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Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame announces 2016 inductees

Muhammad Ali training at Deer Lake in 1974. Photo: THE RING archive
Fighters Network

Mike McNamara, the Co-Director of the Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame, announced the Hall’s 2016 class of inductees on Monday.

As was the case with the Hall’s first class in 2015, this year’s inductees include a wide range of participants and contributors to boxing in Illinois.  They are:

Muhammad Ali – The Greatest. Ali was a resident of Chicago during his most productive professional years and was a huge contributor to the local boxing community.

Jesus Chavez – AKA Gabriel Sandoval, “The Matador” was the former IBF world lightweight champion.

Johnny Coulon – The late undisputed world bantamweight champion, who was owner and head trainer at Chicago’s famous Coulon’s Gym.

Sean Curtin – former head of the Illinois Boxing Commission, top official, amateur and pro boxer and author of two books about Chicago Boxing History.

Rocky DiFazio – Top middleweight contender who went 19-2-2 and fought all comers.

Mike Glienna – One of the top judges in the world, Glienna judged more than 70 WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO world championship fights and scores of international, regional and US state title fights.

Andrew Golota – Olympic bronze medalist and a 41-9-1 top contender who fought for the world heavyweight title four times.

Clarence Griffin – Legendary Chicago trainer, owner of the famed Windy City Gym in Chicago and father and trainer of world light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin.

Johnny Heard – Chicago-based light heavyweight who fought many of the world’s best in his 64-fight pro career.

Fred Houpe – Heavy-handed heavyweight who fought many of the best of his era on some of the world’s biggest stages.

James Kaulentis – Manager of top boxing talent including James “Quick” Tillis, who fought relentlessly for his fighters.

Primo La Cassa – a 17-5-2 pro, La Cassa went on to become one of the country’s top trainers. He worked with Rocky DiFazio, Lenny LaPaglia, Luke Capuano, Luis Mateo, Joey Adelfio, and many, many others.

Jeff Lanas – Slick 17-4 middleweight who fought many of the world’s best, including Roberto Duran, who defeated him by split decision.

Tony LaRosa – accomplished pro fighter who fought all comers, including many champions and former champions.

Vinny Letisia – Hugely popular, hard punching 16-0-1 junior welterweight with 15 KOs who tragically died at 21 years old in a motorcycle accident, just as his career was about to take off.

The Fighting O’Shea Brothers – Brian, Mike, Rory, and Tom – top amateur and pro competitors and trainers.

Alfonso Ratliff – Former WBO world cruiserweight champion with a 25-9 pro-career, whose only losses were to the best of the best.

Genaro Rodriguez – International referee who has worked scores of world championship fights

Barney Ross – Legendary multi division champion, ranked as one of the greatest lightweights and junior welterweights of all time as well as a decorated war hero.

Henry Sims – Solid Chicago-based cruiserweight who fought most of the best in the division and was ducked by many of the rest.

Jim Strickland – Top trainer of world champion David Diaz and many others. Highly sought after cutman of Evander Holyfield, Cory Spinks, and many, many more.

James “Quick” Tillis – The Fighting Cowboy was a four time AAU national champion.  Based in Chicago for his pro career, Tillis fought for numerous titles and fought nearly all of the top fighters of his era.

The inductees will be read into the Hall Friday, November 4 at the Hall’s Second Annual Banquet and Ceremony at Abbington Banquets, 3S002 IL-53, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 near Butterfield Road and Route 53, in suburban Chicago.

The Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame is an outgrowth of the successful 13-year-old Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame. McNamara, an accomplished kickboxer, tournament fighter, and trainer of former ISKA world cruiserweight kickboxing champion Rob Salazar, is also Director of the Martial Arts Hall.

This year marks the second year of the Hall’s existence, following its first hugely successful event last year.

According to the Hall’s Co-Director, Mike McNamara, “There was obviously a lot of pent up demand for a Boxing Hall of Fame in Illinois to honor accomplished individuals who have contributed so much to the state’s vibrant, 150-year-old boxing scene.

“Last year we sold out the event at 400 seats and could have easily sold 200 more if we’d had the space. As it was we had to change venues three times to accommodate the demand for tickets” said McNamara. “We expect a similar crowd this year. It will be a great evening.”

The genesis of the idea for the Hall came when the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame began to induct boxers, as that Hall’s Directors considered boxing a fighting art. Those boxing inductees were extremely appreciative, but they also pointed out that despite the rich history of boxing in Illinois, there was no Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame.

“They suggested to us that we start it and run it,” says McNamara.

Pro trainer Sam Colonna, international championship referee Pete Podgorski, pro trainer Pete George, International Boxing Organization founder John Daddono, top amateur knockout artist Robert Beal, and former world heavyweight champion, the late Ernie Terrell were all Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductees who were also inducted into the Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame last year.

They were joined by Stanley Berg, Craig “Gator” Bodzianowski, Luke Capuano, John Collins, David Diaz, Rita Figueroa, Mike Garcia, Frank Glienna, Montell Griffin, Bobby Hitz, Mike Joyce, Edmund Kelly, Nate Jones, Pat La Cassa, Mike Landini, Lenny LaPaglia, Johnny Lira, Louie Lomeli, Louis Mateo, Martin McGarry, Lee Roy Murphy, Danell Nicholson, Eddie Perkins, Marc Randazzo, Jim Ryan, and Tony Zale.

The Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring people from Illinois and/or who participated in or contributed to Boxing in Illinois. Its Second Annual banquet and induction Ceremony will be held Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 at Abbington Banquets, 3S002 IL-53, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 near Butterfield Road and Route 53. The event starts at 6 p.m. with a social hour, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. with the ceremony at 8 p.m.

For tickets and more information about the event, contact Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame Director Mike McNamara at 708-473-0682 or at [email protected]

For information about sponsoring the event, including advertising in the printed program, contact Co-Director Pete Hoffman at 708-267-8154 or [email protected].

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Directions to the Abbington can be found here