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Best Moments from the 2019 IBHOF Induction Ceremony

Arne K. Lang

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The capstone of the annual Hall of Fame Weekend at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, a four-day event, is the ceremony for the new inductees. Eight new members were formally ushered into the Hall this year and the acceptance speeches of the seven living honorees were captured on YouTube.

Boxers (Modern Era)

James “Buddy” McGirt

Known for his high ring IQ, McGirt won world titles at 140 and 147 pounds and finished his career with a record of 73-6-1 (48 KOs). Five years after his final fight he was named Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, largely for his work with Arturo Gatti. As a trainer he has been associated with 11 world champions including Gatti, Vernon Forrest, Sergey Kovalev, and Antonio Tarver, the latter of whom was seated on the dais.

McGirt was the main event of sorts as he had the privilege of speaking last. A loud round of applause greeted him as he took the podium.

At times McGirt had difficulty keeping his composure as he was overwhelmed by the moment, especially when he reflected on the influence of his late mother, but of all the inductees he injected the most humor into his acceptance speech. He said that 30 years ago to this very day he had his first date with his wife who was there to share the moment with him. “I went from making out in a parking lot in Seacaucas, New Jersey, to making out at the Boxing Hall of Fame,” he quipped. “A woman who stays with a boxer even 30 days deserves a medal,” he added.

Donald Curry

The Lone Star Cobra was 34-6 (25 KOs). His heyday was brief but spectacular. “At the pinnacle of his career, Curry was as skilled as any fighter I ever saw in any weight division,” said the noted boxing historian Frank Lotierzo.

Reportedly 400-4 as amateur, Curry’s signature win was a brutal second round KO of Milton McCrory on June 12, 1985, at Caesars Palace. With that win he became the unified welterweight champion.

“I really don’t have words for this, but eventually they will come,” Curry reportedly said when informed that he had made the Hall after a lengthy wait. But the words never did come. He spent less than a minute at the podium but did manage to thank his longtime trainer Paul Reyes. His speech was thick.

Julian Jackson

A world title holder at 154 and 160 pounds, The Hawk was one of the hardest punchers of all time. He finished 55-6 with 49 knockouts in a 17-year career that began in 1981. He continues to work in boxing as a trainer and coach in his native Virgin Islands.

Jackson was accompanied to Canastota by many members of his large extended family and by a good-sized delegation of government officials from the U.S. Virgin Islands where he is a national hero.

Jackson compensated for Donald Curry’s brevity, as it were, with the longest speech of the afternoon. An ordained minister of an evangelical persuasion, his speech had two parts, the second part a sermon that he had undoubtedly delivered before, an inspirational talk that gave the ceremony the feel of a tent revival meeting. The gist was that a man must be willing to take risks, putting his trust in God for whom all things are possible. Promoter Don King was among those that Jackson thanked.

Boxer (Old-Timer)

Tony DeMarco

Born Leonardo Liotta in Boston’s North End, DeMarco (58-12-1, 33 KOs) won the world welterweight title on April 1, 1955, with a 14th round stoppage of Johnny Saxton. Before the year was out, he had two toe-to-toe wars with Carmen Basilio sandwiched around a first round stoppage of talented Chico Vejar. His second fight with Basilio was named Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine.

DeMarco was introduced by Al Valenti, the grandson of Hall of Fame promoter Anthony “Rip” Valenti. He noted that unlike other Boston sports heroes such as Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, and Larry Bird, DeMarco, the son of Sicilian immigrants, was actually born and raised in Boston which enhanced the affection the locals felt for him. DeMarco, noted Valenti, often walked back and forth to his engagements at Boston Garden where he fought 26 times. He was a true icon in Boston’s Italian-American community, said Valenti, who noted that there is a street named for DeMarco and a statue of him in Boston.

DeMarco, who worked as a security guard at the Massachusetts Statehouse after leaving the sport, spoke briefly. Now 87 years old, he seemed to be in very good shape for a man of his vintage. His wife was there and he made certain to have her stand up and take a bow.

