Friday, March 24, 2023  |


The Travelin’ Man goes to the 2016 IBHOF: Part three

From left to right: Lupe Pintor, Col. Bob Sheridan, Jerry Izenberg, Hilario Zapata, Harold Lederman and Marc Ratner pose at the induction ceremony for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Photo: Mike Greenhill

From left to right: Lupe Pintor, Colonel Bob Sheridan, Jerry Izenberg, Hilario Zapata, Harold Lederman and Marc Ratner pose at the induction ceremony for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Mike Greenhill


Please click here for Part One.


Please click here for Part Two.


Sunday, June 12: The next six hours consisted of stone-cold slumber and I probably could have slept for at least three more. However, I felt the weight of responsibility – I needed time to catch up on my writing – that also was mixed with the sense of anticipation that comes with Induction Sunday. I wanted to get on the Hall of Fame grounds as soon as possible and, if I was to achieve my goals before check-out time, I needed to get moving.

Thankfully the words flowed freely. By 10:20 a.m., my work was done and I was ready to pack up and check out.

The drive to the grounds was smooth but the moment I stepped out of the car, I was hit by an arctic blast more suited to November than mid-June. Even my IBHOF windbreaker wasn’t enough to completely neutralize the chill. Thanks to some excellent conversations, it took me nearly an hour to reach the pavilion portion of the grounds. The first people who stopped me were the father-and-son duo of Mike and TD Snyder (the former of whom appeared in the Showtime fans’ tribute to Ali). The fact that they also were native West Virginians further endeared them to me, as did Mike’s status as the owner of “Lo’s Gym Boxing Club” and his son’s job as an associate professor of English at Siena College (I graduated Fairmont State with a major in English and a double minor in journalism and technical writing).

Then I chatted with, among others, Eric Schmidt, Aubrey Pitt and Ron Eggleston before spotting referee Jay Nady and his wife. I was surprised to see Nady and it was the first time I’ve talked to him since I interviewed him by phone for a Mills Lane feature in THE RING more than a quarter-century ago. After introducing myself and explaining our connection, Nady instantly recalled the episode, said he remembered me in particular and, after I put away my press credential, he graciously signed my “Big Book,” only the third signature I collected this year. Once we said our goodbyes, I reached the back half of the grounds and spotted Bernard Fernandez seated at one of the tents near the food stand.

We didn’t have a full-blown Sausage Summit because there was no food involved (we did, however, conduct a mini-summit Friday afternoon that included the sandwiches) and if there was any biting going on, it was being done by the wind, which was strong enough to blow down the metal stands supporting the rope line that separated the elevated sidewalk from the pavement below. Relief came when the security volunteers allowed entry under the pavilion and, to my pleasant surprise, my red ticket seat was not only in the front row but also directly in front of the podium – the very best spot to cover the ceremony. Better yet, my seat mates on either side improved my already ideal location; to my left was USA Today’s Dan Rafael and to my right was writer/photographer (and longtime friend) Boxing Bob Newman.

The ceremony began at 2:30 p.m. sharp with the roll call of celebrities. The families were still being seated as this was going on, so the hustle and bustle in front of me was considerable. Within a few minutes, all was in order in my area as well as on the stage.

Besides the living members of the Class of 2016, the celebrities on the stage included Carlos Ortiz, Christy Martin, John H. Stracey, Hector Camacho Jr., Jimmy Lennon Jr., Jake LaMotta, Brian Viloria, Ruben Olivares (who chose to sit on the side stage), Joe Cortez, Billy Backus, Marvin Camel, Gerry Cooney, Bruce Trampler, Tracy Harris Patterson, Julian Jackson, Montell Griffin, Ray Mercer, Raul Marquez and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Also present were members of the 1976 US Olympic boxing team: Chuck Walker, Charles Mooney, Louis Curtis, Leo Randolph, Leon Spinks and Sugar Ray Leonard (Michael Spinks’ name was called but he wasn’t on stage). Before the ceremony began, 2016 inductee Hilario Zapata, with obvious joy radiating from his face, stood up and posed for pictures while holding a Panamanian flag.

