By Jackie Kallen
If you are a boxing fan, the place to be this weekend was Atlantic City. Resorts Casino hosted a lavish boxing gala that gave awards to dozens of legendary names in the boxing world. From judges, to referees to promoters, the list of honorees was endless. By the time they got to the fighters themselves, the crowd was snapping away like crazy with their cameras and iphones.
Photos Credit: Paul Prince
The evening started with a red carpet photo spot where everyone stopped to get photograpged by the many professional photographers on hand. For me, it was like a high school reunion. After 34 years in this business, I know most of the people who attended and it was great to see everyone.
One of the first to arrive was former WBC/WBO Super-bantamweight champ Junior Jones. Now shaved bald, I barely recognized him. My mind immediately went back to the night in 1997 when he beat Marco Antonio Barrerra in Vegas to earn the WBO belt. He gave us all a lot of thrilling moments in his 56 fight career.
Former IBF Heavyweight champ Michael Spinks looked as fit as he did 20 years ago. Hard to believe he is now almost 56 years old. He graciously signed autographs and posed for photos with fans.
Al “Ice” Cole, former IBF Cruiserweight champ, looked dazzling in a suit and matching fedora. It was like old times as he greeted friends like Mark Breeland, Ray Mercer and Bruce Seldon. Dwight Qawi drew a crowd as he walked in, sporting a cane and bright white suit. Jimmy Lange from the Contender was also there.
I was happy to run into Dave Tiberi, a former James Toney opponent who lost a controversial decision to Toney in 1992 at the Taj Mahal in AC. The outcome of that fight spurred a senate investigation and made Tiberi retire from the sport. Now, 20 years later, we discussed it with smiles instead of rancor. Time does heal most wounds.
Always drawing a crowd, Don King, held court with his sparkling bling and many flags waving. A fan favorite, he greeted people with smiles as everyone shouted out “Only in America!” as he passed through the crowd.
The family of the late Joe Frazier was on hand and daughter Jacqui and son Marvis were hugged by nearly everyone as they accepted condolences over their father’s death last November. It was evident just how loved Smokin’ Joe was.
Famed referee Steve Smoger seemed to be having a great time as he smiled at Philly promoter Russell Peltz and HBO judge Harold Lederman. Old-timers like Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts and Jeff Chandler still looked great and so did former IBF Junior Welter champ Meldrick Taylor. Hard to believe Taylor hasn’t been in the ring in a decade. It seems like just a couple of years ago when he fought Julio Cesar Chavez in Vegas. It was the Ring magazine “Fight of the Year” in 1990.
Personally, I was delighted to run into former IBF Light Heavyweight champ Bobby Czyz. I was sitting ringside in Atlantic City in 1985 when he beat a friend of mine–Murray Sutherland. Czyz still looks handsome enough to still be called “Matinee Idol”even though he’ll be 50 years old this year.
After usually seeing these guys in boxing trunks or warm-ups, it was so nice to see everyone in suits and ties. Boxers are a sharp-looking group to begin with, but when they are dressed up, their GQ side shines through.
The highlight of the evening was when Mike Tyson walked in. Next to Muhamad Ali, there is no greater attraction in our sport. No one else commands the attention that Iron Mike does. People are drawn to him like moths to light. It must be tiring for him. Everyone wants a glimpse, a picture, a handshake,or an autograph. Surrounded by his entourage, he is not the easiest guy to get to. That’s probably the way it has to be, or he’d never have time to eat his dinner or talk to his kids.
Over-all, the City of Atlantic City, Mayor Lorenzo Langford, the Resorts Casino and all the people involved put together an amazing night. They promise to throw another gala next year, so mark it on your calendar. It will no doubt be another night to remember.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen