Who’s next?: Potential candidates for IBHOF Class of 2018 – Part two
Last month, I listed 11 fighters who could make their debuts on the 2018 International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot – five who will qualify as first-ballot nominees (Erik Morales, Ronald “Winky” Wright, Ivan Calderon, Rosendo Alvarez and Ricky Hatton), five who have already been retired for more than the requisite five full years but whom have been overlooked for one reason or another (Veeraphol Sahaprom, Vuyani Bungu, Artur Grigorian, Masamori Tokuyama and Raul Perez) and one “blast from the distant past” who deserves his look from the voters (Marvin Johnson, who, since he retired in 1987, would be in the “new-era” Old-Timers category, which will not be voted on again until October 2018, for the Class of 2019).
Today, the focus will shift a bit. I will present 11 non-boxers whom I believe the Hall’s screening committee should consider for the 2018 ballot, as well as one more prominent fighter whom will become eligible for the first time in next year’s cycle. So, without further delay, the second round of hopefuls:
Vitali Klitschko – 1996-2012 (45-2, 41 knockouts): So why didn’t “Dr. Ironfist” appear in my initial article? It was an oversight based on faulty memory. “Big Brother” officially announced his retirement in December 2013 – 15 months after stopping Manuel Charr in four rounds – in order to focus on his political career in Ukraine. (He is now the mayor of Kiev.) But because his final bout occurred in 2012, he not only will be among the first-ballot candidates for the Class of 2018, I see him (along with Morales) as the favorite to lead it.
The reasons are many. Klitschko began his career by scoring 27 consecutive knockouts, a string that included his winning the WBO heavyweight title from Herbie Hide in a little more than five minutes of action. That reign – the first of three – was stunningly cut short when an injured shoulder forced him to retire on the stool after nine rounds against Chris Byrd. At the time of the stoppage, Klitschko led 88-83 on two cards and 89-82 on the third.
Klitschko won his next five before THE RING magazine/WBC (and lineal) heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis accepted him as a late-sub for the injured Kirk Johnson. “The Lion” was almost made to regret that decision as Klitschko pushed Lewis to his limit before ghastly cuts over the challenger’s left eye and crossing the left cheek forced the fight to be stopped – over Klitschko’s vehement objections – after round six. Once again, Klitschko was ahead 58-56 on all three scorecards when the fight ended.
He would never lose again.
Two fights later, he captured the vacant WBC belt by stopping Corrie Sanders (TKO 8) and successfully defended against Danny Williams (TKO 8) before a string of injuries thrice canceled a scheduled defense against mandatory challenger Hasim Rahman and forced Klitschko to announce his retirement.
Had Klitschko stayed on the sidelines, he probably wouldn’t have been on anyone’s Hall of Fame radar. His extraordinary achievements during the next phase of his career, however, vaulted him to the forefront.
Thanks to his WBC “champion-in-recess” designation, Klitschko was able to challenge Samuel Peter despite being retired for nearly four years. At age 37 years and three months, Klitschko not only recaptured the belt; he did so in stunningly dominant fashion as he won every round and battered the 28-year-old Nigerian power puncher into an eighth round corner retirement. Klitschko then notched nine successful defenses over the next 46 months and his victims included former WBC cruiserweight king Juan Carlos Gomez (TKO 9), the 27-0 Chris Arreola (TKO 10), former WBO titlist and lineal champion Shannon Briggs (UD 12), former WBC light heavyweight titlist and IBF/THE RING magazine and lineal cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek in Adamek’s native Poland (TKO 10) and the dangerous but inconsistent Dereck Chisora (UD 12) before concluding his career by stopping the 21-0 Charr.
American audiences may have been bored by Klitschko’s mechanical approach but that style led to a 15-2 (13) record in title fights, including 12 straight wins in championship action to end his career, a significant, if not unprecedented, feat. He and younger sibling Wladimir comprise the most decorated brother tandem in boxing history and their joint dominance was such that they kept the heavyweight division at arm’s length – literally – for more than a decade.
Wladimir often said his brother took the lead in many aspects of life – Vitali earned his college degree first, married first, became a father first and won his championship belt first – and it appears he also will be the first to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
The Eligible 11 (Non-Boxers):
Tim Ryan: Like 2017 inductee Barry Tompkins, Ryan is one of his industry’s most versatile professionals, for, during his 52-year career, he has called more than 30 sports. But while he covered 10 Olympic Games, more than 20 U.S. Open tennis tournaments, alpine skiing and college basketball, as well as NFL and NHL games, Ryan is best known for being half of arguably the best two-man team boxing has ever known.
