Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame Ceremony A Hit
Returns After a 2-Year Hiatus
Story by Kirk Lang
Photos by Alyssa Lang
2022 – Uncasville, CT. After a two-year absence due to the Corona Virus/Covid-19 outbreak, the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony made its return to Mohegan Sun and “we actually had one of our largest crowds,” said Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame President John Laudati.
The Hall had more than 500 pre-sells for its May 21 event -tickets were priced at $90 – but some people skipped out at the last minute due to concerns about rising COVID cases. Even so, there were at least 450 in attendance, according to Laudati.
Referee Danny Schiavone, one of six inductees of the Class of 2021, noted at the start of his speech that “it’s good to get back to some normalcy.”
Enshrined along with Schiavone, a professional referee for 19 years, were former WBC USNBC middleweight champion Elvin Ayala, ex-USBA and IBO super bantamweight champion Mike “Machine Gun” Oliver, manager Mike Criscio, best known for his association with former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson when Dawson was one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, trainer Jose “Papo” Colon and Frank Russo, who in addition to serving as executive director of the Hartford Civic Center in the 1970s and 1980s, also formed Monitor Productions, which helped promote the careers of 1984 U.S. Olympians Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Evander Holyfield, Meldrick Taylor and Tyrell Biggs.
Russo had one of the best lines of the night when he said, matter-of-factly, “Thanks to Evander Holyfield for putting my daughter through college.”
The night began with appetizers just outside the Uncas Ballroom, as well as a red-carpet style photo booth, and induction dinner attendees were allowed inside around 7 p.m. Randy Gordon, former editor-in-chief of The Ring, former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and current co-host of SiriusXM’s “At The Fights” alongside Gerry Cooney, served as the night’s Master of Ceremonies. Gordon has led the affair in the past, but a new twist was a different room layout and ring ropes that adorned the front of the stage, which served to make this classy boxing event seem even more special. Attendees were able to take part in a silent auction of boxing memorabilia, as well as purchase tickets for a 50/50 raffle, whose prize ending up being $1,080. Attendees also got to mix it up with Cooney, a special guest of the festivities.
Oliver first put on boxing gloves at Hartford’s Bellevue Square Boys Club at three years-old and learned to box under the tutelage of famed trainer Johnny Duke. Later, when the Bellevue gym closed in 1997, he would train out of the San Juan Center. Colon, 76, moved to the United States from Puerto Rico but first settled in New York City, and raised his boxing IQ at Cus D’Amato’s Gramercy Gym and Brooklyn’s Gleason’s Gym. He eventually relocated to Hartford and began working at the San Juan Center with future Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame inductee George Cruz. Schiavone was a member of the gym and trained there throughout his amateur and professional assignments.
Oliver’s biggest night in the ring was arguably winning the IBO super bantamweight title in 2007 at Mohegan Sun via a 12-round decision over Al Seeger. He had previously held the USBA super bantamweight title. He won those laurels at Mohegan in 2006 with a unanimous decision over Adam Carerra. Oliver’s last belt was the vacant USA New England super bantamweight championship. He earned it with a dominant decision victory over Castulo Gonzalez in 2009. Oliver, who in his prime was known for his rapid-fire fists, finally hung up the gloves this past November.
During his induction speech, he gave the late Johnny Duke nearly all the credit. Duke, who was inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, was a father figure to him and Oliver followed him wherever he went.
“Wherever you’d find Duke, you’d find me,” Oliver said. “City Hall, I’m with Duke. If he went to his mother’s house, I was right there.”
He added, “If it wasn’t for Duke, I wouldn’t be here right now.” However, Oliver also gave thanks to everyone that played a part in his career, even the cut men for his fights.
Elvin Ayala, who trained out of the New Haven area, was a defensive specialist who never shied away from a challenge. He ran his record to 16-0 before his first defeat, a split decision 10-round points loss to David Banks. They rematched three months later, and Banks again won, this time by unanimous decision. From this point on, Ayala would fight a Who’s Who of boxing contenders and champions, including Sergio Mora, reigning IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham, Lajuan Simon, David Lemieux and Curtis “Showtime” Stevens. An entertaining draw with Mora, who was a personality on the boxing show The Contender, earned Ayala a title shot against Abraham. Fighting in Abraham’s home country of Germany, Ayala lasted until the 12th and final round before getting stopped. The draw with Mora also said a lot about Ayala’s talents, especially considering he had only 14 fights as an amateur, because eight months after tangling with Ayala, Mora captured the WBC super welterweight championship.
