Boxing trainer and manager Willie Savannah has died, his wife, Clara, confirmed Sunday morning.
She wrote on her Facebook page: “It is with great sadness that I inform you all that my husband, Willie Savannah has passed away peacefully at home. At this time, we ask for no phone calls, please just keep us in your prayers. Funeral arrangements will be posted. Thank you, Clara.”
For years Savannah had a highly successful amateur program that he ran out of his gym, the Savannah Boxing Club, in Houston.
Ronnie Shields, now a world-class trainer, was managed by Savannah during his days as a professional boxer. He described him as, “Just someone who always helped everybody in need. That’s what he did.”
Savannah is best known for his association with Juan Diaz, who at one point held the WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight titles under his guidance.
“I always called him ‘Mr. Savannah,’ but it was more like ‘Dad,'” Diaz told ESPN on Sunday. “At the age of 8 I walked into the Savannah Boxing Club, it basically changed my whole world, my whole life. As a little, fat 8-year-old boy, I probably would’ve just ended up like a lot of other Mexican kids if I didn’t walk through that gym: gotten married, had a few kids, probably working at a construction company, or cutting grass for people.”
Diaz, who retired from the ring in 2016 with a record of 42-4 (21 KOs), now runs a successful trucking company, JD Express. He is still grateful to this day on the impact Savannah had on his life, in and out of the ring.
“Mr Savannah took that chance and he saw something in me and helped me. I am the man I am because of all the advice and the lessons he taught me,” Diaz said.