For fans of a certain age – of which I am one – the tandem of Ryan and Gil Clancy was the gold standard by which all others were measured. Ryan’s crisp tenor, polished delivery and spirit of teamwork helped maximize the considerable talents of Clancy, a born teacher, whose everyman inflections and deep knowledge of the sport’s technical intricacies completed the circle.
“There was a 16-year age difference but we hit it off almost immediately,” said Ryan, a native of Canada, who recently released a book titled, “On Someone Else’s Nickel: A Life in Television, Sports, and Travel,” which can be purchased on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. “I thought he was a bright, intelligent, fun-loving, humorous, clever guy apart, from all his skills as a trainer and broadcaster. We had a lot of fun with each other and we looked forward to working with each other. We got to be very close.”
The chemistry on-screen was unmistakable and, as is Ryan’s wont, he deflected much of the praise to his colleague of 22 years.
“I was the ‘professional’ of the two but I had no problem in understanding and realizing how good he was going to be, even when he first started,” Ryan said recently. “I felt that, in all the sports I did, that the play-by-play guy’s job is to tell what happening and what the score is but the bigger part of the role was to ensure the expert analyst gets his time because that’s who the fans want to hear from. He understood right away that I was going to give him the space to say what he wanted to, when he wanted to. Gil also had this incredible skill to see both fighters at the same time. Most other analysts unconsciously tend to stick on one guy and be commenting most frequently on what that fighter is doing and missing what the other fighter is doing. Gil had this ability to see the total picture and describe it as it was happening, so you weren’t missing anything. To me, he was way ahead of everybody and he deserved all the acclaim he received.”
Ryan had some blow-by-blow experience before joining CBS, for he called fights for the Mutual Radio Network (Floyd Patterson-Charley Green and Joe Frazier-Joe Bugner among others) and NBC (including Earnie Shavers-Henry Clark and Rodrigo Valdes-Nessim Max Cohen). He also worked the first Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight for the Armed Forces Radio Network and New Zealand’s radio network. But during the CBS Sports Spectacular days, Ryan burnished his brand as he called more than 300 title fights from vistas as diverse as South Africa, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Japan, Monaco, Northern Ireland and Trinidad. He also called Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe II (“The Fan Man Fight”) for TVKO and worked as recently as November 2013, when he called Zou Shiming-Juan Tozcano in Macau, China for HBO2.
Ryan’s boxing assignments ran the gamut. He called fights ranging from bantamweight to heavyweight, from bore-snores to foul-fests such as Eusebio Pedroza-Juan LaPorte to THE RING “Fights of the Year” like Danny Lopez-Mike Ayala, Matthew Saad Muhammad-Yaqui Lopez II and Steve Cruz-Barry McGuigan. Every time, Ryan was concise, precise and consistently excellent.
The 77-year-old Ryan says he is retired but he left the door slightly ajar.
“If it’s something that appeals to me and if it happens in a nice place, I’d be willing to do a one-off,” he said, “but I don’t expect to be doing much of anything, which is fine.”
Clancy was enshrined in 1993 and, in my eyes, Ryan not only deserves to be considered by the voters; he also deserves to be voted in.
Freddie Brown: In the recent Roberto Duran biopic, “Hands of Stone,” Freddie Brown’s name received just a single mention and the person representing him on screen Hector Tarpiniani – if he could be spotted at all – didn’t say a word. While the film accurately depicted Brown’s preference to remain in the background, it fell woefully short in terms of illustrating his impact on the sport.
Following an amateur career that saw him win 68 of 72 fights, Brown suffered a nose injury that prompted him to begin training fighters. From the 1920s through the 1980s, Brown, a gifted cutman as well as a chief second, worked for, among others, Joey Archer, Vito Antuofermo, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Bob Pastor, Abe Simon, Dick Tiger, Rocky Graziano, Gaspar Ortega, Billy Graham, Floyd Patterson, Aaron Pryor, Larry Holmes, Duran and Rocky Marciano.
Brown is best known for his deeds with Duran and Marciano. While Arcel worked the press and refined strategy for Duran, Brown performed the grinding day-to-day conditioning and dealt head-on with the Panamanian’s volcanic mood swings. His most celebrated work as a cutman was achieved during Marciano’s second fight with Ezzard Charles, a bout in which “The Brockton Blockbuster” suffered a horrific vertical gash in round seven that split his left nostril in half.
