Tuesday, October 03, 2023  |



Ring belts stolen from IBHOF in 2015 presumed lost after arrests are made

Ring Magazine championship belt
Fighters Network

A decades-long series of thefts in a few Northeastern US states has been apparently solved. And that brings potential bad news for a group of priceless sports and arts memorabilia and artifacts picked up during that long raid.

Among those items were several boxing championship belts stolen from the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, including a few Ring magazine championship belts belonging to former welterweight and middleweight champion Carmen Basilio and former middleweight champion Tony Zale.

According to law enforcement, the suspects transported the stolen goods back to northeastern Pennsylvania and melted most of the metal-based memorabilia down to make it easily transportable in metal discs or bars. The championship belts are believed to have suffered that fate.

Haley Zale has been at the forefront of her family’s effort to solve the case of the stolen belts (Photo courtesy of Haley Zale)

Nine people have been charged with stealing significant artwork and sports memorabilia for over 20 years. Nicholas Dombek, age 53, of Thornhurst, Pennsylvania, Damien Boland, age 47, of Moscow, Pennsylvania, Alfred Atsus, age 47, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania, and Joseph Atsus, age 48, of Roaring Brook, Pennsylvania were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit theft of major artwork, concealment or disposal of objects of cultural heritage, and interstate transportation of stolen property, according to several news reports in the areas where the thefts and arrests occurred. A few more are under investigation.

Dombek remains at large. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or TIPS.FBI.GOV.

The list of items stolen by this group range from baseball player Christy Mathewson’s jersey to paintings by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock that were stolen in 2005 from the Everhart Museum in Scranton and a number of championship rings belonging to Yogi Berra.

Those rings alone would fetch well over $1,000,000 in the open market, but the suspicion is that the gang chose to avoid the risk of being caught by melting all precious metals and extracting all precious stones and selling those in the open market.

The Ring belts stolen from the IBHOF are presumed to be in that group of artifacts.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce that the Bring Back The Belts ‘campaign’ is now over,” wrote Haley Zale, actress and relative to Tony Zale who worked tirelessly to retrieve those family heirlooms during all these years, in a Facebook post.  “’Closure’ is just a word. The feeling runs deeper. The belts are gone. But the dirt bags are finally stopped!”


Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.