“Boxing is my job, but also my hobby,” Dan Rafael says, and Friday the ESPN.com senior writer was recognized for both when he was named the annual recipient of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s (BWAA) Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism.
The path toward achieving his profession’s highest honor began on Aug. 12, 1996 when Rafael covered his first professional fight for the “The Saratogian” at the Saratoga (N.Y.) City Center. A punch from Buddy McGirt sent blood flying from George Heckley, some reaching Rafael at ringside.
“That blood hitting my notebook as the crowd was going wild in the most exciting moment of the fight sent a shiver down my spine,” Rafael said. “I have been obsessed with boxing since that moment.”
— Bernardo Osuna (@osunaespn) June 29, 2013
He joined ESPN in 2005 after serving as sportswriter for the “Press & Sun-Bulletin” in Binghamton, N.Y. and five years as “USA Today’s” national boxing writer.
As ESPN.com’s boxing beat writer and columnist, Rafael contributes news of the day items, features, the Monday Scorecard, blog posts, columns and ringside reports from fights. He is also responsible for updating the ESPN.com daily boxing schedule and weekly Divisional Rankings, and appears regularly on ESPN Friday Night Fights and SportsCenter.
“It’s a huge honor to receive this award from the BWAA, and I am especially honored since it is voted on by the past winners, many of whom have become friends over the years and many of whom were so helpful to me and taught me a lot when I was a rookie starting out on the boxing beat,” Rafael said. “This award caps off a wonderful year – personally, I witnessed the birth of my son, and this tops things off for me professionally.”
The award is named after Nat Fleischer, the founder of “The Ring” magazine, a Boxing Hall of Famer, and arguably boxing’s most significant journalist. The BWAA has presented this award – it can be won only once, as is a career excellence award – since 1972. The list of past winners is impressive.
Upon making the announcement, the BWAA said, “Dan has been covering the ‘Sweet Science’ for more than a dozen years; first as a reporter for “USA Today” and ever since as ESPN’s full-time boxing scribe. He’s also been a frequent face on ESPN’s wide variety of televised sports programming. A self-professed ‘Fight Freak’, Dan has been one of the sport’s most articulate and intelligent advocates and the game has been better for his work.”
Rafael will be honored at the BWAA’s 89th annual awards banquet this spring.