“It got me scared just looking at ‘The Rock’s’ nose,” Brown told Deane McGowen of the New York Times in 1962, “but you’ve got to be right when you begin the repair job and you’ve got to be fast. Otherwise the fight’s lost.” The combination of his poise, experience and, perhaps Monsel’s Solution, Brown patched the wound as best as he could but instructed Marciano to get rid of Charles at the first opportunity. Ever obedient, Marciano polished off Charles two minutes and 36 seconds into the following round.
Another example of Brown’s resourcefulness occurred during Antuofermo’s second fight with Marvelous Marvin Hagler. An accidental butt opened a wound on Antuofermo’s forehead just 29 seconds into the fight and, by round’s end, the ex-champ’s face was a crimson mask. After tending to the cut for the full minute, Brown then launched into an extended argument with referee Davey Pearl and the local commission in the hope that the fight would be stopped and a no-contest declared. While Brown didn’t win that argument, the brouhaha he ignited extended the between-rounds break to three minutes and six seconds, which enhanced the effectiveness of his coagulant. Brown’s actions bought Antuofermo another three rounds of ring time before the cuts were deemed too severe to continue.
Brown’s aversion to the limelight, along with the passage of time, has placed him on the back burner, in terms of immortality. That said, his body of work still merits inclusion on a future ballot. Should that happen, my pen will be ready to affix a checkmark.
Al Gavin: Like Brown, Gavin was a New York native (Brooklyn, to be exact) whose sole focus was to perform his job to the best of his ability. But because he lacked the desire to promote himself – and because he died of a stroke 13 years ago at age 70 – his nearly six-decade career has remained in the background, in terms of fistic immortality. That needs to change.
Gavin’s odyssey began at age 13, when his mother took him to the old Madison Square Garden to watch the annual New York Golden Gloves tournament. Enthralled with what he saw, Gavin embarked on a brief amateur career. Though he earned a trophy for winning a tournament in 1949, he realized his best long-term route was to stand on the other side of the ring stool. While inside the famed Stillman’s Gym in Manhattan, Gavin observed Ray Arcel, Chickie Ferrara, Freddie Brown and Whitey Bimstein but the aspect of the job that intrigued him most was the treatment of cuts. Once he learned the tools (and tricks) of the trade from Ferrara, John Sulo and Tony Canzi, Gavin developed a sixth sense for the job that enabled him to earn top-notch assignments.
Son Al Jr. estimated his father worked 110 world title fights and more than 13,000 contests – 3,000 pro bouts and 10,000 amateur engagements. Some of the pros with whom he worked, at various times in their careers, include Lennox Lewis, Kevin Kelley, Junior Jones, Micky Ward, Arturo Gatti, Vito Antuofermo, Mustafa Hamsho, Vitali Klitschko, Brian Adams, John Duddy, future actor Tony Danza, Chuck Wepner, Alfredo Escalera, Walter Seeley, Benny Huertas, Bobby Cassidy, future referee Wayne Kelly, Randy Gordon (yes, that Randy Gordon, in his lone pro fight), Mike McCallum, Kevin Rooney Sr., Iran Barkley, Michael Olajide, James “Buddy” McGirt, Glenwood Brown, Alex Stewart, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Don Lalonde, Howard Davis Jr., Michael Dokes, Jake “The Snake” Rodriguez, Simon Brown, James Kinchen, Regilio Tuur, Livingstone Bramble, Mike Weaver, Charles Murray, Tracy Harris Patterson, Merqui Sosa, Calvin Grove, Lou Del Valle, Kelvin Seabrooks, Bruce Seldon, Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson, Lonnie Bradley, Frankie Toledo, Clarence “Bones” Adams, Michael Bentt, Michael Moorer, Paulie Ayala, Andrew Golota, David Tua, Julio Cesar Green, William Joppy, Shannon Briggs, Imamu Mayfield, Carl “The Truth” Williams, Freddie Pendleton, Uriah Grant, Tim Witherspoon, Oleg Maskaev, Herol Graham, Raul Marquez, Al Cole, Eric Harding, Chad Dawson, Michael Grant, Joshua Clottey, Paul Spadafora and Oscar De La Hoya.
Speaking of the “Golden Boy,” Gavin Jr. told a story that illustrated his father’s hand-wrapping skills.