After finishing the roll call, host James “Smitty” Smith, who received almost universally positive feedback for his performance in place of longtime emcee Joey Fiatto (who couldn’t come due to a scheduling conflict), turned the ceremony over to IBHOF President (and boxing judge) Don Ackerman, who led the traditional 10-count for Bob Foster and Muhammad Ali. Canastota mayor Carla DeShaw delivered opening remarks, which were followed by comments from Syracuse women’s basketball coach Quentin Hillsman, who served as the parade’s grand marshal. The 1976 US Olympians on stage, along with Howard Davis Jr.’s widow, Karla Guadamuz-Davis, who was in the audience, were asked to stand and be recognized, after which Leonard delivered brief remarks.

“Once again, I’d like to acknowledge the passing of the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali,” Leonard said. “I want to give kudos to Ed Brophy, the staff and the incredible volunteers that make this event a reality. I also want to acknowledge the passing of Howard Davis Jr. and thank his lovely wife Karla for maintaining his legacy. I’ve been a fighter for more than 50 years and I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’m a blessed man. But the greatest achievement I personally feel is being part of the 1976 Olympic team in Montreal. I had an opportunity to be amongst some of the greatest fighters and teammates in the world. This (Hall of Fame weekend) is so special to me, coming here, and I want to come every year because there is nothing like the love, support and gratitude of this weekend. If I can, I’ll be here every single year.”

Once Leonard returned to his seat, Ackerman read the bios of deceased Class of 2016 members Hector Camacho Sr., Petey Sarron and New Orleans-based trainer Whitey Esneault. Writer Bernard Fernandez, also a native of New Orleans, pushed hard for Esneault’s induction and thus was granted the privilege of accepting on his behalf.

“If a tree falls in the forest, and if there’s no one around, does it make a sound?” Fernandez asked. “I pondered that question about Whitey Esneault. In 2006, he was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. All of his great fighters are deceased and he’s been gone 48 years. I got the assignment as a native New Orleanean because I was familiar with his career. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

“I’m going to quote something from Angelo Dundee. He said, ‘As outstanding a teacher as he was, Whitey never sought fame for himself, which is why he never found it. Guys would come off the street and Whitey would train them. When he did get a good prospect, he blossomed under his tutelage. If he had been in Gleason’s Gym or Stillman’s, he would already be in the Hall of Fame. There’s no doubt about that.’ That was 10 years ago. I will say this: Whitey turned over Willie Pastrano and Ralph Dupas to Dundee. They were fully formed and Angelo took them to world titles. Pastrano is in the Hall of Fame. Angelo is in the Hall of Fame. Angelo trained Carmen Basilio and he trained a young heavyweight named Cassius Clay, who saw Pastrano and incorporated Pastrano’s moves into his own style. So if the tree falls in the forest, it does make a sound because Whitey is getting his day in the Hall of Fame.”

Camacho Sr. was represented by son Hector Jr. and Camacho’s mother Maria Camacho Matias. The energy exuding from both confirmed the source of “Macho’s” manic electricity as well as the fact that it was successfully passed to a new generation. After Hector Jr. somberly offered prayers to the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre and paying tribute to Ali, his face suddenly brightened and he led the crowd in his father’s trademark cheer: “What Time Is It? Macho Time!”

“On my father’s behalf, what I got to witness firsthand was, he poured his heart, blood, everything he had into the sport,” he said. “A little crazy, you’ve got to admit, but he was a wonderful person and a big-hearted father.” When Junior finished, mother Maria delivered her remarks in Spanish, then left the stage in tears.

The first living inductee to speak was Jerry Izenberg, who was clearly moved by the reception he received throughout the event.

