If there's anyone out there that thought that Snooki, of "Jersey Shore" fame, would still be doing the boxing thing, a year after getting in the ring, as a promoter, I'd like to shake your hand. Because the skeptics were out in force when the petite darling of MTV's beach and booze bonanza announced that she and her dad were tossing their promoting hats in the ring in January 2012, and forming "Team Snooki Boxing," along with promoter Mike Pascale, built around the boxing Hyland Brothers.
Maybe some of you skeptics--and I won't pretend that I didn't think it possible that the learning curve involved in the sport would dissuade Snooki and dad Andy Polizzi within a year from continuing on--want to tip your cap to the l'il lady, because a year on, and she's still doing the boxing thing. There she was on Sunday, with Team Snooki standout Patrick Hyland, at the Ring 8 veteran boxer's association awards gala in Howard Beach, Queens. Baby Lorenzo was not present, but her fella Jionni was, and he chuckled along with the 400 in attendance when she took to the mike, and said that she wanted to get into boxing after getting punched out in a bar by man in August 2009. That self deprecatory charm melted the defenses of probably a few naysayers who don't appreciate that a path to celebrity and riches is available to a lucky few simply for acting like themselves.
While Snooki posed for photos with party guests and waitstaff at Russo's in Howard Beach, I chatted with Pascale, who filled me in on what's next for Hyland, who looked good in his last outing, a loss to Javier Fortuna (UD12) on Dec. 8.
Pascale said that Hyland got a call to fight Billy Dib, for Dib's IBF featherweight title on March 1 at Foxwoods. But that offer was spurned, he said, because Hyland would have only had three weeks notice, and also, the money wasn't stellar. "If it was five weeks, we probably would have taken it, even if the money wasn't great," Pascale said. "Patrick has wanted to fight Dib, they fought in the amataeurs, they've been communicating."
A May stay-busy bout in Poughkeepsie is a distinct possibility.
The gala was a big deal for me, as I received the Boxing Writer of the Year award; NYSAC commissioner Melvina Lathan furnished a polished and moving introduction for me, which I appreciated greatly. My wife was present, and told me my speech went over well, though I thought my joke about Donald Trump's hair would have drawn more hoots.
Peter Quillin got the Fighter of the Year award. He had Ring 8 president Bob Duffy, who is a promoter and advisor in his own right, chewing his nails, as he was running late. But Kid Chocolate supplied some drama and himself, in time enough to deliver a heartfelt and humble thank you address."I'm a fighter, just like you guys," he said to the guests. "Life is a big ole fight."
Joe Calzaghe, Fighter of the Decade, wasn't able to make it, as the winter snowstorm Nemo closed down JFK Airport on Saturday, but Duffy said he might make it to NYC for the New York Boxing Hall of Fame induction, in April.
Others in attendance included Bobby Czyz, the ex light heavy and cruiser champ from Jersey, who is today in the commodities, mainly oil, business, and ex heavyweight contender Renaldo Snipes, who is today involved in charitable endeavors, including battling prostate cancer.
Trainer Tommy Gallagher, a rock of Ring 8, said he's hopeful his kid Gabe Bracero might secure a title shot this summer, and reports that he has signed a heavyweight future star, Ytalo Perea, a 19 year old Ecuadorean who took part in the 2012 Olympics. Perea fights Feb. 21 at Roseland Ballroom in his pro debut.
Eddie Claudio, Official of the Year, perhaps stole the show, as he promised he might get all Brooklyn during his speech, which was humorous and from the heart, which in my mind is as Brooklyn as you can get.
The Net's David Diamante did his usual superb job emceeing.
We were reminded several times of the good to be found in the sport, like when Czyzy praised boxing for giving him a means to be somebody; when we heard that Quillin went from homeless to champion; when we heard that 4-1-1 Adam Willett, who won Comeback of the Year, lost time for medical reasons, after taking two bullets while defending some neighborhood girls who he didn't know from bullying.
Thanks to Ring 8 for the award, for continuing to remember those fighters and boxing people who toiled in decades past, and Duffy for hustling hard to pull off this event.