Gene LeBell has been involved with wrestling nearly his entire life. He grew up in Los Angeles, where his family ran the local boxing and wrestling programs. He won two national AAU judo titles in the 1950s and excelled as an amateur wrestler. He turned professional in 1955 and captured numerous titles, including the North America’s title, the Hawaiian Championship and, for a very brief time, the world heavyweight title.
But Gene is best known for his incredible martial arts background. He has written numerous books on the martial arts aspect of wrestling and on self-defense techniques. He is one of the world’s best-known martial artists and is a member of the Black Belt magazine hall of fame.
In 1976, Gene was chosen by Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki to serve as the referee for their mixed martial arts match seen on live circuit TV around the world.
In the 1960s, Gene entered the world of movies and became a highly-regarded stuntman and stunt coordinator. He has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Clint Eastwood, Steven Seagal and many others. He has worked nearly 1,000 movies – including “Enter The Dragon,” “Walking Tall,” and “Every Which Way But Loose.”
The Frank Gotch Award is given annually to a person who has brought positive recognition to the sport of wrestling and Judo Gene LeBell has done that for decades, on many levels.