By: Ken Hissner
The third Annual Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held at The Claridge a Radisson hotel Sunday in Atlantic City, NJ.
There were 19 inductees and Master of Ceremony Samad Haq did a fantastic job introducing participants and honoring the inductees. The President of the NJB HOF Henry Hascup was one of those being honored. He gave a moment of reflection called “9 Count Bell Ringing”. When someone well-known in the boxing business passes it is common for the timekeeper to give a “10 count” once the ring announcer makes the announcement.
What Hascup gave is the 9 Count because they may be gone but not forgotten giving one less ring of the bell. Hascup is the best Historian this writer has known and has been helpful whether it’s his over 100 win club or my over 100 loss club.
Opening the even was the son of top cut-man and PT comedian Joey Eye’s son Nicky Eye doing a great version of the National Anthem. It brought down the house how this big voice out of this 11 year-old (?) kid performed.
Welcoming remarks were done by ACB HOF President Ray McCline who like Hascup has done a bang up job. For the many things Hascup had to say about his career he pointed to his wife and said “that’s the best thing that ever happened to me. We were both single parents of 4 kids with a Siberian Huskey when we met.”
Hascup was one of nine inducted from the Non-Participants. They started with MSG Matchmaker Bobby Goodman who this writer met at the then Cherry Hill, NJ, home of Muhammad Ali in 1973 after Ali’s first fight with Ken Norton. Goodman represented Norton and knew Ali well. I was some fan ringing the doorbell when I was let in.
Former referee and boxing commissioner Tony Orlando, Jr., was next. No, not the singer. Stan Hoffman followed and was one of those “jack of all trades” in boxing. Next the former editor of Ring Magazine and now working with ESPN was Nigel Collins. He even acknowledged boxing writer Jeff Jowett who was at the event and his long gone sidekick Jack “KO” Obermayer. World traveled boxing judge Tom Kaczmarek followed Hoffman.
When it was time for PA Boxing commissioner and official of the IBF Jimmy Binns, Sr. and boxing manager Ronald “Butch” Lewis to be introduced fellow writer Dave Ruff who was wheelchair bound and I were going to the men’s room that initself was an adventure we found out earlier from 5pm to 6pm during the press having a meeting. The hotel people were great but the old hotel was poorly designed for the handicap and others staying there. We had to go down four floors to the lobby. One of the elevators didn’t even have a “4” on it so we got escorted back to the event.
We were back in time for Hascup and current NJ Boxing Commissioner and IBHOF referee inductee Larry Hazzard, Sr. to introduce his “right hand woman Rhonda Utley – Herring being inducted who is one of those “behind the scene’s person’s you couldn’t do that you do without. They both had complementary “jabs” for one another.
In the Participant category were trainer and cut-men Ace Marotta and English “Bouie” Fisher. Both being deceased had their relatives introducing accepting their awards. Marotta was best known for keeping Duva Promotions boxers in the fight. Fisher for what he did for the career of Bernard Hopkins and others.
Wrapping the inductees up were nine fighters. Atlantic City lightweight John “Eastern Beast” Brown, 24-19-2 (11), who didn’t want to leave the stage but being he said “I didn’t care if my opponent was overweight I was fighting him” so no-one messed with him. NABF Middleweight champion Kevin “Killer” Watts, 23-7-1 (9), out of Pleasantville, NJ, followed Brown. He gave an outstanding speech in accepting his award.
One of the most notable people to receive his induction was two-time heavyweight champion WBC and WBA “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon, 55-13-1 (38), of Philadelphia. He impressed all giving a talk from the heart how there are many former boxing people who are down on their luck and how it’s needed to form together a group to help support them getting back on their feet. Former boxers Alex Ramos and Gerry Cooney have had groups in the past do such a thing. Both Ruff and I agreed it was a main point of the event. Prior to the event coming off the elevator Witherspoon rushed over giving Ruff a hug.
Next up was super lightweight “Irish” Micky Ward, 38-13 (27), who though out of Lowell, MASS, brought such an ovation with the NJ fans and fans worldwide remembering his three classic battles with the late NJ 2-division world champion Arturo “Thunder” Gatti that eventually brought a great friendship between the two. Many fans came down from New England to support Ward. He mentioned “We would bring down a busload of people ad there were more fights on the bus than at the event,” said Ward.
Then came 3-division (middle, super middle and light heavy) world champion Iran “Blade” Barkley, 43-19-1 (27), of the Bronx, NY. This fighter defeated Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns twice! One of his most notable “wars” was with one of the next inductee’s four division (lightweight, welter, light middle and middleweight) world champion Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, 103-16 (70), of Panama. He really didn’t need an introduction but it was made clear by his introduction he was the most love boxer ever in Panama. This writer remembers when he came to Philadelphia to fight. At “Smokin” Joe Frazier’s Gym you had to see it to believe it how the man could skip rope.
Between Barkley and Duran was IBHOF inductee 2-division world champion Virgil “Quicksilver” Hill, Sr., 51-7 (24) who was not able to be at his induction.
Wrapping up the last inductee was former was 2-division world champion Philadelphia’s Bernard “The Executioner/The Alien” Hopkins, 55-8-2 (32). The talk he gave starting with going to prison and having his mother he loved dearly have to go into her purse to dig out what little money she had at the time to help him out. By the end of his speech he won over everyone including this writer. I saw another side of Hopkins. He discussed the hard work one had to do to get to the top. He is now a highly regarded executive with Golden Boy Promotions.
Helping out with bringing the inductees on and off stage was long-time friend the beautiful (inside and out) Cathy Lebron who also works with Kings Promotions out of Reading, PA.
It was a memorable night for Ruff and I talking to Witherspoon, Cruiserweight champion Al “Ice” Cole, heavyweight champion “Merciless” Ray Mercer and 2-division world champion Michael Spinks. We look forward to the fourth ACB HOF event.