Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame Celebration a Big Success!
By: Ken Hissner
Ray McCline’s idea of creating the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame was a big success over the weekend. Especially on Sunday night with 24 inductee’s before a large crowd at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City!
Master of Ceremonies was the New Jersey Hall of Fames President Henry Hascup who did an excellent job. There were some excellent acceptances starting with legendary matchmaker Don Elbaum’s stories. He has worked in over a thousand shows over the years. “This is incredible. My mentor J Russell Peltz is here and the man I got started Don King!” He went onto say how Jimmy Carter was running for president at the time and how King called him Jimmy and Carter called King “President!” In King’s hometown of Cleveland Carter won big taking not only the black vote but the Jewish vote. King took credit for both! He brought in then Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) for an exhibition to help a children’s hospital.
Hascup first brought up Mike Hall, Jr. whose father Mike was being inducted. He trained world champion Virgil Hill amongst others. This writer saw him earlier and said “it’s good to see you are still alive” not knowing I was talking to the deceased’s son. Another Atlantic City native Bill Johnson came forth whose brother Leavander was the IBF lightweight champion winning in Italy and passed away shortly after a battle in NV losing his title but going out like a warrior! “My brother loved the sport and the people involved with it,” said Johnson. Hascup said “Leavander gave his life for the sport!”
Althea Saunders sang the national anthem. She is still an active boxer from Atlantic City. As expected Larry “The Easton Assasin” didn’t show and “Iron” Mike Tyson didn’t either but was seen via video accepting his induction from AZ. Inductee Ken Condon known for his PPV work talked about being in Barbados when he left his wife upstairs to go downstairs in the hotel to watch Spinks-Holmes II. It caused an obvious argument he said.
Michael Spinks drew the most attention afterwards signing autographs, getting pictures taken by many fans of his and being interviewed. Press members included AC Press writer David Weinberg, John DiSanto of Philly Boxing History, Bernard Fernandez formerly with the Philadelphia News, Joe
Sangrito formerly of Ring Magazine, Frank Bartolini of the Rinaldi Brothers newspaper, Marc Abrams and his beautiful wife, with Abrams doing an excellent job with the PR work for the event. Keebler Media was taping the event and this writer representing Boxing Insider.
Representing his father Lou Duva was Dino Duva still an active manager saying “today would have been my father’s 95th birthday.” Duva put on the first world title bout in Atlantic City with Joey Giardello fighting Dick Tiger. “My father always said never forget your roots,” said Duva.
Accepting for the absent Holmes was one of “Smoking” Joe Frazier’s daughters Weatta.
An emotional wife and daughter of the head physician in Atlantic City was none other than Dr. Frank Doggett. “He graduated from Howard Universities Medical School in 1948 and was chief surgeon for the Atlantic Police and Fireman. He referred to the boxers as his boxers. If he was here he would simply say thank you.”
Nicoli the artist was on hand showing a portrait of Don King which went up for bid with no takers. One of the VP’s of the board who did the electing was Rodnick Green VP Strategy & Business Development for the ACBHOF who proclaimed how another well-known inductee Steve “Double S” Smoger who was inducted into the IBHOF in 2016 helped the kids at the AC PAL! Smoger known to be one of the best speakers in the business talked about how Elbaum ran weekly shows at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino for five years and how he worked many of them as a referee. He has received many awards and is one of the best of all time.
Fan and press favorite writer Jack “KO” Obermayer who passed away approximately a year ago was well represented by Freddy Blumstein one of the best timekeepers in the business who said “my wife curses the day I met KO because I am away from home so much.” Eric Bottjer one of the best well known matchmakers in the business called Obermayer his best friend. Obermayer’s daughter and his partner Darlene, who flew in from Wyoming, saying “he was the love of my life!”
Roy Foreman another VP who managed his brother George and who lives in the area and is now promoting shows in Houston, TX, was well received by the audience saying “without the boxers we wouldn’t be here!”
Mustafa Ameen spoke in behalf of inductee Matthew Saad Muhammad how the nuns found him on the Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway at the age of 4 left there by his brother at his mother’s request due to having too many kids. Saad’s adopted brother Joe Johnson was in attendance. Ameen talked how Saad put up a 10k award if anyone would come forward telling him who would know anything about his identity. As it turned out someone did and told him his real name was Antonio Loach. They appeared on Good Morning America and Saad was not too fond of being called Antonio. Ameem talked of Saad’s religion of being a Muslim. When Saad passed away there was a funeral at a mosque and then at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Saad told me personally during an interview “I’m no longer a Muslim.”