Non-Participants

Guy Jutras

Montreal’s Jutras, who turned 87 (some say 88) in March, is a boxing lifer who has been involved in all facets of boxing including a 31-year career as a ringside judge during which he judged dozens of world championship fights involving many of the brightest stars in the sport.

In a rather curious speech, Jutras noted that there were a lot of unsavory characters in boxing at one time and credited the IBHOF, founded in 1989, for helping clean up the situation. “Some sources recognize that boxing (today) is one of the cleanest sports on earth,” said Jutras, a comment that drew a round of applause.

Lee Samuels

Known as one of the good guys in boxing, Samuels joined Top Rank as a publicist in 1983 after his paper, the Philadelphia Bulletin, went belly-up and he is still associated with Bob Arum’s organization today.

Samuels reflected that he first became captivated by boxing after listening to Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) fight Doug Jones on the radio. He was hired by Arum to assist in promoting a series of ESPN Thursday Night fights. Several years later he spent three months with Marvin Hagler at Hagler’s training camp in Palm Springs where Hagler prepared for his date with Sugar Ray Leonard. He then performed the same role for Donald Curry. It pleased Samuels greatly that both Hagler and Curry were on the dais with him.

Samuels thanked all of his Top Rank colleagues, acknowledged his late mentor, legendary publicist Irving Rudd, and gave a shout out to MGM Grand publicist Scott Ghertner, a frequent collaborator.

Don Elbaum

One of the last of the Runyonesque characters in boxing, Elbaum, who won’t reveal his age, promoted his first fight at age 17 and is as frisky as ever now that he’s in his eighties. He is thought to have participated in more than a thousand fights (mostly club fights in Pennsylvania and New Jersey) as a promoter, co-promoter, and/or matchmaker.

Elbaum related that he was first drawn into boxing at age seven when an uncle took him to a show in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Willie Pep was in the main event and he couldn’t take his eyes off him. “He made beautiful music,” said Elbaum, whose mother was a concert pianist.

In 1963, Elbaum, who grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, took Erie’s Johnny Bizzarro to Manila to fight unified junior lightweight champion Flash Elorde. Bizzarro lost but went the full 15 against a fighter that Elbaum said was better than Manny Pacquiao.

Elbaum noted that he has known Teddy Atlas for 30 years and said “it’s a shame and a disgrace and an embarrassment to the fans that Teddy is not back on the air.” This drew a hearty round of applause.

Observer

Teddy Atlas

Atlas, who needs no introduction, was recognized as an “observer,” a category set aside for “journalists, photographers, artists, and screenwriters.” Perhaps equally well known as a trainer, he coached Michael Moorer and Timothy Bradley, among others, to world titles, and currently works with lineal light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk. As a TV commentator he has covered the last five Olympiads. In addition, the Staten Island resident is a noted philanthropist.

The classy Atlas noted that 300 or so volunteers help make Hall of Fame Weekend in Canastota a special occasion and he started by acknowledging their efforts. Many of Atlas’s behind-the-scenes TV colleagues made the trek to Canastota to support him and he thanked them.

As would be true of Buddy McGirt, Atlas choked up when he acknowledged his wife and children. His work, he noted, often kept him away at special moments in their lives such as graduations, birthdays, and even one Christmas, and he expressed his gratitude that their bond was never ruptured.

Mario Rivera Martino

Martino died in 2017 at age 93 and was inducted posthumously. A U.S. Army veteran who spent his formative years in New York City, Martino returned to his native Puerto Rico where he lived the last six decades of his life, working as a boxing correspondent and ultimately serving as the President of the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission.

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 7-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Ramirez-Postol, Taylor-Serrano and More

Arne K. Lang

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It takes a strong constitution to be a boxing promoter because things always go wrong. The only law that governs boxing is Murphy’s Law.