“You know, I’m very honored by this,” he said. “I’m not sure writers belong in the Hall of Fame because we don’t bleed and we don’t sweat. As writers, the only fight we have is against the clock. Life has been very good to me. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve covered events in Europe, in Asia, in Africa and, of course, in the Western Hemisphere. But I’ve never been anywhere like Canastota, New York. I’m amazed at the way this town as accepted all of us. I have never, ever experienced the kind of welcome and the kind of love that I feel here.

“(The past few days have) been a very difficult period for me,” he continued, growing more emotional with each sentence. “It’s been hard; I’ve been doing a lot of radio shows and it has distracted me. I made a speech here the other day and, in that speech, I forgot the audience and I began to see a snapshot in my mind. When I finished the speech, I realized that (Canastota) is like a second home to me. Everyone in the audience understood. To be here is a gift to me; it’s a marvelous gift. I don’t say ‘Thank you’ very often but I’ll never forget this moment, never forget this day and I’ll never forget any of you. I’ll be here. I’ll be back. And I wish I can thank each and every one of your personally but I’ll thank Ed Brophy. These people on stageÔǪSome of them don’t know me but these people are my brothers. I had a sister but no brothers but these are my brothers.”

Next up was Colonel Bob Sheridan, who next month is scheduled to call his 1,000th major title fight next month.

“This is absolutely the most humbling day of my life,” he said. “The very first prizefight I ever saw was as a sophomore at the University of Miami. We went to the Miami Beach Convention Center to sell Coca-Cola for a fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston. I sat down with my little Coke stand, looked up and said, ‘Man, this is professional boxing? How do you get into this?’ It was unbelievable and that was the influence Muhammad had on me that night. Two years later, after graduating, I started calling fights on radio for Chris Dundee. I did that for 13 years. If you were close to the Dundee brothers, you were close to Muhammad Ali and I ended up calling about 20 of Ali’s fights. To think that I’ll be going into the Hall of Fame just a couple of days after ‘The Greatest’ was laid to rest is just very humbling to me. I love Muhammad as all of us did.

“My legacy is not working 1,000 world title fights; it’s not 50 years in the business calling the great fights but, in my mind, my legacy is that I tried to protect the sport,” he continued. “In Zaire in 1974, when I heard it was going to be broadcast to a billion people, I felt I had a responsibility to the sport. I love the sport, so I went out of my way to protect the sanctioning bodies, the promoters, the referees and, most importantly, the fighters. We hear about the concussion protocol in the NFL but what about our guys, who know they can be maimed every time they get into the ring? I protect my fighters; I love my fighters and I will do everything I can to protect the sport because I love the sport and I will continue to protect the sport. Let me paraphrase Lou Gehrig: Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth to be in boxing.”

Ratner, as is his wont, chose to defer credit to others.

“I thank the Nevada Athletic Commission because without them I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Certain people don’t get thanks, like the staff. Without a good staff, you can’t have a good commission. I thank all the officials and I was very blessed to have three Hall of Fame referees: Mills Lane, Richard Steele and Joe Cortez (Cortez was on stage, while current referees Tony Weeks and Kenny Bayless, as well as judge Kermit Bayless, were in the audience to support Ratner). Whatever honors I have in boxing, I always want to honor the memory of Chuck Minker as well as of Mitch Halpern. Three men who were very much mentors to me were Sig Rogich, Dr. Elias Ghanem and Dr. James Nave. I also want to say a very special hello to my UFC guys (including UFC President Dana White, who was seated in row two).

He then cited three of the most famous fights that took place during his tenure: Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe II (“The Fan Man Fight”), Holyfield-Mike Tyson II (“The Bite Fight”) and the riotous 10th round of Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Zab Judah.