Elbaum spoke how he got King into the business as the first black promoter and took him to New York introducing him to Madison Square Garden’s promoter and matchmaker. King said “they are all white!” Elbaum told him “don’t say that again for we are all Americans adding Kings famous known phrase Only In America!” Elbaum went onto say how Tropicana gave him a two year contract, living quarters and agreed to run every Tuesday night.
Current NJ Commissioner of boxing Larry Hazzard, Sr. did an excellent job speaking of how he spent 13 years in the amateurs working as a referee and becoming one of the tops in the world and becoming commissioner. After leaving office the current governor of NJ Chris Christy brought Hazzard back for his old job.
Smoger talked about starting out as a timekeeper from 1978 to 1982 and starting to ref in 1984 and becoming the referee in a world title fight just two years later. He said how he worked shows for Peltz, King, Frank Gelb and Duva. He gave a large amount of credit to Deputy Commissioner Bob Lee who couldn’t make the event. “He treated me like gold,” said Smoger. He also gave a lot of credit and would expect the next induction to be the then commissioner and former heavyweight champion “Jersey” Joe Walcott. He went onto say except for referee Pat Russell he was the longest serving referee in the country.
Former world light heavyweight champion Mike “The Jewish Bomber” Rossman accepted his award and walked off the stage without saying a word. He had his Local 30 Roofers jacket on and the roofers bought 40 tickets.
Dave Bontempo another inductee spoke well and how ESPN recruited him from AC and how the game has changed since the Atlantic City Press had him cover boxing. He went onto say how boxers like Bennie Serrano became well known fighting at the Tropicana for Elbaum. He added it was 20 years ago today he met his wife Suzie and being married for 32 years.
Peltz, a well-known matchmaker and promoter as well as being one of the few promoters doing his own matchmaking spoke as well as anyone at the podium. He ran shows while attending Temple University at the age of 22 in 1969 and brought in “Bad” Bennie Briscoe on his first show. He said “we didn’t need any med’s in those days only a boxer with a heartbeat or without.” How in 1970 he brought in IBHOF trainer George Benton to headline a show and paid him 1k while the show itself cost $800 to run prior to this. Benton’s manager insisted Benton’s return but Benton was not to be found at the gym he trained so Peltz got another headliner. When Benton showed up with his old yellow suitcase weeks before the event Peltz told him he was replaced because he wasn’t ever in the gym. Benton called his manager Gramby who got Peltz on the phone and said “isn’t your word good enough?”
Peltz remembered that and once brought in Gramby’s prize attraction heavyweight Tex Cobb to headline. He was to get 20k but got a bigger offer of 500k from MSG and Peltz reminded him of “isn’t your word any good?” Cobb fought for Peltz. Peltz said Cobb once said “I didn’t lose to Larry Holmes, I just lost the first 15 rounds.”
Gelb talked about how over 500 shows were run in AC from 1982-85 and how “Russell stole half of my stories.” Gelb’s sons were also in attendance. He said “when the NFL went on strike NBC decided to put on boxing in its place and how inductee Arturo Gatti sold out the Boardwalk Hall six consecutive times. Gatti’s beautiful daughter Sophia was there who was 3 when her father passed away. She spoke well of her father and how blessed she was to have him for a father.
King gave credit to Arthur Goldberg as “his boss who called King the light of the boardwalk starting him off at Bally’s.”
Chuck Zito formerly a Hell’s Angel’s biker accepted for Gatti. “He fought here 23 times and got Fighter of the Year from Ring Magazine 5 times. Bill Johnson talked about his brother winning his first 23 (including a draw) fights. “My oldest son’s wanted to box and the youngest was Leavander.
Former world heavyweight champion Bruce “Atlantic City Express” Seldon and Qawi were two who learned to box at the PAL.
Former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi said “someone saw my work on the streets of Camden and fought with their fists, no guns.” Spinks who defeated him along with being the first present light heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight title from Holmes thanked his Lord and Savior. The Lord worked through me and gave him all the honor and glory.
Hazzard had played the part in the Ali movie of Zack Clayton. He thanked McCline and Foreman and gave thanks to his wife Patricia along with their family. “She married me and the sport of boxing,” said Hazzard. “We had 3 fights in one day by USA Boxing, CBS all at different places like the Tropicana and the Boardwalk. Hazzard went on to say “it was better to stop a fight a little early than too late.”
Lindsay Tucker of the IBF spoke in accepting Lee’s award who was President of the first IBF with Tucker saying “Bob couldn’t make it tonight but was elated.”
King would be the final speaker giving one of his shortest speeches. “I started in Atlantic City in 1972 thanks to Elbaum. We had 8 world title bouts in Atlantic City promoted for and about the people. I started at the top with Ali,” said King. He said how current President Donald Trump helped him and what a great job he is doing now as President.
Current mayor Don Guardian spoke to close the event.
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