"He was one of our great local boys in boxing," said Bobby Lee, an adviser with the Hawaii State Boxing Commission. "At his time, he was one of the saviors of boxing locally."
"He kept boxing alive here," said his long-time trainer, Tad Kawamura. "He had fought every contender, every rated guy in his time. He had the most fights of anyone in the state of Hawaii."
Harrington was the top draw in 1965 when he beat Robinson, the aging former middleweight and welterweight champion of the world, twice at the Honolulu International Center Arena.
Although Harrington never held the world title, he fought the best middleweights of his time. Among his more than 60 professional bouts were victories over Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Jimmy Lester, Denny Moyer, Paddy DeMarco, Virgil Akins and Gaspar Ortega.
Harrington lost to Emile Griffith, Don Fullmer and Hurricane Kid. But as in many of his bouts, Harrington invariably won the rematch, beating Hurricane Kid and Ortega twice after losing the first time. He also split with Joey Miceli, winning a rematch.
The rugged Harrington, who was known for his punching prowess, had more than 100 fights as an amateur before turning professional in 1953. Growing up in Palama, he was a standout football player for Farrington High School.
Of Irish, Hawaiian and English extraction, Harrington became a meal ticket for the late Sad Sam Ichinose's Boxing Enterprises, which held promotions at the old Civic Auditorium and then the new HIC, now known as Blaisdell Center. Harrington sold out the old Civic on King Street numerous times, including once with a one-punch knockout of Eddie Pace.
He had a face once described as being run over by an "HRT bus." But he never suffered the after effects of boxing.
"He didn't talk much, but he remained the same all through his life," said Kawamura, who talked to Harrington several days before he died. The fighter, whose parents died when he was 8, called Kawamura, "my father."
Harrington never hung around to get punch drunk. He retired at age 34 in March, 1967. He was diagnosed as having a heart condition. But it wasn't that, according to Kawamura.
"It was just time to quit. He knew it."
And Harrington told Kawamura before he died that he knew it was time for that, too, when doctors said the cancer in his body was inoperable.
Harrington, who had moved to Florida from San Francisco about 10 years ago, is survived by his second wife, Diane, and their two children.