“First of all, we go back to June 1993 and we’re outdoors in Caesars Palace,” he said. “There has never been a more iconic place to hold a fight. Evander is fighting Riddick Bowe and it’s the seventh round. There is a buzz in the air and suddenly, out of the sky, is a guy with a contraption on his back and he lands in the ring ropes. There’s nothing in the rule book that says what to do when a guy flies into the ring. If there is one man who deserves kudos, it is ring announcer Michael Buffer for keeping the crowd calm. When that happened, we took note of how much time was left in the round and went to each judge and told them they may have to score this round. We didn’t know how long the interruption would be. It ended up being 21 minutes and each judge scored the round. This is the most ironic thing: One judge scored round seven for Evander; one judge scored it for Riddick and the third had it even. If Bowe had won 10-9 on the card of the judge who scored it even, Bowe would have had a majority draw and kept the title. So, in a very real way, the course of history was changed.”

Then there was the chaos that swirled when Tyson bit Holyfield.

“Once again, it was Mills Lane as the referee and I see Evander jumping up and down,” he said. “I thought he was hit low and Mills calls me to the apron. ‘He bit him and I’m going to disqualify him,’ Mills said. In my training as a football referee, if you hear the words ‘disqualification’ or ‘eject,’ you’re supposed to say, ‘Are you sure you want to disqualify him?’ Mills brought up the doctor, who said Holyfield could continue. It happened again and obviously, the fight was over. But what If Mike had KO’d Evander (after being given the second chance)? I sure wouldn’t be here today.”

Finally there was the explosive Mayweather-Judah scuffle, which, had it been supervised by others, might have resulted in Mayweather’s first loss.

“Zab was holding his own and Floyd had taken over the fight,” Ratner recalled. “At the end of the 10th, Zab hits Floyd low and (Floyd’s uncle and trainer) Roger jumps into the ring. He’s followed by Zab’s father Yoel and we have a melee. There’s quite a few people who believe we should have disqualified Floyd but we felt that wasn’t fair because Floyd was the one who was fouled. We decided to let the fight go on to its natural conclusion, and (Floyd) won the fight.”

The biggest cheers were reserved for Harold Lederman, whose elevation was universally hailed. Though Lederman appeared ready to break into tears during the first few seconds of his speech, he used his considerable sense of humor to steady himself. His first salvo centered on the frigid weather.

“It’s cold out here,” he began. “The parade was really cold. I saw a lady selling sweatshirts, hot chocolate and blankets. I walked into the museum and saw the plaques. I looked at (Jim) Lampley’s and it was a nice picture and then I looked at my picture and I’m holding a snowball. It’s really cold out here. I also ran into an old friend of mine, Sam Watson (who is often mistaken for Al Haymon). I said, ‘Sam, I’m so happy to see you honor me.’ And Sam replied, ‘I’m not here to honor you, I’m here to honor Al Haymon.'”

After mentioning several longtime friends and colleagues – “Original Travelin’ Man” Jack Obermayer, Hall-of-Famers J Russell Peltz and Bruce Trampler, as well as Don Majeski, WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel (“I hope he doesn’t rate any more dead fighters,” Lederman joked), trainer Victor Valle and promoter Pepe Cordero, who Lederman effusively praised.

“Cordero was the greatest promoter I ever worked for,” he said. “He took me all over the world and he treated me like a son. He also made (Lederman’s daughter) Julie a boxing judge. To me, he was the greatest. You come to any judge who worked for Pepe and they’ll say they never had anyone who treated them so well.”

He also made note of the numerous Showtime announcers who were in the audience.

“I gotta thank Showtime for sending their announcers,” he said. “I think they’re trying to recruit me. Anyway, I’m not gonna go to Showtime.”

He also thanked Ross Greenberg for hiring him (“He might have fallen on his head that day”), as well as Seth Abraham, Rick Bernstein, Peter Nelson, Thomas Odelfelt, Jonathan Crystal (the nephew of Billy Crystal), Dave Harmon, Max Kellerman, Roy Jones Jr. and Hall-of-Famer Lampley, who, during his induction speech last year, specifically called for Lederman’s election.

Lederman ended his speech by telling a boxing story about referee Lew Eskin.