Carl Frampton’s first fight under the Top Rank banner was slated for Aug. 10 of last year in Philadelphia. With the fight five days away, Frampton suffered a freak injury while sitting in a hotel lobby. A boy playing behind a curtain knocked over a seven-foot pillar which fell on Frampton’s left hand, fracturing it.

This was the second time that a Frampton fight was knocked out by a freak injury. Two years earlier, a homecoming fight in Belfast had to be scrapped when Frampton’s opponent, Andres Gutierrez, slipped in the shower in his hotel on the eve of the battle and suffered severe facial injuries.

The latest bout to fall out because of an odd development is Jose Ramirez’s Feb. 2 WBC/WBO lightweight title defense against Viktor Postol at a Chinese golf resort south of Hong Kong. The event fell victim to the coronavirus, more exactly the fear it has instilled.

The virus, which produces flu-like symptoms that are resistant to conventional antibiotics, apparently originated at an outdoor food market in the city of Wuhan where live animals are sold. The numbers vary with each new story, but according to one account there have been 444 confirmed cases in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital city, and 653 cases worldwide including two in the United States, a man in his 30’s living near Seattle and a Chicago woman in her 60’s.

The fear of a pandemic (an epidemic becomes a pandemic when it spreads across multiple geographic regions of the world) has led to some drastic measures. The Chinese government has reportedly put 12 cities on lockdown, blocking traffic in and out. At many airports, visitors arriving from China are being screened. There are now thermal cameras than can record a person’s body temperature remotely.

Jose Ramirez (pictured with his promoter Bob Arum) was scheduled to leave for China yesterday (Jan. 23) but was intercepted. Viktor Postol is already there and apparently stranded until an outgoing flight can be arranged.

The Ramirez-Postol fight was to air on ESPN. No make-up date has been set.

– – –

British promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s close to finalizing a fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Hearn says the fight will take place in the U.S. in April. It figures that Madison Square Garden is the frontrunner.

If the fight comes off on schedule, this will be the biggest women’s fight in history!

That’s because the odds attached to the fight figure to be in the “pick-‘em” range and that guarantees that boxing writers and others in the boxing community will be surveyed to get their picks – about which there figures to be considerable disagreement – and that will greatly enhance the pre-fight buzz.

Taylor, 33, last fought in November in Manchester, England, advancing her record to 15-0 (6 KOs) with a unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou, a fighter from Greece via the Dominican Republic. It was Taylor’s first fight at 140 after previously unifying the lightweight title with a hard-fought decision over Belgium’s Delfine Persoon.

Amanda Serrano, a 31-year-old southpaw, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, has won titles in five weight divisions. She last fought as a featherweight, turning away gritty Heather Hardy, but has competed as high as 140. Boasting a 37-1-1 record, she’s won 23 straight, 18 by stoppage, 10 in the opening round

What sets women boxers apart from their male counterparts is that the women have a significantly lower knockout ratio. Amanda Serrano is the glaring exception.

Despite a less eye-catching record, Taylor has arguably fought the stiffer competition considering her extensive amateur background. As a pro, her victims include Cindy Serrano, Amanda’s older sister by six years. Taylor whitewashed her in a match at Boston Garden, prompting the elder Serrano sister to call it a career.

– – –

The most bizarre (non)story to appear in a boxing web site this week involved former unified heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. A man representing Bowe, identified as Eli Karabell, was frustrated because Eddie Hearn wasn’t returning his calls. Karabell had offered Hearn the right of first refusal on Bowe’s next fight.

Bowe, now 51 years old, last fought in a boxing ring in 2008 when he returned to the sport after a three-and-half year absence for an 8-round bout in Germany. In 2013, he appeared in a kickboxing fight in Thailand where he was stopped in the second round after being knocked down five times by leg kicks.

“Will there be another chapter to write for Bowe?” concluded the author of this piece.

Egads, let’s hope not.

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