” and an icon of Bermudian sport.
“One of the highlights for BSA was when Mr Rego and his wife, Joanne, travelled with us in 2007 to our very first World Wushu Championships in Beijing, China.
“I remember after my world championship debut being approached by a fellow competitor and being asked if our team members were all boxers.
“I found that question very interesting given all of us had formal traditional martial artists backgrounds, but our boxing skills learnt through the tutelage of Mr Rego quicky became our strongest weapon.”
Wilkinson added: “Mr Rego did not only teach us about the art of boxing, he taught us all how to live as athletes. He often talked about healthy eating, natural herbs, pre-competition meals and rest.”
Rego is survived by his wife, Joanne, and three daughters, Carolyn Davis, Carmyn Waldorf and Helena Stoneham, and three sons, Anthony and Mel Stoneham and Curtis Turner. He is predeceased by son Gregory Hunt.