“The one thing Lew taught me was honesty and integrity,” he said. “In December 1971, Pat O’Grady put on a show in Des Moines, Iowa – Jerry Quarry vs. Lou Bailey – and Lew was the ref. Quarry drops Bailey (six) times and Lew is not the kind of guy who would let anyone quit. During one of the knockdowns, he leans in and he says to Bailey, ‘If you don’t get up, you ain’t getting paid.’ Bailey went 10 rounds with Quarry and lost a decision. Quarry hated Lew because Jerry had to work like hell for 10 rounds to get a decision. It showed what kind of person Lew was. You were not going to take a dive when Lew was a referee.”

One of the most charming moments of the ceremony occurred before Zapata’s speech. Hall-of-Famer Roberto Duran was seated nearby and when Zapata’s name was introduced, “The Hands of Stone” leaped out of his chair, kissed Zapata on the forehead, presented him with a robe that he had trouble draping over Zapata’s suit and briefly brushed his hair. The sight of Duran, who, along with Jake LaMotta, may be the world’s greatest living fighter, now that Ali has passed away, making such a fuss over his much lesser-known countryman Zapata was something to behold.

“I’d like to thank the Hall of Fame because God put my name in their minds to have me inducted on this special day,” he said. “I didn’t fight very much in the US (a 15th round unanimous decision win over Rudy Crawford in Daly City, California and a 10th round TKO loss to Harold Petty in Las Vegas), but, for those who followed my career, I thank you as well as the people in Panama.”

Zapata’s speech was understated as he thanked God, Jesus, the late former WBA President Gilberto Mendoza and current WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman.

“I’m very grateful and happy to be able to be here,” he concluded. “I never thought I would reach this level in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.”

The final speaker was Pintor, whose son Diego interpreted for him.

“I’m really happy and honored to be here this day with you,” he said. “I’m really honored to be part of the WBC and for the opportunities Jose Sulaiman gave me. I’m also thankful to (Hall of Fame manager) Cuyo Hernandez who taught me to be the best I can be. I also want to thank the American people that always helped me and always supported my career. I’m really honored to represent my country of Mexico and to be part of this Hall of Fame. Finally, I want to thank my family, my wife and my friends for being here today with me.”

Past experience told me that once the induction ceremony ended, I needed to extricate myself immediately, lest I be crushed by the mass of autograph seekers that was about to approach the stage. Following others who were seeking the same thing, I managed to escape just before the customary group shot of the induction class. I had hoped to see Jeff Brophy about getting inside the museum to secure the signatures of Pintor and Ratner, the only two that remained for me to get. Unfortunately Jeff wasn’t in the area but I was happily sidetracked by HBO senior producer Dave Harmon, who was there to witness Lederman’s induction.

Following our conversation, I spotted Smitty and producer Jon Hait talking with Jose Sulaiman Jr., son of the late former WBC president. They allowed me to join them, then, after Sulaiman departed, Jon and I decided to go to Graziano’s while Smitty attended the post-induction party at the Greystone, known to most as the site of the VIP Cocktail Gala.

Not expecting to see any inductees for several hours, I left my “Big Book” in the car but, to my surprise, I saw Pintor and his contingent sitting inside Graziano’s dining room. I retrieved my book and waited for my chance to smoothly approach them. By this time, Jon joined me at a nearby table and, after briefly conversing with Pintor’s interpreter, Jon suggested I approach the table. But just as I was about to take my first step, I heard a familiar voice call out my name.

It was Aubrey Pitt (who may well be my biggest fan) and he was anxious to show me some pictures on his camera phone. His arrival was exceptionally timed in a positive way, for just after I heard his voice, I saw that Pintor and his people had just gotten their food and, had I approached them at that very moment, I would have stamped myself a rude dinner-interrupter – the last thing I wanted to be.

