Local residents mourn loss of famous boxer
A famous boxer and police officer passed away on Sunday.
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - A famous boxer and police officer passed away on Sunday.
Tommy “Franco” Thomas, a former world-ranked heavyweight boxer, passed away on Sunday.
He had been battling health issues for a number of years.
Thomas enjoyed success in the 1980s as a heavyweight boxer with a boxing record of 34-8, including 24 knockouts and once being ranked in the top 10 in the world, before stepping away from boxing to become a police officer in Shinnston and, later, the Clarksburg Police Department.
Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny was a close friend and colleague of Thomas for many years.
“Law enforcement and the entire community has lost a giant of a man,” Matheny said. “He was special professionally and personally.”
“Tommy was unique in the very best sense of the word,” said Matheny. “He loved and had a passion for boxing, but he equally loved law enforcement, especially community policing when community policing wasn’t really a thing.”
Thomas fought some of the biggest names in boxing at the time including “Dynamite” Michael Dokes and former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks.
After Thomas’ boxing career came to an end, he got into the police profession in the early 1990s. He started off in Shinnston and later became an officer for the City of Clarksburg. It was in Clarksburg where he was the city’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Officer.
“It worked because he invested in kids. He got through to them,” said Matheny.
Bridgeport Police Chief John Walker, who was chief of Clarksburg at the same time Thomas was involved with DARE, also observed Thomas’ work within the community.
“He loved kids and they loved him,” said Walker. “Anytime Tommy was out, and the kids saw him they would run to him. It’s very valuable to have someone in law enforcement to have such great rapport with kids.”
Ryan Kennedy, former Mayor of Clarksburg, also shared his thoughts of Thomas in a Facebook post.
“His happiness inspired those around him, but, at the same time, he commanded respect,” said Kennedy. “I remember years ago when my wife and I were watching the Italian Heritage Festival parade and Tommy was walking through the crowd. We both noticed that Tommy couldn’t go more than a few feet without someone reaching out to hug him or shake his hand. He was truly loved and admired by many. He will be greatly missed.”
Matheny also said he is sad that the younger generation of officers never had the chance to learn from Thomas.
“He’s been battling with his health, and I wish the young guys could have gotten to know him,” said Matheny. “He had so much to offer, and if we would have been able to give knowledge he definitely would have.”
Thomas was 67 years old.
Amos Carvelli Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
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