“I remember when my Dad got a call from Oscar De La Hoya’s camp to come out to California to work with Oscar for his upcoming bout with Arturo Gatti,” he wrote. “After meeting with the crew, he sat with Oscar, talked a while, and got on the subject of hand wraps, as Oscar sustained a hand injury at some time and was particular as to how his hands were done. Well, Dad wrapped his hands and Oscar, banging one fist into the palm of the other, said, ‘Now that’s a good wrap.’ Soon after, De La Hoya went on to stop Gatti in four rounds. Did Dad wrap his hands? I don’t know. But the look in his eyes when he told me that story, well, said it all.”
But not only did Gavin work his magic as a second and cutman during the heat of competition, he provided an outlet for the next generation by training Brooklyn’s Police Athletic League fighters from 1952 to 1967, then launched a boxing program for the National Maritime Union. After that, he and Bob Jackson re-opened the Gramercy Gym in New York City in 1968. Once Gramercy was closed in 1989, Gavin relocated to Gleason’s Gym in downtown Brooklyn, where his reputation as a cutman increased. Even as he worked more high-profile fights, Gavin continued to assist fighters of all ages and skill levels, doing so with such a human touch that his charges affectionately called him “Uncle Al.” Even more amazingly, Gavin, for many years, worked days as a landscaper for the New York City Parks Department while devoting his nights to boxing.
“He could work four different cities in one week,” Gavin Jr. said. “He could be on a plane from Kansas City to New Orleans, from New Orleans to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Atlantic City. Everywhere he went, he kept a diary that listed all the fights he worked.”
In 1999, Gavin, longtime business partner Bob Jackson and future Hall-of-Famer J Russell Peltz shared the James J. Walker Long and Meritorious Service Award from the Boxing Writers Association of America. He was inducted into the New Jersey and Massachusetts Halls of Fame and will be enshrined in New York State’s on April 30. It is time to add one final honor to Gavin’s resume: International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee.
Chuck Hull: By day, Hull was a pit boss at the old MGM Grand, then at Bally’s and Arizona Charlie’s. By night, he was boxing’s voice of Las Vegas.
If there was an important fight taking place in “Sin City,” Hull was the man at ring center, telling the world who the fighters were and, after the bout’s conclusion, how they did. Two traits elevated him to the highest levels of his profession: The resonant voice honed by years of radio work and the no-frills precision with which he plied his trade. But while he avoided using overt catchphrases, Hull was the master of using tone and inflection to maximize the moment. One oft-replayed example of this gift is Hull’s reporting of Michael Spinks’ unanimous decision victory over Larry Holmes, which marked the first time a reigning light heavyweight champion dethroned a heavyweight titlist. While many ring announcers read, Hull rendered.
“You couldn’t help but love his lyrical voice,” former ringside physician Dr. Donald Romeo told the Las Vegas Sun upon Hull’s death at age 75 in February 2000. “He was a matter-of-fact, get-to-the-point kind of guy.”
According to the Sun, Hull was forced out of the big-time when he refused promoters’ demands to inject more pizzazz and hype into his delivery.
“I will not prostitute my craft,” Hull reportedly told his wife Mary.
Hull continued to work the smaller shows deep into the 1990s and his sustained excellence earned him a number of honors. The Las Vegas Boxing Hall of Fame named Hull its “Man of the Year” in 1986 and, 10 years later, he was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
To date, the IBHOF has inducted three ring announcers – Michael Buffer in 2012, Jimmy Lennon Jr. in 2013 and Jimmy Lennon Sr. in 2017. Hull should become the fourth.
Rafael Garcia: The IBHOF exists to honor the best of the best in various aspects of the sport. In that vein, more than a few would declare Garcia the dean of hand-wrappers.
Now in his late-80s, the native of Puebla, Mexico is best known for his work with Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose notoriously brittle hands required extraordinarily specialized care. According to a 2010 New York Times story, Garcia earned the gig in late 2000 by wrapping Mayweather’s fists in front of a doctor and the fighter’s advisers in Los Angeles. His attention to detail and the care with which he approached his task won over the fighter and his team and, starting with Mayweather’s victory over Diego Corrales through Mayweather’s first fight with Marcos Maidana, Garcia was a fixture on the team.
