A toast to the 2010 Inductees!
Right before I embarked on a journey to Reno, Nevada for the Johnson-Jeffries Centennial mega-event, I attended another mega-event held in the State of California. This occasion was to celebrate the new Class of 2010 California Boxing Hall of Fame inductees, who were all ushered into the legendary hall by President Don Fraser.
So before I hit the Sierra Nevadas, I still had California dreamin’ on my mind. Here’s a fun look back at the awards luncheon held in the Empire and Regency Ballrooms of the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City:
Before I even entered the large room, I could already feel the buzz of anticipation quickly filling the ballrooms, which were filled to capacity. Upon entering the venue, I was swept up in the excitement of the day when the L.A. boxing community really comes out in full force. Lending their support at this luncheon is our way to toast those who’ve dedicated themselves to their passion–boxing.
There were so many familiar faces amongst the crowd as this anticipated yearly event becomes a reunion for many of the attendees. Boxers, trainers, promoters, along with their friends and family all boosted the room toward a high-energy atmosphere as many were reunited with those they hadn’t seen in ages.
As people made their way to the tables, an excitement filled the air as the first of the awards were handed out. As I viewed the list of new inductees on the official program, I counted 25 names voted as this year’s honorees. Joining the ranks of California Hall of Famers are (in order on the official program): Art Hafey, Bob Arum, Sean O’Grady, Enrique Bolanos, Rick Farris, Brad Pye Jr., Larry Montalvo, John Beyrooty, Pat Russell, Ray De La Fuentes, Victor Valenzuela, Jerry Cheatham, Joey Barnum, Tony Cerda Jr., Joe Borrielli, Bill Caplan, Lupe Aquino, Junior Robles, Paul Palomino, Byron Lindsay, Young Corbett III, Joey Medill, Bobby Pacho, Joe Robledo and Johnny Forbes.
I also saw several fan favorites making their way around the ballroom, including fighters Carlos Palomino, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Rafael Ruelas, Ruben Castillo, Paul Banke, Bobby Chacon, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Allen Syers, Frankie Baltazar Jr., World Boxing Hall of Fame past Presidents Ken Thompson, Dr. Joe Noriega, current President Armando Muñiz, referee/judge Gwen Adair, WBHF treasurer Josie Arrey-Mejia, trainer/former fighter John Bray, referees Jack Reiss, Vince Delgado, trainer Ben Lira, former CSAC chief inspector Dean Lohuis, Councilmember Bernard Parks, female boxer Katarina De La Cruz, and I’m sure there were many other boxing notables that I didn’t get a chance to personally see or chat with. The party was packed with boxing stars and aficionados in the sport.
The gathering was filled with a friendly camaraderie between the local boxing circles and the out-of-town guests who joined the ceremony.
This tribute to those who have contributed to boxing in the Southland is something past and present inductees do not take for granted. Being part of this unique fraternity is an honor. John Bray, a former pro heavyweight and popular SoCal trainer, fondly remembers his own 2009 induction. “I was truly honored when I was inducted last year,” Bray relays. “I was invited this year by my friend Ken Green, who I sat with.”
He is currently coaching a talented team of heavyweights. “My highlight was seeing and sitting with Ken Green and sharing my afternoon with people from the boxing community in which I was raised and grew up in,” adds Bray. “Boxing is my life, as well as the people in it! I am fortunate to belong to such an elite Hall of Fame.”
I, too, personally second John’s sentiments, as I was inducted into the 2008 class of the California Boxing Hall of Fame. Being part of this group of hard-working and dedicated individuals only makes me strive more to support boxing in a positive way.
This feeling resonated throughout the day as each new honoree stepped into the pages of history as part of the 2010 class and proudly took to the mike as waves of emotion came forth.
As the Denise Fraser Band entertained the patrons, each special guest made their way to the podium when called up on stage by emcee Jim Fitzgerald. With rounds of applause, they were presented with framed awards and beautiful proclamations of congratulations from the City of L.A. The audience was also treated to heartfelt speeches filled with great stories from the past relayed, humorous anecdotes remembered, and sincere thanks given by each and every newest Hall of Fame member.
