Don Fraser honors boxing’s best this Saturday!
Don Fraser is a legend in boxing.
As a former editor of KO magazine, PR Director for the Olympic Auditorium, Inglewood Forum, promoter for the Olympic and Irvine Marriott Hotel, it would be an understatement to say he knows the business of the sweet science very, very well.
And he has been a mentor to many in the boxing community. Fraser’s generosity in mentoring others is well-documented; the proof is in his protégés’ many successes. The veteran of the fight game is also founder and President of the California Boxing Hall of Fame.
This organization holds an annual induction for those who have contributed to the sport of boxing in the California. This West Coast function is a prestigious honor that I, myself, am proud to be a part of. Last year, Don surprised me with my own induction (along with Steve Harpst). Our day at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City will always remain a special highlight for me.
The 2009 awards ceremony will be taking place this Saturday at Steven’s Steak & Seafood House in the City of Commerce. Tickets for the yearly banquet are a coveted commodity and this weekend’s awards sold out in record time.
“There has been so much support for this. We’ll have over 600 people at the awards,” Fraser says. “There are so many noteworthy people being honored. It’s totally sold out–we have now arranged a closed circuit area in the bar for the overflow.”
Even though this is for the “best in the West” in boxing, there’s been plenty of cross-country support for all of the inductees. “Howard Smith’s hometown of Arkansas has sent over special certificates for the affair,” Don adds, just one example of the excitement building up for the event where guests can meet and greet some great heroes and legends in boxing.
Since I know firsthand what it’s like to receive this award (I was thrilled, humbled, and just a little nervous during last year’s speech), I checked in with three of the newest inductees: a trainer, a fight promoter, and a former boxer.
John Bray, Roy Englebrecht, and Alex Ramos will all be inducted this Saturday and I wanted to hear their thoughts on being immortalized by the one and only Mr. Don Fraser (a 2005 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee himself).
Trainer John Bray is a former pro boxer who also had a great amateur career. He is currently a trainer of many top prospects, including Miguel Espino, who will be fighting in October. The Valley resident is also founder of the John Bray Boxing Foundation.
He’s honored to be part of the ceremony, “I would like to thank the boxing community as a whole, my mom, brothers and sisters and my wife.” The busy trainer first met Fraser through a mutual friend, Ken Green, who is also being inducted this year. Bray will be in attendance at the luncheon before heading straight out to the Staples Center for the Klitschko-Arreola brawl. He’s involved in one of the undercard bouts, “I’ll be working the corner for Cisse Salif, who will be fighting Cedric Boswell.” Heavyweight Salif has been one of the main sparring partners for headliner Chris Arreola.
Well-known fight promoter Roy Englebrecht (Roy Englebrecht Promotions) has been a mainstay in SoCal boxing for over two decades. He gives credit where credit is due–to his mentor Don Fraser.
“We’ve had success together at the “Battle in the Ballroom” which was really his swan song,” Englebrecht tells me. “In 1984, he told me if I got a sponsor we could put on a show. So I got Tecate for $1,000 (which was a lot of money back then!). Our first show was in February 1985 and we wondered if we’d even sell one ticket; we had to turn away 300 people! It’s now our 25th Anniversary.”
The California businessman, who is co-owner of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes baseball team and has been involved with the Arena Football League’s Anaheim Piranhas, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings, continues, “I am happy that I was there on that first night to be able to have Don teach me the fight promotion business. The success I’ve had in boxing promotions as well as in the MMA business is due to the fact that Don Fraser took a gamble that professional boxing would work in an upscale ballroom in an Orange County hotel!”
Learning the biz from Fraser was a priceless commodity that carries through today. “We were the leaders and we did this every year, every month for seven years straight! It was hard work,” remembers Englebrecht. “Anybody who’s been in business for 25 years, in the same location is unheard of. But anyone who’s been in the BOXING business–in the same location–for 25 years is downright scary! It’s amazing. Now I do it every other month, and my son, Drew works with me.”
The father-son duo continues to hold successful sold-out fight nights. The Englebrecht’s next show at the Irvine Marriott is scheduled for October 29, with his MMA “Fist Series” on November 21 and his boxing series will feature a year-end show on December 17.
For boxer Alex Ramos, Saturday’s induction is a badge of honor the fighter can add to his belt. “I am honored to be in the state of California. This means a lot to me,” The “Bronx Bomber” explains. “My other career highlight was winning my belt in Atlantic City. It was for the USBA title; it seems like yesterday but that was so long ago. After that, I went to fight in Argentina for the title and lost. It was 1994 and I retired after that.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to be amongst this boxing family. I love being around the fighters and going to the fights, you know? It’s what keeps me alive!”
Ramos has had his share of health problems in the last few years but is currently on the mend. “I feel great; I feel good. I’m on the right medication now,” he confirms. “I thank God I’m alive–I had it tough last year.”
The fighter, like many other boxers, knows what it’s like to be in the limelight one minute and down-and-out the next. He began his own charitable organization, the Retired Boxers Foundation, to help out the less fortunate. “Right now we’re helping out a lot of other boxers in need,” the former middleweight states about his California-based foundation. Jacquie Richardson, executive director of Ramos’ foundation is also being inducted this year.
Joining Bray, Englebrecht, Ramos, and Richardson as the Class of 2009 Honorees are: Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach, Timothy Bradley, Gary Shaw, Michael Buffer, Jesus Pimentel, Charlie Powell, Davey Gallardo, Van Barbieri, Jack O’Halloran, P.J. Goossen, Robert Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Ken Green, Howard Smith, Jesse Reid, Paul Andrews, Paul Vaden, John Jackson Sr., Gary Ballin, Kid Rayo, Tony Cerda, Tony Fuentes, Bob Fuentes, Sugar Ray Robinson and Jim Jeffries.
Congratulations to all on your well-deserved inductions!
California Boxing Hall of Fame
2009 Induction Ceremony
Saturday, September 26
11:30 a.m. Crystal Ballroom
Prime Rib Luncheon at 12 noon
Steven’s Steak & Seafood House
PLEASE NOTE: *Luncheon tickets are sold out–Bar area AVAILABLE*
For more information: (818) 761-4887
Photos courtesy of Don Fraser, Roy Englebrecht, Linda Dempsey, John Bray, Alex Ramos and Michele Chong
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