The NVBHOF celebrates its third year on Aug. 8
Of all the sports, boxing deserves the best of the best Halls of Fame. These guys, for what they go through, sacrifice and deal with, should have places dedicated to them and their legacies. That in mind, I’ve enjoyed seeing the growth of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, started by ace broadcaster Rich Marotta three years ago. They have another induction gala on Saturday and I asked Rich to share his reason for doing what seems a labor of love.
“Back to our original twofold mission: to honor those who have contributed to the growth of boxing in Nevada and, also, what everyone loses sight of: to contribute to boxing-related and worthy Nevada causes. We are a non-profit enterprise.
“We donate to gyms that need help, amateur teams, the UNLV and UNR college boxing programs which are unfunded, plus Michelle Corrales-Lewis (our COO) has us involved in a lot of community efforts for education, feeding kids, knocking out obesity, etc. We do NOT just show up one night a year and then disappear. Michelle has been paramount in that area. People love her, connect with her and she is a great leader, doing most of the heavy lifting for us now in Vegas since I live in Reno. So we do need donations and although our induction night is a big dinner/party, it is a fund-raiser.
“I founded NVBHOF three years ago, so this is our third induction; we have a big international inductee class, many coming from out of the country. Felix Trinidad, Marvin Hagler, Lennox Lewis, Marco Antonio Barrera, Roger Mayweather, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad will all be in attendance. Muhammad Ali’s health will most likely prevent him from attending but we will have a family member to accept and Mike Tyson will give Ali’s presentation speech to make it special. We will also honor, posthumously, Sugar Ray Robinson, Gene Fullmer and Johnny Tapia. We will induct a Pioneer Class from turn of the last century as a nod to Nevada’s history. The Pioneer Class includes Bob Fitzimmons, Jim Corbett, Joe
Gans, Jack Johnson and Tex Rickard. We also honor non-participants like Lee Samuels and Dr. Robert Voy.
Marotta, who is an amiable sort who gets extra points in my book for being an immense Bruce Springsteen fan, continued, “Big for us this year was getting Caesars Palace as our host. We’re very excited to partner with them because of their fantastic boxing history. In fact most of our inductees fought there. Hagler, especially, his biggest fights were there.
“We are expanding this year in a number of ways: Starting with attendance. Our first year, we had a sold-out ballroom of 440 attendees. Last year, we sold out 720 in advance. This year we are expecting 1,000. It’s not only fans but a huge contingent of the Las Vegas boxing fraternity get involved; all the boxers show: Mike Tyson, Jessie Vargas, Shawn Porter, Ishe Smith, Badou Jack, Ana Julaton, Ava Knight, Layla McCarter, Kevin Kelley, Nonito Donaire, Shane Mosley, Joel Casamayor , Zab Judah, The Spinks [brothers, Leon and Michael], Earnie Shavers, Bermane Stiverne, Hasim Rahman, Sam Peter, etc…Sugar Ray Leonard, a first-year inductee, has come each year, and will present Floyd Mayweather [Jr.] with the ‘Nevada Fighter of Year Award’!
“This year, for the first time, we are having a two-day museum exhibit, also right there at Caesars. Our longterm goal is to have a permanent home for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, a real destination point for boxing fans. We want to show everyone how good an attraction it can be. We hope it will be something that the Vegas community will come out and take a look at, even if they are not going to the dinner. We realize everyone can’t come to the Induction, so this is a way for everyone to participate in the NVBHOF, something like what the NFL does with their Super Bowl Fan Experience the week of the Super Bowl. It will be open Friday and Saturday from 10-4 p.m.
“Also, Woodsy, for first time this year we will have our own internet radio station, call letters: iNVBH. We will be broadcasting during the day live from Caesars on Thursday, Friday and Saturday leading up the event.
“Finally, I want people to know we are not competing with the International BHOF at Canastota. It is the established, International, worldwide home. We are a state boxing hall of fame but our state is the boxing capital of the world with a rich, glamorous history and we have our own niche celebrating that in a spectacular, glamorous fashion. That’s why we also honor the Nevada Fighters of the Year: Floyd Mayweather, Layla McCarter (female) and Jarred Santos of UNR (amateur).
“And most important, when we have our dinner, it is for boxing to celebrate itself with its boxing community. We have everyone under one roof, heated rivals, hated rivals, former rivals, people suing each other, etc., for a very happy, uplifting night. We have not had a bad or uncomfortable incident.”
Boxing has so many good folks involved. One will get his due Saturday. Top Rank Promotions publicist Lee Samuels…I reached out to him to get his thoughts about a special night for him. He always helps press do its job, facilitates and sets up. It’s only fair that he gets to share some of what makes him tick vocationally.
“Michael, there were and are some key people in my life who helped me get where I am today – basically, my background is in newspapers – grew up in a small town in Pennsville, NJ, where I somehow someway discovered the world of writing and the world of sports. I will be thinking of Progress Weekly editor Wes Denman and Jack Hummel, Bridgeton Evening News in the press box at a high school football game. We are still best friends; NJ Record editor Charles V. Reilly, a dynamic personality, Woodbury NJ Daily Times editor Bob Shryock, there was a six-person sports department and this is where it really started for me. At the Courier Post in Cherry Hill NJ, the editor Bob Wright, a boxing writer -and outstanding reporter and mentor. The Philadelphia Bulletin editor Herb Stutz – it was Bob Wright who called me about this job and I covered two Ali fights – vs. Leon Spinks in Las Vegas and Ali’s final fight in Bermuda. I also covered Bennie Briscoe, Eugene ‘Cyclone’ Hart, Kitten Hayward and more…all Russell Peltz main events. Then the Bulletin closed January 29, 1982 and it was an Atlantic City promoter, Frank Gelb, who introduced me to Bob Arum on a cold winter night at the Sands Hotel Casino. At the time, Kenny ‘Bang Bang’ Bogner was a huge Atlantic City attraction. I was hired by Bob and assigned to work on the new ‘Top Rank Thursday Night ESPN Boxing’ show with Bruce Trampler, Al Bernstein and the debut of Michael Buffer. After three years on the road, Bob called and said we are happy with your work…you will now be working with Marvin Hagler. He is fighting Sugar Ray Leonard. Report to camp at the Canyon Hotel in Palm Springs Hotel.”
Samuels, also an inductee into the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame, continued: “Our family was very poor but, when you are poor, you do not know you are poor. You walk to school and do the best you can. There was a place called the Busy Bee on Broadway in Pennsville. There was a counter where you could have a Cherry Coke and some ice cream. But in the back there was a rack of newspapers. And that’s where I discovered the world of writing – Larry Merchant was writing in Philadelphia then, so was Stan Hochman and there was a harness writer named Jack Kiser, who wrote short, colorful stories about the greatest horses. I couldn’t get enough…There are people who help people…this is why I try to help all deserving…I’ve always enjoyed being with the writers at ringside as you know…and the fighters are the bravest athletes in any sport there is today.”
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