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Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame: DiLiberto an unusual two-sport star

Danny DiLiberto may have the strangest combination of talents you've ever heard.

Top-notch boxer and world-class billiards player? That's before mentioning his success locally bowling, as he has a 300 game under his belt.

"I never liked 9-5 work," said DiLiberto, often known as Danny D.

The renaissance man started his athletic career in the ring, training with Angelo Dundee, famous for his work with Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. DiLiberto lived up to Dundee's pedigree, finishing with an undefeated 14-0-2 record with 12 knockouts as a lightweight.

DiLiberto, who boxed out of Miami, says he never lost a fight inside or outside the ring.

"I was skinny," DiLiberto said. "I looked like I couldn't do anything, but I knocked people out."

Danny DiLiberto, a Buffalo native and Canisius High School graduate, won nine world titles as a billiards player. (Buffalo News file photo)

A Canisius High graduate, DiLiberto credits his schooling for his success.

"When you go to school and you take four years of Latin, at the time you say, 'What in the world is this?'" DiLiberto said. "It's exercise for the mind, like weightlifting for your body. I was just smarter than the people I fought.

"I thought I could beat any lightweight in the world, and I still believe that. I'm 83 now, but I remember it like it was yesterday."

His boxing career was cut short after breaking his hands. His right he broke four times and his left twice, which he said is because of how hard he punched. That's when he turned to billiards, a trade he'd practiced since he was young on the West Side.

"I liked to compete," DiLiberto said. "I competed my whole life. I went into the pool with that attitude."

DiLiberto worked his way up the ladder, winning the Buffalo City Championship and the New York State Championship in the 1960's.

In 1972, he went on the world stage. DiLiberto won the Tournament of Champions and named the World All-Around Champion in Johnston City, Ill. The performance thrust him into the national spotlight and eventually earned him a Sports Illustrated feature in 1977.

"It was like going to college," DiLiberto said. "I learned a lot. ... I played and beat the best players who ever lived."

By the end of his career he'd won nine world titles in all four of pool's major disciplines. After retiring, he's stayed in the game as a commentator for the past 20 years, travelling around the county for Accu-Stats Video Production. Earlier this week he returned from an eight-day trip to Norfolk, Virginia for the U.S. Open.

"Quite frankly in today's world, you look at him and say, 'Wow, he was one of the last true roadies,'" said Carl Galante, who started Classic Cue Billiards, now in Depew, with DiLiberto in May 1985. "You're on an adventure, never knowing when that next check is coming the next month. That's the gamble for certain people."

Danny DiLiberto (front row, left to right) is joined by Willie "Hutch" Jones and Jodi Hollander-Correa (representing her sister Sandra Hollander) along with Charles O'Brien (back row, left to right), Micheal Peca and Stacey Schroeder-Watt at the introductory press conference for this year's 2017 Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame inductees. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

DiLiberto has the hall of fame induction routine down. He's is a member of the Billiards Congress of America Hall of Fame, the One Pocket Hall of Fame, the Straight Pool Hall of Fame and the Ring 44 Buffalo Boxing Hall of Fame.

Wednesday night, he adds the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame to the list.

"It's my hometown and I'm so proud and happy to be in it," DiLiberto said. "I lived in Florida for 50 years and I traveled from there, but I came back to Buffalo 10 years ago. ... I don't even mind freezing in the winter."

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