The road that led Garcia to the Mayweather job was forged by decades of, no pun intended, hard work and dedication. In his nearly seven decades in the sport, Garcia’s resume claims approximately 35 world champions, including Hall-of-Famers Alexis Arguello, Wilfredo Gomez and Roberto Duran. He has worked corners in China, Germany, England, South Korea, several African nations, his native Mexico and all over the United States. Garcia’s expertise is so well-regarded that the Nevada State Athletic Commission once asked him to demonstrate his technique to 20 of its inspectors.
“I never, never had any trouble. Nobody has asked me to redo a wrap. Ever,” he told the Times. “I don’t rush it. I like to do (the wraps) perfect, in the right way, the right moment. I have a feel for it.”
Sustained excellence is a hallmark of a potential Hall of Famer – perhaps the hallmark. If anyone has personified that trait, it has been Garcia and, for that, he should receive his just reward.
Jimmy Montoya: On the title page of the August 1983 issue of THE RING, these words are included: “Jimmy Montoya: A Look at an Overlooked Trainer.” That title seems apt, for, despite working directly with 17 world champions, as well as, in his estimation, 15 to 20 more in other capacities, Montoya’s name isn’t the first to be mentioned when outstanding trainers are discussed.
Perhaps it’s because, at his peak, Montoya amassed a stable that grew to more than 400 fighters, most of which were used to fill last-minute vacancies on countless cards up and down the West Coast, as well as provide sparring partners for various training camps. Because most of these fighters lost, the van used to transport them was dubbed “The Meat Wagon” and, because he was the man at the top of the operation, the nickname was stuck on him.
In reality, Montoya was much more than that simplistic moniker (which Montoya said he doesn’t mind, despite its negative connotation). Although he knew technique as well as anyone, his greatest talent as a trainer was his ability to push his charges past their self-imposed limitations, while his gift as a manager and booking agent was to juggle a prodigious and ever-changing itinerary without losing his place. But the trait that bound the package together was his honesty. His fighters, no matter what the talent level, were ready to put on the best show they could and Montoya did his best never to leave a desperate promoter or matchmaker in the lurch.
“Montoya is very important to any matchmaker and not just because he’s a good guy,” said then-Madison Square Garden matchmaker Harold Weston Jr. in the 1983 article. “He’s an honest guy. Other guys say they’ll deliver and then they leave you stranded but not Jimmy. I wish there were more like him in the game.”
Following years of earning his stripes, Montoya officially became a championship-level trainer in fitting fashion as Richie Sandoval scored a mind-blowing upset by dominating, then stopping in round 15, longtime WBA bantamweight king Jeff Chandler in April 1984. Montoya then seconded another staggering upset as Juan Meza scored an off-the-floor first-round KO over WBC super bantamweight king Jaime Garza, who entered the fight with a record of 40-0 (38) and was favorably compared to Danny “Little Red” Lopez. He added a third champion in a 16-month period when Hector Camacho Sr. dazzlingly out-pointed Jose Luis Ramirez to win the WBC lightweight title.
Over the years, the list of notable clients grew and, to date, it boasts names such as Alexis Arguello, Salvador Sanchez, Tony Lopez, Richie Sandoval, Luis Santana, Johnny Bredahl, Marvin Camel, Eleoncio Mercedes, Joe Calzaghe (for the Roy Jones Jr. fight), Hector Lizarraga, Nonito Donaire, Paul Vaden, John David Jackson and Mikkel Kessler, as well as female pioneers Graciela Casillas and Jackie “The Female Ali” Tonawanda. He also passed on his knowledge to Tyron Zeuge’s trainers, though he didn’t work his corner.
Like others on this list, Montoya, who turned 80 on New Year’s Day, placed performance over publicity.
“I don’t ever look for publicity; publicity will follow you if you do the right things,” he said in 1983. “If you don’t, bad publicity will follow you – and destroy you. You want to be alive, be right. I do wrong today, I get destroyed tomorrow. If you do something good, three goods will come forward in your favor.”
He also believes his take-no-guff reputation – and the enemies it created – also hurt his cause.
“I don’t know if they know my history but I used to not take crap from anybody,” he said a few days ago. “If they gave me crap, they had a problem. I know where my Hall of Fame is and it’s in my head. There are no promoters that I didn’t help and no one helps the fighters like I did.”
Because of the decades of tireless work, staggering travel and odds-busting success, the name Jimmy Montoya should grace a future IBHOF ballot. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Miguel Diaz: Diaz is cut from similar cloth as Montoya; if there’s a corner to be worked, Diaz will be there to work it. To him, it doesn’t matter if his charge is a four-round preliminary fighter or a world champion on the pound-for-pound list because Diaz will invest maximum energy and expertise into every task.
The native of Argentina has been on his breakneck pace ever since beginning his career as a trainer and cutman in 1974. In that time, he has taken part in more than 200 championship fights and the roll call of champions for whom he worked is a veritable Who’s Who. The champions he trained included Stevie Johnston, Pedro Decima, Cesar Bazan, 2017 IBHOF inductee Johnny Tapia, Diego Corrales, Roger Mayweather, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Cesar Soto, Erik Morales, Iran Barkley, James Toney, Mike McCallum, Clarence “Bones” Adams, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, Eloy Rojas, Eric Morel, Irene Pacheco, Hasim Rahman, William Joppy, Christy Martin, Jorge Arce, Jose Luis Castillo, David Griman, Bobby Berna and Freddie Norwood, while he served as a cutman for Manny Pacquiao, Joshua Clottey, Cesar Canchila, Kelly Pavlik, Tony Tubbs, Miguel Barrera, Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez, Daniel Reyes, Israel Vazquez, Oscar Larios, Ricardo Torres, Ivan Calderon, Miguel Cotto, Steve Forbes, Omar Nino, Martin Castillo, Ulises Solis and Sultan Ibragimov.
Aside from his considerable resume as a second, he hosted an evening boxing program on KMEX-TV and, for a short time, worked for CompuBox. In 1999, Diaz was named “Trainer of the Year” by the BWAA and, in 2008, he was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. The 78-year-old remains active, as he trains Brazilian prospect (and 2012 silver medalist) Esquiva Falcao and serves as Jose Ramirez’s cutman.
I’m not sure if Diaz has ever traveled to Canastota but, should he be included on the ballot, the guess is, one day, he’ll be given good reason to book a flight from Las Vegas to Syracuse and make the half-hour drive to the Hall of Fame grounds.
James “Smitty” Smith: “Smitty’s” place within the boxing firmament is unique. As a child, he watched Muhammad Ali train for the first Joe Frazier fight at the fighter’s invitation, just one episode in a nearly lifelong friendship with “The Greatest.” Following his own short-lived time as a pro boxer, he launched a broadcasting career that encompassed radio (1985-2003), television (1997-present) and, in recent years, the Internet. In fact, Smith was the play-by-play man for the first live boxing broadcast on the Web in May 1997 and he maintains a strong Internet presence by providing regular pre-fight previews, post-fight interviews and summaries on the show’s website InThisCorner.TV.
While working CSI and USSB broadcasts, Smith served all three possible roles – blow-by-blow, color analyst and roving reporter. Also, like Hall-of-Famers Don Dunphy and Howard Cosell, Smith has worked solo. Few broadcasters have the versatility to credibly perform all these tasks but Smith has done it time and again.
But the vehicle that sets Smith apart from his peers is “In This Corner,” which has aired weekly since its inception nearly 13 years ago. Those episodes that feature active or retired boxers usually are presented in two parts, the first being a conventional one-on-one interview, in which the fighter discusses his life and career and, the second, an in-ring segment in which the guest explains – and demonstrates – the techniques that led to his success.
The in-ring segments have allowed Smith to boast a singular distinction: He has been in the ring with more than 50 world champions, including Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins, Manny Pacquiao, Johnny Tapia, Nonito Donaire, Aaron Pryor, Andre Ward and Sugar Ray Leonard. While some fighters are somewhat hesitant to fully explain their methods, others, like Donaire and Tapia, were willing to tell all. More often than not, the in-ring segments are informative, illustrative and instructive.
For many years, Smith hasn’t been at the forefront of career-defining distinctions because he hasn’t worked televised cards on a regular basis for more than a decade. In recent times, however, that has changed as he was enshrined in the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016.
Smith began emceeing the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s induction weekend in 2016 and is scheduled to do so again in 2017. Hopefully, one year soon, Smith will be delivering the induction speech instead of overseeing the ceremony.
Randy Gordon: Like Smith, Gordon’s life in “The Sweet Science” has taken many forms. The 1972 graduate of Long Island University began his career as a writer for World Boxing and International Boxing magazines, during which he engaged in his one and only professional fight, which he lost by second-round KO in March 1976, while also writing a story about a sparring session with then-prospect Howard Davis Jr. He then moved over to THE RING magazine as its associate editor under editor-in-chief Bert Randolph Sugar, then, after Sugar departed, became the magazine’s fourth – and youngest ever – editor. Other editorship jobs he held include associate editor of the Big Book of Boxing, World Boxing and International Boxing, as well as editor of Boxing Illustrated.
During his time at THE RING, Gordon launched what would become a decades-long broadcasting career that continues to this day. His guest spot on an ESPN card was so well-received that the network signed him to share analyst duties with future Hall-of-Famer Al Bernstein. Two years later, in 1983, he moved over to the USA Network to join blow-by-blow man Al Albert for what would become a five-year run. One of Gordon’s innovations was what he dubbed the “Randy’s Reach,” which measured the jabbing arm from the shoulder to the end of the fist instead of the customary wingspan measurement from fingertip to fingertip. Though the name didn’t survive, the overall concept has stood the test of time as HBO applies that interpretation in its current “reach” graphic.
In 1988, then-Governor Mario Cuomo asked Gordon to become the new commissioner of the New York State Athletic Commission and, at age 38, he became the youngest person ever to hold that post. Over the next seven years, “Commissioner Gordon” modernized the rulebook, appointed a new generation of judges and referees and conducted dozens of seminars throughout the country. His administrative skill was rewarded by his being voted President of the Association of Boxing Commissions.
Following his time at the NYSAC, Gordon served as the Director of Boxing for Foxwoods from 1995-1997, then became a personal trainer, a career he continues to this day. Along with the personal training, Gordon remains a prolific broadcaster, as he currently hosts “Friday Night at the Fights” on Sirius XM radio with former world heavyweight title challenger Gerry Cooney and recently launched “Randy’s Ringside” on Facebook, which appears on Mondays and Fridays (and sometimes Wednesdays). Also, one of the two children’s books he has written is titled “Ali.”
Gordon was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005 and was enshrined in the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016. Inclusion in a third Hall of Fame – the International Boxing Hall of Fame – would be the crowning achievement of what has been, and continues to be, a productive life in boxing.
Lorraine Chargin: An oft-quoted saying is “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Legendary boxing promoter Don Chargin would be the first to agree with that sentiment, for while he made the matches and formulated the larger vision behind a promotion, his wife of 49 years Lorraine, the Olympic Auditorium’s building manager, tackled the dozens of details required of every show. They were an inseparable unit, both in life and in business, and that powerfully imprinted symbiosis was reflected by their joint induction into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and their being awarded the James J. Walker Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing in 2001.
Together, they promoted fights involving Bobby Chacon, Mando Ramos, Danny “Little Red” Lopez (and older brother Ernie), Lupe Pintor, Pipino Cuevas, Alfonso Zamora, Gilberto Roman, Jaime Garza, Albert Davila, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., the Bejines brothers (Kiko, Oscar and David), the Baltazar siblings (Tony and Frankie), the Pimentel brothers (Jesus and Jose), Ruben Castillo, Oscar “The Boxer” Muniz, Art Frias, John Montes, Rodolfo “Gato” Gonzalez (both the lightweight champion of the 1970s and the hot prospect of the early-1980s), Juan “Kid” Meza, Frankie Duarte, Carlos Palomino, Armando Muniz, Monroe Brooks, Rafael Herrera, Andy Price, Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado, Frankie Crawford, Hedgemon Lewis, Jerry Quarry and Luis Rodriguez. Other Olympic visitors included Salvador Sanchez, Sean O’Grady, Romeo Anaya, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Jorge Lujan, Jose Luis Ramirez, Rodolfo Martinez, Howard Davis Jr., Michael Spinks, Bruce Curry, Chucho Castillo, Adolfo and Edwin Viruet, Ken Norton, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Emile Griffith and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Given those prodigious names, the Olympic Auditorium became known as “The Madison Square Garden of the West” and Lorraine Chargin was there every step of the way.
When they left the Olympic, the couple formed Don Chargin Productions. They helped revitalize the boxing scene in Sacramento by developing the careers of eventual champions Tony Lopez, Willie Jorrin and Loreto Garza. Garza was so appreciative of the Chargins’ efforts that he named his first-born daughter after Lorraine. The pair continued to put on shows until Lorraine died in April 2010 following a short bout, her second, with cancer.
“We were always together,” Chargin said shortly after her passing. “She was always with me, since my days as an Oakland matchmaker for Jimmy Dundee in the late-1950s. She was a heck of a ‘detail’ person…I always made the matches and helped with the publicity but Lorraine took care of everything else…the tickets, the insurance, basically the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the event.”
