By: Rich Mancuso
Lee Samuels tells family, friends, and colleagues that a boxing publicist does not deserve recognition. As the lead publicist for Top Rank Boxing for 38 years, he has worked with the greats and witnessed some of the greatest championship fights. Sunday afternoon in the small town of Canastota New York, the newest inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame took it all in.
“Really, I am so thankful to be here, he said. “But I still don’t know how I got here. The fighters belong here.”
He was there with longtime promoter Don Elbaum, former champions Donald Curry, James “Buddy” McGirt, and with Teddy Atlas, the longtime trainer and former ESPN boxing analyst. They were also inducted as part of the class of 2019 as voted by members of the Boxing Writers Association and a committee.
Those who look at good guys in the sport said it was time for Lee Samuels to get the recognition. By all means this is the highest honor, the Hall of Fame, one of three publicists enshrined with Murray Goodman and Irving Rudd.
The first person that Lee Samuels reported to, after Bob Arum the Hall of Fame promoter hired him, was Irving Rudd. It has been a boxing journey many years later. On the same podium was a previous Hall of Fame inductee, Marvin Hagler, the first major assignment that Samuels handled as a publicist for his fight camp.
Arum hired Samuels in 1983 as the publicist when ESPN launched a venture with the new “Thursday Night Boxing Series.”
Now, many years later, the boxing business and the role of a publicist has changed. Top Rank as a company places a major emphasis on social media. Earlier this year, Samuels was reassigned to another role as Boxing Coordinator for Top Rank. He works side-by-side with the contenders and champions.
Samuels is still employed. He is thankful for that and continues with that heavy schedule of traveling with the hectic Top Rank calendar of events. He has accepted the change as to how boxing is covered. The South New Jersey native started this journey in 1964, Sports Editor with the Pennsville Progress in South Jersey. More newspapers followed, freelance work, and then Top Rank, all of this prior to serving in the U.S. National Guard for six years as a tank driver.
“I still have a job,” Samuels says.
Now at Top Rank events, Lee Samuels resembles that ambassador. They come over and say hello and that includes yours truly and some of the old school journalists.
He travels out of town with the staff at Top Rank. Usually that involves arriving six days before fight night and assuring that fighters are where they have to be for pre fight meetings with ESPN personnel, the final press conference, and the weight-in which has become a production.
Top Rank promotes more than 57 shows a year with their lucrative and extended deal with ESPN in this new wave of streaming fights to the fans. With their extended ESPN contract, there are more shows shown worldwide on the ESPN streaming Network.
“I’m honored to be in this group with all these great fighters and boxing figures,” he said. “Tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting this to be such a huge event and they do a great job here.”
And this was the second Hall of Fame induction. Late last year, Samuels was one of many of the new inductees into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. There is so much detail and one minute may not be sufficient. Samuels, though, after all these years in boxing is not one for the spotlight. Awards come and go and he is the last to expect one.
“So many friends over the years,” Samuels said. Top Rank has become his second family over the years.
The awards and recognition are deserved. He has traveled the globe and been at ringside for one super fight to another including that Mayweather-Pacquiao bout that reportedly is the richest fight on record.
Lee Samuels smiles and thanks each and everyone for their kind words. He was recognized twice with awards from the Boxing Writers Association. However, the biggest award is arriving home safe and being with his beloved wife, Mary.
Recently, he wrote a chronology about his journey and published it for his family.
He says, “From that very moment Mary Margaret and me and our dear family have been on an astounding journey.”
Yes, it has been a journey and highlighted at the Boxing Hall of Fame. Lee Samuels for weeks said, “ why me? The record speaks for itself and now those doors to the Hall of Fame are open for him along with the other greats of boxing.
Congratulations from this longtime colleague and others at Boxing Insider. See you at ringside!
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