CANASTOTA, N.Y. – The recent deaths of Eddie Samuels and Matthew Peltz, still in their 30s and the respective sons of longtime Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels and Philadelphia-based Hall of Fame promoter J Russell Peltz, serve as a sad reminder of an immutable truth: no parent ever expects to outlive their child.
Induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame offers only a small measure of what passes for immortality, but Sunday afternoon’s big day for the late ring announcer extraordinaire Jimmy Lennon Sr. might represent a different type of unforeseen development. The elder Lennon, who was 79 when he died of a heart attack on April 20, 1992, by all rights should have preceded his equally eminent son, Jimmy Jr., as an officially certified legend of the sport which both have graced with uncommon class and dignity.
At least that’s the opinion of Jimmy Lennon Jr., who was a member of the IBHOF’s Class of 2013 and, throughout his career as one of boxing’s highest-profile ring announcers, has continued to use the “Junior” suffix out of respect for his father.
But if family members, friends and the many admirers of Jimmy Sr. had to wait a few additional years for the onetime Irish tenor to receive his call to the Hall, let it be said that justice delayed is always preferable to justice forever denied.
“It’s long overdue, but it’s a nice correction. Years from now people won’t look at when he went in or who went ahead of him. They will simply recognize my father as the Hall of Famer he is and deserved to be,” Jimmy Jr., 58, said of the posthumous induction of his father into an exclusive club that, as of Sunday, will boast just four ring announcers (including the late Joe Humphreys in 1997, Michael Buffer in 2013 and Jimmy Jr.) in the Non-Participant category. Still on the outside looking in are the ghosts of famous New York-based ring announcers Johnny Addie and Harry Balogh.
In a very real sense, Jimmy Sr. already is in the IBHOF, in the person of Jimmy Jr., who followed in the large footsteps of his slightly built dad. Jimmy Sr. is widely and justifiably regarded as the greatest ring announcer ever to work fight cards in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, although there are those who consider Jimmy Jr. to be a living breathing, incarnation of his father, which the son considers to be the ultimate compliment.
“My dad was a great, great ring announcer who set the standard in so many ways, but there wasn’t the sort of television coverage of the sport then as there is now,” said Jimmy Jr., who is known to millions as the ring announcers for Showtime Championship Boxing. “I travel all over the world, and my announcing is seen and heard in so many countries. My dad’s work was in and around Los Angeles, although he did some traveling, primarily to Las Vegas.”
Apart from Jimmy Jr.’s well-stamped passport, the similarities between he and his father are numerous and unmistakable. One is their attention to proper grammar and the painstakingly precise manner in which they announce the names of fighters, referees, judges and officials from any country.
“To have an affinity for languages is important,” Jimmy Jr. said. “That was instilled in me by my father. I take the time to talk to the fighters if I don’t know them and find out the pronunciation of their names, their nicknames, what hometown they’re from – everything that’s important to them. There’s nothing more sweet to a man’s ear than to hear his name pronounced properly.”
In addition to Jimmy Jr., other members of the Lennon family who will be attendance Sunday are Jimmy Jr.’s widow, Doris; his daughter Robin Thomas, son-in-law Rob Thomas and Jimmy Jr.’s wife, Christine. Speculation is running high that the 94-year-old Doris, a former stage actress and Juilliard-trained vocalist, will sing the national anthem.
“She still sounds pretty fantastic, and physically she’s in tremendous condition,” Jimmy Jr., a cousin to the singing Lennon sisters of The Lawrence Welk Show fame, said with as much pride in his mom as he still has for his dad.
FROM DOWN UNDER TO ON TOP
If there was a door prize for the Hall of Fame inductee who came the longest distance to be here, it would go to celebrated trainer Johnny Lewis, 73, who guided fellow Aussies or Australian-based fighters Jeff Fenech, Kostya Tszyu, Jeff Harding, Gairy St. Clair, and Billy Dib to world titles. Fenech (2002) and Tszyu (2011) are enshrined in the IBHOF.
Another inductee in the Non-Participant category is veteran Las Vegas judge Jerry Roth, who brought his pencil to the 714 bouts he worked during a career that spanned from 1980 to 2015.
MORE PROGRESS FOR PROGRAIS?
ShoBox: The Next Generation has been the figurative launching pad for any number of future world champions who first came to wider public attention in the series that showcases some of boxing’s more potentially intriguing growth properties.
Friday night’s 10-round main event at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino is Verona, N.Y., just a 15-minute drive from the IBHOF, is apt to mean some big things for the winner of the matchup of 28-year-old super lightweight Regis Prograis (19-0, 16 KOs) and 25-year-old Joel Diaz Jr. (23-0, 19 KOs). Both are world-rated, with Prograis, from Houston by way of his native New Orleans, at No. 4 in the WBC and Diaz, from Laurel, Md., at No. 9 in the WBA, No. 10 in the WBO and No. 13 in the IBF.
Barry Tompkins, the blow-by-blow announcer for ShoBox, is particularly high on Prograis, who will be making his fourth appearance in the series.
“I like him,” Tompkins said. “I think he has a chance to go places.”
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