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35 Years Later: Who Killed Howie Steindler, Inspiration for 'Rocky' Trainer?

On March 9, 1977, the boxing trainer from Encino was found murdered on the Ventura Freeway on the border of Studio City and North Hollywood.

He was a living legend in the boxing world, the man who inspired the character of Micky Goldmill, the elderly, tough-as-nails trainer with the gravelly voice played by actor Burgess Meredith in Sylvester Stallone's Rocky film series.

The character died of a heart attack in Rocky III shortly after whispering to Rocky, "I love you, kid."

Howie Steindler, the boxing trainer who inspired the character, didn't have as peaceful of an end to his life. Exactly 35 years ago on March 9, 1977, Steindler was kidnapped about a block from his Encino home, police believe, and was found beaten and smothered to death in the backseat of his 1976 Cadillac about an hour later. The car was parked on the Ventura Freeway on the border between Studio City and North Hollywood near the Laurel Canyon Boulevard exit.

To this day, no suspects have been identified.

For 30 years, Steindler ran the popular Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles where greats like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson had trained. Steindler was a larger-than-life character that despite his diminutive stature was known to be outspoken, brash and flashy. He was also buddies with a number of LAPD detectives and officers, according to the Los Angeles Times. In fact, on the day of his death, according to the Times, LAPD Sgt. Marvin Engquist stopped by the gym to say hello to Steindler. Later that same day, Engquist — who was assigned to the Major Crimes Section of the Robbery-Homicide Division — was called to the scene of Steindler's homicide.

According to the LAPD, the 72-year-old Steindler was last seen alive on March 9, 1977 around 7 p.m. about a block from his home on the 5300 block of Lindley Avenue in Encino. A witness told police she observed Steindler in a physical confrontation with two unidentified black males in their 20s or 30s.

According to the television show America's Most Wanted, which profiled the case in 2007, police believe Steindler was the victim of a "bump and run," and the witness said she saw a 1965 Comet or Rambler automobile parked erratically with its lights turned off in front of Steindler's Cadillac Seville, blocking a portion of the lane. 

According to police, the witness saw a man with a large build push Steindler into the back seat of the Cadillac while the other man got behind the wheel of the car and sped off.

A California Highway Patrol deputy discovered Steindler’s body within the hour. He had been robbed of cash, credit cards and jewelry, including a distinctive two-of-a-kind gold ring. See the LAPD blog for a closer look at the ring.

The city of Los Angeles has issued a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. According to the LAPD, Robbery-Homicide Division detectives assigned to the investigation believe that people in the community or people within the boxing industry may have information that may lead to the assailants. A composite sketch of one of the possible assailants is attached to this story.

"It has been written that Howie Steindler was the last of a breed. Sorry. He was an original," wrote L.A. Times sportswriter Allan Malamud.

Anyone with information on the killing is asked to contact Robbery-Homicide Detectives at 213-485-2129.


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