Class of 2012 Will Be Honored on Saturday
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For 25 inductees, Saturday’s California Boxing Hall of Fame (CBHOF) ceremony will represent endless hours and countless days these fighters, trainers, promoters, and commentators have spent toiling in the sport they have dedicated their lives to: BOXING.
I, too, am guilty of harboring such a passion for the sport that it has seeped into my daily existence. I may not be a champion fighter, but watching–and writing about prizefighting–continues to inspire me. I can’t ever imagine not following boxing. Boxing gets under your skin; once you’re consumed by it there is no cure. Talking boxing is never ending; it’s a universal language that includes all races, genders and ages, excluding no one if your love for it is legit.
And for this year’s 2012 Class of Inductees, I guarantee they are even more hardcore than I am as they have been immersed in boxing for decades! These inductees have sacrificed their family life, personal obligations and valuable time to dedicate themselves to the sport that beckons them, completely drawing them in, capturing their hearts forever. It is these individual’s pure love of pugilism that CBHOF President/Founder Don Fraser tells me he likes to reward.
Fraser, a longtime veteran of the sport (as a promoter, matchmaker, writer, CSAC officer, PR Director, etc.), says that the other Hall of Fames choose their worthy inductees within their own criteria. But for Fraser, CBHOF Vice President Rick Farris and their board, their West Coast ceremony remains unique and special to a group of sometimes unheralded boxing vets that deserve their time in the spotlight.
On Saturday, these men and one woman (fighter Lucia Rijker) will have their day in the sun. So high was the demand for tickets that the event is COMPLETELY SOLD OUT and has been for the couple of weeks leading up to the bash, V.P. Farris tells me. He and Fraser have also been working on the coveted Souvenir Journal that ticket holders will receive that features both the past and the present.
Convening at the famed Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, the guests will mingle with the champs, enjoy a delicious luncheon and meet the stars of the day–this year’s awardees. During the Induction Ceremony, the guests of honor will step up to the microphone to accept their awards and thank their mentors, family members and friends that have been there every step of the way.
I’ve been part of many of these banquets and I have to say, the speeches I’ve heard are the most emotional ever, their words sincere and heartfelt. When they approach the podium, you will see years and years of sacrifice and commitment awarded in the faces of their families. In this exclusive and intimate setting that the CBHOF provides, the attendees are given an up close and more personal view in seeing and meeting the new Hall of Famers. Beaming parents, loving spouses and proud children will surround the newest inductees as soon as they step off the stage. Indeed, this will be their time to shine.
The new 2012 inductees will be Sergio Martinez, Jim Lampley, Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, Rudy Hernandez, Norman “Bumpy” Parra, Adrian Arreola, Fritz Werner, Jesse Burnett, James Kinchen, Jimmy Rosette, Al Stankie, Rudy Tellez, Burke Emery, Bobby DePhilippis, Lucia Rijker, Georgie Garcia and Randy De La O. Posthumous Honorees include Rocky Marciano, Joe Frazier, Floyd Patterson, Vic Ponce, Bobo Olson, Charley Norkus, Kid Gavilan and Rudy Ayon.
While these 25 representatives of the sweet science will be ushered into the history books, no one will be more prouder than the kids and grandkids of the inductees, the early trainers of the boxers and their fellow fighters who knew their compadres during the scrappiest of times, and the boxing widows of the game.
I spoke with three members of the fight game who are looking forward to the show: former boxer/current trainer Vincent Parra (whose father Norman “Bumpy” Parra will be inducted), boxing coach Sonny Shapiro (who trained inductee Adrian Arreola) and cutman/cornerman and ex-fighter Rudy Hernandez (2012 Inductee and brother of Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez). All three gentlemen talked about how much this means to their families and the legacy they will carry on.
I offered the trio my congratulations on Saturday’s ceremony.
“Thanks, Michele! It’s great for my dad and it means a lot to my family to see him finally get recognition for his boxing career–and contribution to the sport as a trainer too is awesome,” San Diego’s Vince Parra (trainer of Mercito Gesta and Aaron Garcia) replies. The SoCal coach is proud to carry on in his dad’s footsteps, “Bumpy” Parra, who still trains fighters: “My dad has always stayed in the background but he’s worked with so many fighters! To me, I owe my career to him. Things I’ve learned from him about boxing are my foundation; having him work as our team advisor is a great asset to Mercito. My dad’s seen it all. He’s from a great era long passed and I’m proud he’s my dad and I can only hope to be half the trainer he’s been. SALUDOS Pop–you deserve it!”
