Family and friends of a Paul Pender, the late World Middleweight Boxing champion, gathered around the rotary at Chestnut Street and Pond Avenue on Sunday morning, July 11, to participate in a dedication ceremony in his memory.
The ceremony was presided over by former Selectman Bob Allen and speakers included Selectwoman Betsy DeWitt and former St. Mary's Church Pastor Fr. Jack Ahearn. Pender's son, Paul Jr., concluded the speeches by giving a powerful and emotional recollection of memories he had with his father.
Pender was born in a coldwater flat on Roberts Street in Brookline on June 20, 1930. He attended the Sewall and Lincoln schools before moving on to Brookline High School, where he excelled in football, swimming and boxing, the later being his chosen professional career. He married his high school sweetheart and fellow Brokline native, Rose Anzivino, at the age of 20 and moved to Jamaica Road to raise a family. Rose still lives in that same house.
Known for both his athletic ability and academic excellence, Pender graduated from Brookline High School in 1949 moving on to study politics at Staley College. In 1949, Pender was also boxing as an amateur and won the New England Amateur Title. He decided to turn pro where he won 20 of his first bouts and obtained a draw in his 21st. By 1952, Pender was disillusioned with his organization and advisers and, after he suffered a defeat in March of 1952, decided to enlist in the Marine Corp, where he served as a boxing coach and attained the rank of corporal.
In 1954, Pender was discharged from the Marines and returned to Brookline, where he joined the Fire Department. Boxing was still in his blood, though, and he soon returned to the ring. However, Pender would face many challenges as he broke his hand and in 1955, broke both hands in the same bout with Gene Fullmer. Pender would go in and out of retirement for the next few years until he faced Sugar Ray Robinson for the Middleweight Title in January 1960. Pender went into the fight as the 6-1 underdog but was tenacious from the 1st round on. He would eventually win the title from Robinson on a split decision.
Pender retired from boxing on May 7, 1963, saying his heart was no longer in the sport. His lifetime record was 40 wins (20 by KO), 6 losses and 2 draws. He boxed a total of 348 rounds. Upon his retirement from boxing, Pender also left the fire service and returned to college to finish his degree. He served as the Athletic Director at Norfolk Jail and assisted many inmates with their transition back into society. Pender also served as a clerk of court in Brookline.
Paul Pender never received the accolades he deserved in the world of professional boxing, but in his hometown of Brookline he will be forever remembered as a man of courage, integrity, dedication to youth and public service. The Paul Pender Rotary, newly renovated by the Brookline Park and Open Spaces Commission, will serve as a permanent reminder to all those who drive by as to what is means to be a champion both in sports and life. His spirit and dedication also lives on through his three children and five grandchildren.