She was nicknamed “The Dragon Lady” for her tenacity and willingness to press her argument against anyone, no matter how large or intimidating. One example of her toughness was when she confronted Don King, when he stormed into Sacramento’s Arco Arena without credentials to watch recently dethroned heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis fight Lionel Butler in May of 1995.
“Security asked me if I was worried about her,” Chargin told the Los Angeles Times’ Jerry Crowe in August 2010. “And I said, ‘No, I’m worried about him.'”
To those that know them best – and to listen to Chargin himself – whatever achievements he earned in boxing were also the product of his wife’s knowledge and effort. That’s why so many were puzzled that Lorraine didn’t join her husband in the IBHOF’s Class of 2001. The reason why she didn’t was she has never been placed on the Hall’s ballot. Hopefully that will change sometime soon.
Bob Canobbio: I know what some of you are thinking: “What a suck-up, touting his own boss for the Hall of Fame.” While I understand that sentiment, Canobbio’s inclusion on this list is purely merit-based, for I was convinced of CompuBox’s impact and relevance long before I ever met Canobbio in 2001 or began working for him full-time in 2007.
Whenever a controversial decision occurs, the punch-stats often are eagerly awaited by fans and media alike because they are used to establish the baseline for the debate to follow. That’s because, much more often than not, the CompuBox stats back up what most people saw. That credibility is the foundation of CompuBox’s place in boxing and should also serve as the reason why Canobbio, the program’s co-creator and the longtime president of the company, should be inducted.
I am not alone in my opinion. When CompuBox marked its 30th birthday in February 2015, HBO’s Jim Lampley described CompuBox’s place as “permanent, entrenched, hard to dislodge.” He elaborated:
“I can’t imagine somebody coming up with a better system for establishing what happened in the fight. When I was a child and read box scores, I wanted to know this kind of information about a boxing match and, before CompuBox, nothing told me. A void was filled. Writers would not be able to tell the stories of Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield I or Johnny Tapia-Manuel Medina in the same way without those numbers. It has been embraced by media as evidence by its visibility in the leads of writers’ stories, in my own commentary and the commentary of others.
Lampley concluded, “Bob Canobbio has made a large and historic contribution to the sport. He basically took on and confronted a lot of naysayers and, in so doing, what he did, together with his early associates, he created and facilitated a system that, like it or not, over time, has earned credibility. Long after Bob is gone, CompuBox will do what CompuBox does for boxing.”
The database continues to grow on an almost daily basis and, in recent years, counts of past fighters have been done off video (Alexis Arguello, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Joe Louis, Wilfredo Gomez, Rocky Marciano and Carlos Zarate, to name just a few). This will provide direct statistical comparisons between eras, something few other sports can boast, given that the basic assortment of punches has not changed in more than a century.
The best ideas are often the simplest and Canobbio has devoted the majority of his professional life making CompuBox the foremost name in the boxing statistics business. That commitment and success should be rewarded.
While the messenger of this proposal is flawed, the message is not: Bob Canobbio belongs on the Hall of Fame ballot.
The original CompuBox computer is stored inside the gift shop at the back corner of the Madison Square Garden ring. It would be fitting that one of the men who operated it way back when should also be immortalized.
By no means is this an all-encompassing list of people who deserve a mention on the ballot someday. Other worthy names include Brad Goodman, the associate matchmaker for Top Rank Promotions, veteran broadcaster Rich Marotta, who has been inducted into two Halls of Fame (the Southern California Sportscasters Hall of Fame and the California Boxing Hall of Fame) and founded another (the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame), longtime writer and broadcaster Dave Bontempo, an entrant in the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, as well as the BWAA’s 1988 Sam Taub Award winner, longtime trainer Jesse Reid Sr. (whose blend of technical knowledge and motivational skill would have made him my personal choice for a trainer, had I ever been a boxer) and executive-turned-promoter Lou DiBella. Even after this, I’m only scratching the surface.
Of course, it’s up to the Hall’s screening committee to determine who makes the final cut each year and this article makes clear the depth and breadth of the panel’s challenge. The bench is extraordinarily deep and will remain so for many years to come.
Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. 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 Amazon.com. To contact Groves, use the email [email protected].
Struggling to locate a copy of RING magazine? Try here or…
You can subscribe to the print and digital editions of 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: the recently retired all-time great Bernard Hopkins.