But while the realization of my goal was delayed somewhat, the chase ended more beautifully than I could have imagined. The interpreter and Pintor were passing by our table and we knew they would be coming through again in a few minutes’ time. When they did, Jon, who knew the interpreter well, explained the situation and, after he finished, both were happy to sit at our table. Through the interpreter, I explained that I had been bringing this book with me every year since 1995 and that, when the time came, I would be donating it to the Hall. So, in a real sense, he’ll be immortalized a second time. I then opened the book to a page that contained a black-and-white photo of Pintor nailing Eijiro Murata with a right to the face and, after asking him in my rudimentary Spanish for his autograph, he affixed his signature along with a brief message. He thanked me and said, now that he had talked to me, e would forever know me.

How cool is that?

Smitty soon joined Jon, Aubrey and me and, over the next 90 minutes, several other visitors stopped by: Longtime friend and collector Keith Stechman as well as judge Kermit Bayless, who told us several humorous stories about how people continuously mistake him for his more famous twin Kenny. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Ratner, so I ended up one signature short of my goal. Hopefully he’ll be back next year.

Before I knew it, it was past 9:30 p.m. and, with a five-hour drive ahead of me, I knew the time had come to end my 24th pilgrimage to Hall of Fame Weekend. I said my goodbyes to everyone except for Aubrey, who asked me to drive him to Syracuse. I didn’t know the location of his hotel and neither one of us had a working GPS. He suggested I drop him off at the hotel, from which I checked out nearly 12 hours earlier in the hopes they would get him a cab that would take him to his place of lodging. During the drive, Aubrey called a good friend of his – former two-time light heavyweight champion Jeff Harding, who, to me, must rate among the grittiest fighters of my lifetime.

After dropping off Aubrey, I stopped for food and gas, then headed west on I-90 with FM classic rock blaring and cruise control locked in. I arrived at my hotel in Erie at 2:15 a.m. and, after checking in, I discovered that neither key would unlock the door of my fourth-floor room. The problem was rectified with a new set of keys and, once I settled in and pounded out more than 1,000 words in less than 30 minutes’ time, I turned the lights out on another long and eventful day.



Monday, June 13: For the next five-plus hours, I was stone-cold dead to the world and, if I didn’t have responsibilities waiting for my attention, I would have slept for several hours more. The early mornings, eventful days and late nights had taken their toll, so, in one sense, I was glad I was about to return to the daily grind.

Because of the four-hour drive ahead of me, and because I knew that the script from HBO’s “The Fight Game With Jim Lampley” will be flowing in (I’ve been the show’s fact-checker since March 2015), there was a delicate balance in terms of time: Leave now and not be available until early afternoon or stay in the hotel until my noon check-out (which was extended from 11 a.m. because of my extremely late arrival). While I waited for word, I tended to other responsibilities. To be truthful, I was back in the daily grind.

A few minutes later, the script was emailed to me and, once I sent my editing suggestions, I packed my belongings, settled the bill, put my luggage in the trunk and front seat, made a couple of phone calls, drove across the street to fill my gas tank a final time and headed down the highway.

The weather was spectacular and, for a change, the mercury had reached the 70s. By the time I pulled into the driveway at 3:36 p.m., my personal gas tank was running on fumes. My eyelids were heavy and my movements were more sluggish than usual. All I wanted to do was relax and recover from my six-day, 1,209 mile journey and, once I fulfilled a couple of promises I made during the Induction Weekend, I plopped into my easy chair in the Home Office, turned on the TV and DVR and watched (as well as recorded) all of the boxing I had missed over the last several days. By 11 p.m., I felt good enough to catch up on my writing and, by 1:30 a.m., I had improbably completed all my writing responsibilities.

Earlier that evening, I learned about my next traveling assignment – July 22 at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, to cover a quadruple-header topped by Adam Lopez vs. Roman Ruben Reynoso. By then, I’m sure I’ll be eager to make my return to the highways and skyways.

Until then, happy trails!




Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, W.Va. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 15 writing awards, including 12 in the last six years and two first-place awards since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics. To order, please visit To contact Groves, use the e-mail [email protected]




August 2016 cover

You can subscribe to the print and digital editions of THE RING Magazine by clicking the banner or here. You can also order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page. On the cover this month: Who will rise and who will fall at heavyweight?