This past weekend, the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame (NYSBHOF) held its first induction ceremony since 2019, taking a year away from festivities because of the pandemic.
It felt great—for all involved—to be back.
The event was held at the magnificent Russo’s on the Bay catering facility in Howard Beach, Queens, where the event has been held since the first year of NYSBHOF inductions in 2012.
That year, such living legends as Jake LaMotta, Carlos Ortiz, Vito Antuofermo, Jimmy Glenn, Harold Lederman and Steve Acunto, among others, were inducted before a boisterous, packed room.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions in NYC, a cap was put on the number of guests the facility allowed. Bob Duffy, the longtime President of the NYSBHOF, estimates there were 350 people in attendance.
Awards are given out in four categories:
The six living inductees in the Participant category were, alphabetically: former light heavyweight contender Jorge Ahumada; former Jr. Lightweight champion Alfredo Escalera; former Jr. Lightweight contender Freddie “Pitbull” Liberatore: former middleweight contender Dennis Milton; former heavyweight contender Lou Savarese; and one-time top super middleweight/light heavyweight Merqui Sosa.
There were six Participants selected for induction in the Posthumous category, the same amount as in the living Participants. They were Soldier Bartfield; Steve Belloise; Jimmy Goodrich; Heavyweight Tami Mauriello; Former Junior Middleweight champ Davey Moore; and Freddie Welch.
The nine living Non-Particpants were, alphabetically: Judge Don Ackerman; journalist Bobby Cassidy Jr.; Journalist Jack Hirsch; International Agent/broker/consultant Rick Glaser; Announcer Max Kellerman; NYSAC doctor William Lathan; Judge Julie Lederman; Former fighter/referee/journalist Ron Lipton; and former fighter/trainer Kevin Rooney.
There were seven Non-Participants inducted in the Posthumous category. They were: Journalist Lester Bromberg; Underground publisher Malcolm “Flash” Gordon; Journalist A.J. Liebling; Journalist Dan Daniel; Gym owner Bobby Gleason; former NYSAC Deputy Commissioner Tony Mazzarella; and Journalist Dan Morgan.
Of the six living Participants, two couldn’t make it. They were Jorge Ahumada and Alfredo Escalera. Because of travel restrictions, Ahumada (from Argentina) and Escalera (from Puerto Rico) would have been placed on COVID lockdown and quarantine on both sides of their journey, making a normally rather simple trip into NYC quite difficult.
Amongst the nine Non-Participants, four (Don Ackerman, Julie Lederman, Max Kellerman and Kevin Rooney) ran into health-related or personal issues which prevented their attendance. Sadly, Dr. William Lathan passed away in 2021, months after he was voted in by the NYSBHOF Selection Committee.
The afternoon’s festivities begins with a huge, magnificent Brunch, which includes everything from freshly-made Omelettes, Waffles, Pancakes, fresh fruit, to lattes, cappuccinos, espresso, champagne, beer and liquor.
Then, guests are asked to find their seats. When they are settled, the inductees are announced one by one, seated on a raised dais. This was done by golden-throated Henry Hascup, who, among other things, is President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, a Ring 8 Executive Board Member and a member of the NYSBHOF Selection Committee.
Hascup shared Master of Ceremony duties with popular ring announcer David Diamante, himself one of the finest announcers and MCs in the world.
One by one, the inductees were introduced and proceeded to the seats on the dais to a round of applause: Rick Glaser.
Ron Lipton. Fred Liberatore. Merqui Sosa. Dennis Milton. Lou Savarese. Bobby Cassidy. Jack Hirsch.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, a “10-Count” for those we lost over the last 18 months we were under way, with opening remarks from NYSBHOF President Bob Duffy.
Each of the inductees was given a brief introduction by a known member of the boxing community. Among the presenters were former world champions Iran Barkley and Lonnie Bradley; Historian/matchmaker Don Majeski; Top judge Steve Weisfeld; Former Ring 8 President Charley Norkus; Former NYSAC Director of Boxing Ralph Petrillo; IBHOF’er Teddy Atlas; Former heavyweight contender and my sidekick at SiriusXM Radio, “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney; and yours truly.
I was honored to induct Don Ackerman, Ron Lipton and Rick Glaser. Ackerman is not only one of the finest boxing judges in the world; he is also the longtime President of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. His work, his efforts and his results in the sport stand tall, and he was an easy choice for induction into the NYSBHOF.
The same goes for Ron Lipton. The veteran third man in the ring, who reffed his first pro fight in 1991, was also a talented amateur middleweight (he scored two 15-second, one-punch knockouts) and served as a sparring partner for Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Dick Tiger. He was even was employed as a sparring partner by Muhammad Ali for speed. Lipton also has been authoring “Mythical Matchups” between legendary fighters in Ring Magazine. His speech was a genuine “Thank You” to the Selection Committee, as well as a “Thank You” to everyone for their attendance.
Rick Glaser, an International Agent/Matchmaker/Broker and Consultant, has never been one to hold his tongue. He says what he feels. Instead of reveling in the spotlight which was shining on him during his induction speech, he became that Oscar-winning actor who speaks his/her mind on a trending or controversial topic, which leaves a majority of viewers talking about their speech.
His topic was the New York State Athletic Commission, which he called a “bunch of political hacks.” Glaser vowed to have the commission dismantled.
Glaser’s rant was balanced by former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney, who was there to induct one-time heavyweight contender Lou Savarese. Cooney, my longtime sidekick on SiriusXM Radio’s “At the Fights,” was funny, warm, moving and caring.
“Fighters give everything they have so we can be entertained,” said Cooney, adding, “but when their fighting days are done and their skills are gone, many times the money is gone, too. Sometimes, so are their minds. The fighters are the last ones to know it should be over. The commissions and promoters should step in at that point and keep a fighter from hurting himself any further. We need to be there to help them take the next step.”
Cooney looked and sounded less like a former #1 contender than he did a political candidate.
Had he been running for office, I guarantee he would win.
On that afternoon at Russo’s on the Bay, the fighters all won. Boxing won.
It really was a feel good kind of afternoon, one so many of us truly needed.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020 of the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame, and to all who made it possible.
You can read the Randy Gordon auto-biography, “Glove Affair,” by clicking to purchase here