One of the most poignant moments came when Fraser introduced the posthumous category honoring Paul Palomino, Junior Robles and Bryon Lindsay, three of fourteen amateur boxers who perished in a plane crash on their way to an international show in Poland. This past March was the thirtieth anniversary of the tragic event.
As the crowd watched on, it was an emotional part of the program as the family members all joined each other on stage. A few days after the awards ceremony, Fraser told me the impact this had on him. “When I started to announce them, I got choked up,” he recalls. “I had to stop for a second and regroup; I had to stop. Then we proceeded…”
Carlos Palomino accepted the memorial award in honor of his brother, Paul, and was clearly touched by the outpouring of support from the room.
“Carlos told me that his brother was going to be an ever better fighter than he was,” explained Fraser. “Others said that Paul was such a great talent; this kid had it!” Unfortunately for all of us, the world never got to see the talents these fighters had to offer.
Many guests came in from thousands and thousands of miles, with Art Hafey and his wife Cathy traveling all the way from Nova Scotia to accept his prestigious award in person. I met Hafey last year at the premiere of “Toy Tiger,” a great docu-film paying tribute to the diminutive power puncher who was an integral part of the “featherweight wars” of the ’70s. The Canadian slugger is one of the nicest guys in the sport and I really enjoyed meeting Cathy, too. And they were enjoying their return to the Golden State and were reconnecting with boxer Ruben Castillo and his wife Cynthia.
As I passed by a table of the awardees, I greeted publicist extraordinaire Bill Caplan, who was sitting next to former featherweight, referee and current judge Vince Delgado. The two playfully squared off as I took a quick snapshot of the amiable duo.
I also had fun meeting inductee John Beyrooty’s two cute and bubbly daughters, Nichole and Brianna, who beamed with pride of their Pops’ well-earned day in the sun. The writer, burger czar, P.R. guru and more, knows anyone and everyone in the sport. But taking a humble stance, he regaled the audience with stories of his early beginnings as a copy boy at the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner newspaper. Johnny Bey could probably fill volumes with everything he’s heard and seen in boxing, and onstage he was very appreciative of his newest Hall of Fame honor.
The award for “youngest and most adorable” attendee has to go to Kali Palomino, granddaughter of former WBA welterweight champ, Carlos Palomino and his wife Daliene. At just six weeks old, the baby made her debut in the boxing community as her proud parents, Veronica and Carlos Jr. introduced her to other guests.
There were various generations of boxing royalty who filled the seats and had a blast meeting the new faces on the scene. Enrique Bolanos’ wife, Ruby, had a good time giving advice to Paula Banke, daughter of former WBC titlist, Paul Banke. “Save all the photos, articles and belts from your father’s career,” she imparted upon the 20-year-old, in regards to preserving family legacies. “Years later,” advised Ruby Bolanos, “you’ll be glad you did.”
And preserving these legacies in boxing is one of the reasons the founder of the California Hall of Fame hold these annual awards shows. Fraser told me, in regards to how the idea of his organization came to be, “I started all this with Rick Resnick and it’s grown through the years. This means a lot to everyone.
“It’s great to honor the fighters–and their families,” said Fraser, who is commonly called an icon in the sweet science for his decades of success in the sport. He’s covered everything from A-Z in boxing as a writer, editor, P.R. director, CSAC member, promoter, International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee and so much more. He also mentions he started the series of fight nights in Orange County. He’s done a lot in boxing and for boxing, but just don’t call him an “icon.”
“No! I don’t like the word ‘icon.'” he tells me, preferring to simplify all he has done in his field. “You can just call me a retired promoter.”
So now that the 2010 show is sealed in history books, I ask the retired promoter what’s in store for his 2011 awards show?
“Well, I’ll tell you I’d like to tie it in with a special anniversary like one year when we had the Dempsey-Tunney longcount anniversary,” Fraser answers.
“It’ll be a surprise,” he promised.
We will have to wait ’til next year to see what the boxing impresario has in store for us.
Congrats again to all the 2010 inductees–and check out these snapshots from the special day!
Photos by Michele Chong