And then there’s the East L.A. boxing coach who never forgot his prized pupil. Sonny Shapiro now resides in Oregon but back in the day, he was inductee Adrian Arreola’s chief second. “I use to train Adrian in his heyday,” Shapiro comments. “I became part of the Hollenbeck Gym in 1978 and that’s when I met Adrian. I got him ready for two of his biggest wins which was his KO of Lupe Pintor and his first round KO of Manuel Canela when he won the Forum Stroh’s Featherweight title. I worked with Al Stankie, who taught me how to train fighters and entrusted me with Adrian.”
Boxing often provides a way out for many of the youth trapped in poverty or adverse conditions.
“For me, the best part of me being his coach was when I saw him buy his parents a house after the Canela fight,” recalls Sonny, “which got them out the Aliso Village (housing projects). Adrian is such a great human being and has been like a son to my wife and I.”
For Rudy Hernandez, boxing’s in his blood and has been for generations. Rudy’s father Joe Rudy Hernandez and brothers grew up in and around gyms. Currently a well-regarded UFC cutman and boxing cornerman, Rudy recalls his early start in the sport.
“So just how long have you been involved in boxing?” I ask him, a couple of days after seeing Hernandez corner Mike Alvarado and Toshiaki Nishioka at the Top Rank card in Carson.
Rudy laughs, thinks a bit before he answers. “Well, I started boxing at 11…so it’s been 39 years that I’ve been part of boxing,” he admits. “But I still feel I haven’t accomplished everything I want to yet.”
For the last fight, Rudy jokes that he was the “assistant to the assistant of the trainer” and enjoyed every step of the way. The in-demand cornerman will be going to Japan next week for three title fights. He remains humble; I still see him working with amateur boxers at weekend shows. And he still wants to pay his dues in the sport, willing to suffer through long flights, gritty gyms and seeing the underbelly of boxing that most never see–mundane trips for doctor’s exams, late night visits to the hospital with bruised fighters, and having to change plans at a moment’s notice when offers of work comes in.
It is this personal sacrifice that will come to fruition this Saturday. “My wife and kids will be there and I also have a friend Steve Korbel, who is flying out from Chicago to be there,” Rudy says. “It’s a big deal for them. I got a friend from the ‘hood, Victor Vasquez, who told me how proud he is that one of the guys from the ‘hood made it all the way to the Hall of Fame!”
Even for a tough veteran like Hernandez, the induction ceremony will be a memorable one. “This is really for my kids, who never gave up on me when I wasn’t there for them because of boxing,” Rudy explains. “I couldn’t be there many times because I was working. So this award is really for them–they sacrificed not having their dad there. And the look on their faces when I told them about the Hall of Fame was priceless. They are so proud!”
And that’s a taste of what the awards will be like for many of the honorees.
The organization’s Rick Farris says the demand for tables has never been higher and the families will be coming out in droves from all over the country. Don Fraser, Rick Farris, Richard Resnick, Norma Silvani and the CBHOF committee members have all played an integral part in planning this KO day. Special guests will include actors Clint Howard and Rance Howard, who will be cheering on the Charley Norkus tribute.
Farris, a former fighter himself, has worked diligently in thinking out the details of this year’s program with his mentor Don Fraser.
“This is one of the greatest experiences of my life. Don has been taking me through every aspect of a successful promotion,” says Farris. “He is a true mentor and a good friend. Back in the early 1970s, I boxed for Don when he was promoting boxing at the Forum; I had no idea that I would one day be working with him and the California Boxing Hall of Fame. I’m excited that this year’s all-star event has broken several records from past events.”
And the organization will be in good hands in years to come as Farris will steer the ship in the future–with Fraser as his advisor.
Congratulations and Saludos to all the 2012 CBHOF Inductees!
Photos courtesy of Michele Chong, Team Parra, Team Arreola, Team Hernandez and the California Boxing Hall of Fame
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