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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Jerry Pellegrinni Shined a Positive Light on St. Bernard

From Staff Reports

Professional boxer and barber Jerry Pellegrini died earlier this month. He was 78.

Pellegrini boxed as a welterweight for most of his 10-year career, which included 40 bouts and 297 rounds. He even held the Southern Welterweight title in 1967, after he beat Freddie Martinovich for the title. He was once ranked as high as No. 3 by the World Boxing Council (WBC).

According to the St. Bernard Sports Hall of Fame, “Jerry Pellegrini launched his amateur boxing career at St. Mary’s Italian Gym in New Orleans in the 1950’s. After quitting grammar school to attend barber school, ‘The Boxing Barber’ began a professional boxing career that would span nearly a decade. 

“Pellegrini spent the 1960s thrilling New Orleans area crowds at local boxing venues such as the legendary Municipal Auditorium. He climbed the world welterweight rankings and would ultimately win the Southern Welterweight Title in 1967. Pellegrini retired in 1971 with a record of 28-12 (12 KO) after severely injuring his hand.”

In the 1960s, Pellegrini fought fellow New Orleanian Percy Pugh twice. The fights got lots of attention in the New Orleans area, selling out the venue where they took place – the Municipal Auditorium. Pugh won both fights by decision, but they were hard fought battles that established both fighters as boxing giants in the New Orleans area.

According to his obituary, “Pellegrini was born on May 9, 1944, to the late Alvin and Beatrice Pellegrini. Jerry is survived by his beloved wife of 59 years, Helen Donnelly Pellegrini. He was the proud father of Gerald Pellegrini II (Lisa), Kerry Pellegrini (Jeanine), Dawn Pellegrini, and Tara Pellegrini Roberts (Michael). His beautiful grandchildren are Gerald Pellegrini III, Kristen Pellegrini Crifasi (Joseph), Jourdin Pellegrini, Lauren Pellegrini Mancia (Oscar), Maycie Melerine, Rickey Melerine, Jobie Pellegrini, and Layla Roberts. His great-grandchildren are Karlie Marie, Robert Thomas, and the late Stella Lauren. Jerry is also survived by his sister Brenda Pellegrini Hernandez, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.”

Kenneth A. Zulli, Sr., The St. Bernard Parish Post’s founder said his family was very close to Pellegrinni.

“My father was a good friend,” said Zulli. “Mr. Jerry came around the house a lot when I was growing up. I remember coaching football and baseball against his grandson, Jourdin. When he tackled someone, you could hear it in the stands.”

Pellegrini was the subject of many “urban legions” in and around St. Bernard. One tells the story of a guy who thought he was as tough as anyone in the parish. His buddies dared him to go to Pellegrini’s house, knock on the door, and punch him in the face when he opened the door. He took the dare, went to Pellegrini’s house, and punched him in the face. Pellegrini chased the tough guy, beating on him as they went down the street. Luckily for the tough guy, Pellegrini had not yet turned pro or he might have really hurt him.

“Yeah, there are a lot of stories like that,” said Zulli. “All I can tell you is Mr. Jerry was a great guy. Always nice to us. He had a great reputation in St. Bernard and everywhere else. Just a really good guy, who loved his family and friends.”

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