2017 HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CELEBRATION IN
BOXING'S HOMETOWN - CANASTOTA, NEW YORK
CANASTOTA, NY - JUNE 12, 2017 – Despite an ominous forecast before the opening bell, the weather cooperated and delivered a “knockout” four days of blue skies and sunshine in “Boxing’s Hometown” for the 28th Annual Hall of Fame Weekend June 8-11th. Over 40 boxing legends of yesterday and today, members of the worldwide boxing community and thousands of boxing aficionados from around the world congregated in Canastota to celebrate the “sweet science” and recognize the Class of 2017 as they joined boxing’s immortals.
The Official Induction Ceremony capped a jam-packed weekend. The four-day weekend featured many exciting and memorable events including a golf tournament, cocktail party, banquet, Friday Night Fiesta and boxing autograph card show. A variety of activities took place on the Museum Grounds including the popular "Ringside Lecture" question and answer sessions, celebrity fist casting, raffles and a silent auction.
Inductees in Canastota included cruiserweight and heavyweight champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, Mexico’s three-division champion "The Baby Faced Assassin" Marco Antonio Barrera, trainer Johnny Lewis, judge Jerry Roth, journalist / broadcaster Steve Farhood and broadcaster Barry Tompkins. Living honorees received the official Hall of Fame Induction Certificate and gold Hall of Fame ring symbolizing their status as Hall of Famers.
Posthumous inductees of the Class of 2017 honored were three-division champion Johnny “Mi Vida Loca” Tapia in the Modern Category; Eddie Booker in the Old-Timer Category; and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr. in the Non-Participant Category.
The ceremony began with an incredible rendition of the national anthem by Doris Lennon, wife of Jimmy Lennon Sr. and mother of Jimmy Lennon Jr. The 94-year old amazed the crowd with a powerful take on The Star Spangled Banner and received a rousing ovation from attendees.
Booker’s nephew, Ian Booker, and grandson, Eric Helm, accepted for the former welterweight and middleweight standout.
“Based on his record, the people he fought, I would just like to say my Uncle Eddie was a bad man! Thank you very much and, like I said, my family thanks and appreciates the award that he has received,” said Booker.
Tapia’s wife and manager Teresa Tapia accepted for her late husband and recounted the connection he had with his fans, particularly in his first championship-winning bout in his Albuquerque hometown.
“Johnny had the greatest fans in the history of boxing. He loved them with every ounce of his heart and, in turn, they believed in him and they loved him back…Through all of his triumphs, tragedies and many resurrections, the fans were his strength and salvation. He always said he could not do it without his fans and he truly meant it. Today, Johnny, the fans, the boxing community have returned the love that you gave throughout your career. From this day forward, Johnny, you shall be immortalized with the greats that fought before you. Your name, memory and enormous heart will live on forever. 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Johnny “Mi Vida Loca” Tapia,” said Tapia.
Lennon Jr. accepted for his legendary father and shared stories highlighting the emphasis and care he had for proper pronunciation of those he announced.
“He placed a great value on others over himself and every opportunity to honor others, even if it meant saying their name properly. He would arrive early to the fights, he would interview each fighter and make sure he got their name correct, their nickname, their hometown, anything else they wanted. He valued them so much. He is quoted as saying that, ‘every man should have the dignity of his own name and his own name pronounced properly’…This year marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of my father. If he were alive today, I could guarantee you he would be the last one here, he would participate in everything, he would talk to everyone that he could, he would be so proud and tickled to see his wife sing the national anthem, to have his family here and to join with you in this great, great honor…So I thank you very much on behalf of my entire family,” said Lennon Jr.
Veteran broadcaster and current blow-by-blow announcer for ShoBox: The New Generation Tompkins was the first living member of the Class of 2017 to accept his Hall of Fame honor.
“There’s no group of athletes that I would rather deal with than boxers. They are unique in every respect. You ask a fighter a question, he looks you in the eye, he gives you an honest answer. I have always marveled at the end of every fight, fighters will go over and hug each other and it’s not a cursory hug. It’s a bond between two warriors and only they can understand what it takes to do what they do. It says something, I think, about what this sport is and what sets many of these people behind me and many of you in the audience apart. Boxing is family,” said Tompkins.
Long-time judge Roth was next to address the crowd and accept his gold ring.
“After thirty five years of judging thousands of fights, including upward of two hundred and fifty world title fights, I’m truly honored to be here today…I’m humbled and I’m truly proud of this honor. Being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame with each of the deserving inductees over the years is something that will leave a lasting impression on me forever. This has been a wonderful weekend and one of the highlights of my life. I can never thank you enough for honoring me and making me feel so very special,” said Roth.
Australian trainer Lewis, who now joins his fighters Jeff Fenech and Kostya Tszyu in the Hall, was next to speak.
“I’ve got to thank everybody that I’ve ever trained because they all molded me into what I was…There’s so many I want to thank but I always feel indebted to a young kid who I had as an amateur boxer and only after a few fights he made and captained the Australian Olympics in 1984 and he went on to win three versions of world titles in three different divisions and also had a draw for four and that is Jeff Fenech… Every other kid that was in the gym learned from what Jeff put in. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard to get what he achieved. It never came easy but there’s an old saying, ‘you only take out what you put in’ and he put in so much...I must say that it’s indeed an honor for me to be here. This is such a wonderful thing for all our athletes. The town of Canastota, I hope that it stays here forever. The people here are absolutely wonderful. Thank you,” said Lewis.
Former The Ring editor and current ShoBox: The New Generation expert analyst Farhood accepted Hall of Fame honors next.
