Don Fraser Welcomes the Class of 2013
Several of boxing’s best were inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame (CBHOF) at this year’s induction ceremony held Saturday, October 19 in the Empire Room at the storied Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.
Here is the “Chatter Box’s” exclusive look at the annual event attended by past champs, present boxing stars, longtime cornerman, fight luminaries and more.
I have attended many of these awards shows during the years and each one gets bigger and better. Each awards show packs in a huge crowd with a familiar face at every table. Coming from near and far, the boxing fraternity meets once a year to pay tribute to the new class of honorees chosen by famed veteran Don Fraser and his CBHOF committee.
This year’s gathering included 2013 inductees Chris Arreola, Lamon Brewster, Wayne McCullough, Tiger Smalls, Harold Lederman, Dr. Paul Wallace, Frankie Santillan, Joey Giambra, Abel Fernandez, Wayne Thornton, Jack Hawn, Ron Sandate, Jose Portillo, Lopez, Manuel Mendoza and Louie Loy. Posthumous awards went to Carmen Basilio, Emanuel Steward, Fabela Chavez, Gil Clancy, Ace Hudkins and Kenny Davis. The emcee for the afternoon was Jim FitzGerald, who introduced the inductees with their biographies and highlights from their careers.
Taking their place among boxing immortals, the newest inductees gave inspiring, heartfelt speeches filled with sentiments of decades past, funny anecdotes and shout outs to those instrumental in their careers.
In the packed banquet room, the honorees strode up to the stage while the Denise Fraser Band (Denise Fraser, Dianne Fraser, Karen Hernandez, Lou Shoch, Jack Coan and Kay Wade) played the theme from “Rocky” (“Gonna Fly Now”). The prizefighters and boxing vets all spoke of the road they traveled to get to where they are. Boxing is a hardscrabble sport to be part of and their journeys were often poignant, colorful and memorable. Putting in hard work and never giving up, the select few that were honored this year were able to look back at their milestones along the way.
Many of the recipients had tables full of supporters made of family and friends who rose to their feet to cheer on their loved ones. While some of the awardees aren’t household names, each one put in years of dedicating themselves to the sweet science. And it is this contribution that Don Fraser honors each and every year at his highly-anticipated awards function.
During their time in the spotlight, the guests of honor also got the opportunity to thank the unsung heroes in their lives like the wives and children who sacrificed not having their husbands or fathers there while they were on the road or in the gym, the early mentors who first believed in them, their fellow fighters who helped motivate them and show them the ropes and the fans who kept cheering long after the lights faded.
The weekend soiree is a chance to celebrate the golden eras of boxing while acknowledging new and current pugilists climbing up the ranks. This yearly get-together is really a way for everyone to reconnect while making new friends involved in the sport.
Where else can you see old-time champs bump fists with hungry, young punchers?
I saw heavyweight fighter Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola getting some words of wisdom from former champs Lamon Brewster and Chris Byrd, with the two veteran heavies having an in-depth conversation with the Mexican-American slugger. What was the common denominator for these three men? Besides weighing in at heavyweight status, this trio has also fought a Klitschko brother while facing Wladimir or Vitali. I bet they had a lot to talk about since Brewster and Byrd have both defeated a heralded Klitschko!
It was also great to see former champ Tiger Smalls, who is now a boxing trainer. And his son Prince Tiger Smalls is a new pro, proudly trading leather just like his father did. With Tiger’s father, brother, other family members and a huge group from the San Diego Combat Academy (SDCA), Team Tiger roared at the celebration which spanned generations for the Smalls family.
I also saw ex-champion Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon giving bear hugs to those he met as a smile lit up his face. Bobby always manages to make everyone around him happier. He loves being in the boxing circles and everybody in his path lights up when the enthusiastic former champ comes near.
Before the speeches began, I got to catch up Wayne “Pocket Rocket” McCullough, his wife Cheryl and their daughter, Wynona, 15. Wayne is a beloved Irish champ and an Olympic medalist who spent many years in Southern California before moving to Vegas. And now the family is moving back to Cali where Wayne, a current boxing coach and commentator will train fighters. Being near Hollywood will also be beneficial to teen singer Wynona, who is a budding star in show biz.
And I greeted Sylvia Ramos, widow of Mando Ramos, a lightweight “champeen” of the world. She was embraced by those who knew her husband well. He passed away in 2008 but Sylvia’s bond with the boxing community remains. That is what is the thread that bonds this group together–once you are part of this boxing fraternity, you will forever be welcomed.
The California Boxing Hall of Fame bridges the gap between generations while honoring the warriors through the decades.
Besides the above named inductees, I also encountered other notables in the boxing scene. While making the rounds, I saw many other fighters, trainers, promoters at the luncheon including Chris Byrd, Mike “Hercules” Weaver, Rafael Ruelas, Frankie Baltazar, Frankie Duarte, James Toney, Carlos Palomino, Mauricio Herrera, Efrain Esquivias Jr., Aaron Martinez, Artemio Reyes Jr., James Wimberly, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Bobby Chacon, promoter Ken Thompson, former WBC Supervisor Joe Noriega, officials Gwen Adair, Ray Chavez, Don Livingston, Stella Liner-Livingston, boxing trainers Henry Ramirez, John Bray, Shadeed Suluki, Willy Silva, Dennis Heffner, Steve Harpst, singing star Wynona Leigh McCullough (known as “Wy Mac”), Golden State Boxer’s Association’s Bill Dempsey Young, Linda Young, Larry and Elsa Montalvo, actor/historian/author J.J. Johnston, historian David Martinez and Don Fraser’s California Boxing Hall of Fame supporters including Carol Steindler, Frank Baltazar, Frank Aragon, Ray Maynez, Rick Resnick, Ken Green, Rene Ramirez and many, many more.
One new inductee was not able to attend in person. Well-known HBO’s “unofficial ringside scorer” Harold Lederman called me this morning to express his appreciation for being chosen as a 2013 member by Don Fraser and the CBHOF (David Martinez took to the mic on Lederman’s behalf).
Harold wished he could’ve been there to accept his honor but had a good reason for his absence since he was working the Alvarado vs. Provodnikov war in Colorado, which turned out to be an all-action sizzling affair. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there,” Lederman told me, “but I was in Denver for the Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov fight…which was a hell of a fight!”
Yes, it was. And Saturday’s awards was a hell of an event for all the latest inductees who deserve the accolades just like Harold Lederman.
HATS OFF TO ALL THE INDUCTEES WHO WERE HONORED ON SATURDAY.
Congrats on your inductions!
PHOTOS BY MICHELE CHONG