Us keyboard tappers tend to do indignancy better than we do uplifting.
We like to critique, and bust chops, and shine a light into the crevices, and make the roaches scatter, or at least, let everyone know that roaches are present. But we often overlook the “nice” stories that are present in the sport.
On Sunday, Ring 8, the Veteran Boxers Association which is dedicated to assisting boxers in need, guys who have given their all in the ring, but need a hand up after life scored a knockdown on them, had their annual holiday party.
It was my first time attending, and I was beyond impressed at the camaraderie, the decency, the spirit of goodwill on display at Russo's On the Bay in Howard Beach, Queens.
The organization was formed in 1954 by ex fighter Jack Grebelsky, as a branch of the Veteran Boxers Association, a national group started in 1953. Interest and attendance has risen and dropped, much like the sport's appeal, but if the crowd at Russo's is any indication, Ring 8 is in a solid space today. Which is good, because times are tough, and too many folks are falling in between the cracks. “We are genuinely dedicated to lending a helping hand to those in the boxing community who are less fortunate and may require assistance in terms of paying their rent, medical expenses, or whatever justifiable need may arise,” says spokesman Tony Mazzarella.
Funds from the gala–tickets were $125–will go towards that goal. I'm told there was some tumult in the organization recently, as a longtime member split from Ring 8, and only through the work of Bob Duffy did this event come together. You would not have known it; the gig went flawlessly from my seat, which was at a table with board member Keith Sullivan, BWAA president Jack Hirsch, ex fighter Joey Gamache, as well as ace journo Zach Levin. My only beef..all these healthy freaks ordered the fish, while I had the steak. Dangit, I have a Santa suit to fit into, people.
Here's the list of those who were honored: the “FATHER/SON” AWARD – Marvis & “Smokin” Joe Frazier; “UNCROWNED CHAMPION” – Sonny Lou Volpe & Lenny Mangiapane; “TRAINER OF THE YEAR” – Tommy Gallagher; “LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT” – Lou Raino; “INTEGRITY IN BOXING” – Joe Dwyer; “BOXING PHYSICIAN” – Dr. Ralph Bohm; “AMATEUR OFFICIAL” – John Holden; “OUTSTANDING SERVICE” – Paulette Balog; “DEDICATED SERVICE” – David Yatkowitz and “SPIRIT & INSPIRATION” – Nick Charles. “Smokin” Joe Frazier, Emile Griffith, Vito Antuofermo, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, and Iran Barkley were in attendance, and all mingled with fans graciously. Spinks especially was notable for the width of his grin; clearly Leon appreciated the nod from fight fans who don't easily forget the thrills and chills these vets bestowed upon us.
Probably the biggest news tidbit that came out of the bash was the announcement that money has been secured from the state for a New York State Boxing Hall of Fame. Thought we already had one, did you? Nope; memorabilia will be housed at the Waterfront Crabhouse in Long Island City, Queens, and an induction dinner will take place sometime next year. Sullivan, an NYC attorney, who would make Shakespeare rethink his enmity to lawyers for all the pro bono philanthropic work he does, announced the good news. He shared that Ring 8 is in a good space, as opposed to the years in the 80s when membership waned, and meetings were held over stale bagels and sludgy coffee in the back of the bartender's union hall.
Off his stint as the holder of the New York State Athletic Commission heavyweight championship–he beat Buster Mathis for the honor in 1968, after Muhammad Ali was stripped of his world title, for refusing induction into the US military–Joe Frazier was named as the first inductee.
Nick Charles, who is fighting off the ropes against cancer, and started another round of chemo last week, won a special award. His pal Steve Farhood accepted in his place and said, “Let's not forget that boxing provides all of us with family…even if it is dysfunctional.” Amen.
The sunny Joe Dwyer pierced my haze–I'd been up late, and up early cause of the kiddies–when he asked the writers to emphasize the solid citizens in the sport instead of the corruption. Amen again.
Trainer of the year Tommy Gallagher tossed out the best line of the night. The trainer/film/TV producer introed his fighter, Gabriel Bracero, who won prospect of the year. He thanked his wife Maureen, and recalled their time spent necking “in the back of a '52 Chevy, where she kept saying, 'Will you stop?!' Maureen confirmed the make and model of the vehicle for me, so no one can say I don't practice due journalistic diligence, OK?
The classy and congenial Melvina Lathan charmed the 400 plus in attendance with her presentation. She spread the love to her crew, including NYSAC director of boxing Ralph Petrillo. I appreciate leaders who aren't dictators, and who aren't so self absorbed that they don't get it that the little people are indispensable to a well run operation. Classy, as I said before. She presented Mazzarella with an honorary commission badge, an honor well earned for the former NYSAC deputy.
BWAA president Jack Hirsch presented to Marvis and Joe Frazier, the 66-year-old legend born in South Carolina, and based out of Philly. The kid, now 50, was humble and charming as heck. “My father is the real champion,” he said. “I just wanted to be like my dad. My desire was to bring the boxing championship back to the Fraziers, but my sister (Jacqui) did it.”
SPEEDBAG A little bird flew into Russo's and told TSS that there's a real good chance we'll see Sergio Martinez defend his middleweight title in Madison Square Garden on March 12th, against Irishman Andy Lee (24-1).
—A nice touch… Ring 8 donated a table to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization dedicated to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured service members aid and assist each other and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.
–Want to become a member of Ring 8? Please mail a check for $25, made out to “Ring 8” to The Waterfront Crabhouse 2-03 Borden Ave. Long Island City, NY 1101
–photo courtesy Peter Frutkoff