Judge Panella was delighted at the turnout. "You all showed up for me. I can't thank you enough."
Of all the luminaries, two stood out. Larry Holmes, the former heavyweight boxing champion known as The Easton Assassin, is still a giant of a man. He's impossible to miss. He was tending bar and sneaking drinks while his wife's back was turned. Sitting at the bar was none other than Smokin' Joe Frazier, who brought his devastating left hook from the City of Brotherly Love.
When Larry got up to introduce Judge Panella, he mentioned that he was once Smokin' Joe's sparring partner. "Joe broke my ribs. I didn't even know it. But I got my revenge. I beat up his son." (Holmes pummeled Marvis Frazier in a 1983 title bout). At this point, Frazier made his way to the podium, but since Don King was nowhere to be found, there was no fight.
When Panella first decided to be a judge, he mentioned his interest to his client, Larry Holmes. Larry was none too thrilled. "What the heck are you thinking? We won't be able to go to the bars or hang out anymore." But he ended up liking the idea, noting the similarities between a Lehigh Valley judicial candidate and heavyweight boxer. "You're going to get hell beat out of you and people will say you can't do it. But I did it. Not by myself. I can't do it myself. And neither can Jack."
After all the introductions, Judge Panella finally spoke for himself. For the first time, I saw the passion he hides so well on the bench. He talked about his parents. His dad, a big man, supported his family by rolling carpets, hard physical labor. After being stricken with a heart attack on the job, workmen comp "experts" persuaded a referee that his father was fine. Three months later, he was dead. Jack also mentioned his mom, who was there to see her son. Every day on his way to school, he would stop by his mom's shop to say hi, and was nearly always knocked over by the heat in which she was forced to work to make other people rich.
"Someone has to be there to protect your rights and to protect your access to the judiciary. If you want to know why I'm here, that's why I'm running for this job."
If Round One is any indication, Judge Panella is on his way to a knock out. His web page, Vote Jack Panella, is now up and running.
(Incidentally, if you've never been to Larry's restaurant, check it out. All the boxing memorabilia, by itself, makes the trip worth it.)