“Over the years I’ve been asked why I’ve covered boxing and no other sports. My question in response to that question is why would a journalist want to cover anything other than boxing? There is nothing quite as revealing, quite as invigorating, quite as electric, quite as magical as a great fight…How lucky am I to still be doing what I’ve always wanted to do and what I still want to do?” said Farhood.
Mexico’s “Baby Faced Assassin” Barrera, accompanied by his son Marco Jr to interpret, was next.
“First I want to thank God, then I want to thank my family because they gave me all in life. My brothers and one of my sisters that passed away. I also want to thank my wife. We have been together 18 years. Those are the only fights that I can’t win. And I want to thank her because she gave me four beautiful children…When one starts boxing you don’t think you are going to be one of the greats, you just think you’re going to be champion. But I think it has been the best week of my life because I’m with the champions from now and champions from before…Now I’m inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota. Thank you everyone and viva Mexico!” said Barrera.
“The Real Deal” Holyfield was the last member of the 2017 class to officially join the Hall and credited his family, particularly his mother, Annie, for his success.
“I’m honored to be here at the Hall of Fame but first of all I’d like to give thanks to Lord Jesus Christ. I truly believe that without Jesus in my life, I would not be who I am. And I start off by thanking my mom. I’m the youngest of nine in my family and you know life is not so easy when you’re the youngest, not for me anyway. All my friends who were the youngest in the family, everybody took care of them. You know at home it wasn’t like that for me. They never let me win. So I’m here today to be thankful for all the people who gave a helping hand. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for my brothers and sisters. I’m honored that they are here...I sit here so thankful that this Hall of Fame thing is all about the help that I got from someone else. And I want to thank all the people here that made the decision to elect me, to put me in. Thank you very much,” said Holyfield.
Among the boxing stars on hand for the weekend were Hall of Fame Alumni Al Bernstein, Riddick Bowe, Michael Carbajal, Don Chargin, Stanley Christodoulou, Joe Cortez, Pipino Cuevas, Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Ruben Olivares, Wilfried Sauerland, Steve Smoger, Michael Spinks, Richard Steele and Pernell Whitaker.
Other special guests in attendance included Billy Backus, Livingstone Bramble, Marvin Camel, Gerry Cooney, Dickie DiVeronica, Dicky Eklund, Andrew Golota, Daniel Jacobs, “Jesse” James Leija, Sergio Martinez, Shawn Porter, Leon Spinks, John H. Stracey, James Toney, Fernando Vargas, Jessie Vargas, Chuck Walker, Micky Ward and reigning WBC heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder.
The Grand Marshal of the 2017 Parade of Champions was film and television icon Eric Braeden, who has starred as “Victor Newman” for over 37 years on the #1 rated daytime drama series The Young and the Restless.
FRIDAY NIGHT FIESTA – The Hall of Fame celebrated Latino boxing with an evening featuring such boxers as Pipino Cuevas, Ruben Olivares, Michael Carbajal, Chiquita Gonzalez, “Jesse” James Leija, Fernando Vargas, Jessie Vargas and Marco Antonio Barrera. Also John H. Stracey spoke of facing Jose Napoles in Mexico, referees Kenny Bayless, Robert Byrd, Tony Weeks and Russell Mora talked about the many great Latino stars they officiated, Paco Valcarcel, president of the WBO, spoke of Puerto Rico’s rich boxing history, Hall of Fame referee Stanley Christodoulou recalled Argentina's Victor Galindez and Teresa Tapia reflected on Johnny Tapia.
BOXING ROBE DONATIONS – Two-division world champion Jessie Vargas donated the boxing robe he wore in his memorable 2015 bout with Tim Bradley, former welterweight champion “Showtime” Shawn Porter donated the robe and trunks he wore in his most recent bout against Andre Berto. Referee Steve Smoger donated a New Jersey Athletic Control Board jacket he wore on fight night throughout his Hall of Fame career.
ASSOCIATION OF BOXING COMMISSIONS (ABC) - Mike Mazzullo, president of the ABC and Daniel Gustafson, Executive Director of the Oneida Indian Nation, were on the Museum Grounds to announce the creation of the ABC’s Charitable Fund to benefit retired participants of the combative sports industry during a ringside lecture. The fund is designed to give back to those who have contributed to combative sports. For more information please visit the ABC's website HERE.
IN THIS CORNER – For the second consecutive year, James “Smitty” Smith, host of the popular In This Corner TV boxing interview show, handled emcee duties for the weekend. “Smitty” hosted the “Ringside Lecture” question and answer sessions held on the Museum Grounds each day where fans have the unique opportunity to ask champions questions directly. The long-time radio and TV broadcaster also emceed the Friday Night Fiesta and Saturday evening’s Banquet of Champions.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE for the 2017 Hall of Fame Weekend festivities were Golden Boy Promotions’ Bill Caplan and Robert Diaz, referees Benji Esteves, Tim Cheatem and Robert Hoyle, trainers Kenny Porter and Andre Rozier, promoter Tuto Zabala Jr, 1984 USA Olympic gold medalist Paul Gonzalez, former New York State Athletic Commission Chairman and Sirius/ XM radio host Randy Gordon, current WBO Oriental lightweight champion and grandson of 1993 Hall of Famer Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Juan Martin Elorde, Bert Cooper, Reggie Johnson, Junior Jones, Milton McCrory, Eddie Gregg, SHOWTIME Boxing broadcasters Mauro Ranallo and Raul Marquez and ShoBox:The New Generation executive producer Gordon Hall.