Ayala fell short in bids for the USBA and NABF middleweight belts, but in between those setbacks he did manage to win the vacant WBC USNBC middleweight championship with a 10-round unanimous decision victory over Derrick Findley at Mohegan Sun in 2011. Referee Johnny Callas offered up some remarks about Ayala before he came up to the podium to accept his induction plaque. He also pulled out a bloody referee shirt that an Ayala punch from years ago soiled red.
Callas called it one of his greatest ring moments as a referee.
“I was standing in the pocket like this, and Elvin had his opponent on the ropes, and he hit him with the most perfect short left hand I’ve ever seen,” he said. “And it was right out of Raging Bull (the movie). That blood came squirting out, all over my shoulder, and I said, ‘Yeah baby. That’s the real deal.’” Callas said he was going to have Ayala sign the shirt after his induction.
Ayala said he was extremely grateful for the induction.
“I come from under the poverty line,” he said. “I lived in other people’s houses growing up. It was such a rough life. There was only drugs and violence and boxing.”
He added, “I used to fight in the street, boxing with the neighborhood kids and I noticed I was like moving, making them miss, and I just took it upon myself to start to run, to train.” Ayala, who had been living in Reading, PA, decided after getting in some trouble that maybe he should relocate to his mother’s home in New Haven. Soon after, he found Brian Clark’s Ring One boxing gym. He subsequently met Luis Rosa Sr. and relocated to Rosa’s gym in the Fair Haven section of New Haven.
“It’s just so many memories that boxing has given me,” said Ayala. “Ups and downs, and so many trials and errors and I’m thankful for it all.”
Asked by The USA Boxing News what the proudest moment of his career was, he admitted it wasn’t a big fight at a casino or sports venue. Rather it was the first time he was profiled in the newspapers, “while still living in the projects.”
Ayala added, “It was the first impact boxing had in my life and I felt I had a lot to accomplish after that. The first time I was in the newspapers was to announce I was ready to become a pro and everyone in the projects was knocking at my door to ask for autographs and pictures.” Ayala retired in 2019 with a 29-13-1 record.
Colon, who now trains fighters at fellow Connecticut Boxing Hall of Famer Paul Cichon’s Manchester Ring of Champions Society, gave the shortest induction speech, roughly one minute long. He said it was a great honor to be inducted and wanted to thank “God, my family and last but not least, Paul Cichon, for making his home my home.”
Criscio, best known for managing Dawson, first connected with the New Haven fighter when he walked into his pawn shop and asked him to represent him.
“I didn’t have any experience but part of being a good person is about helping others,” he said. “It wasn’t easy at first, but through hard work and determination, Chad became light heavyweight champion of the world.”
Criscio added, “Gradually I started signing fighters from all over the world, Alfredo Angulo, Chris Avalos, Joel Diaz, Peter Manfredo, Jean Pascal, Luis Rosa Jr., Shelly Vincent (popular Rhode Island fighter), Yordenis Ugas – these boxers had one thing in common. I treated them like family, like my own children.”
Criscio further stated, “Boxing has become a labor of love for me. It wasn’t about the money I would gain, or the notoriety. It was helping these young men reach their potential, to build better lives for themselves and their families. The road to success isn’t easy to navigate, but hard work and the passion made it possible for my guys to achieve the American Dream.”
Criscio has faced his own personal adversity. He’s beaten terminal cancer twice. And now he’s a Connecticut Boxing Hall of Famer.
When Russo took over lead duties at the Hartford Civic Center in 1974, he had no clue the adversity he’d face a mere four years later. The roof caved in.
“We were out of business,” he said. However, Russo and his team persevered, got the roof replaced and began hosting a plethora of boxing shows, and future world welterweight champion Marlon Starling became the civic center’s house fighter. The Hartford Civic Center also broadcasted the first Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight on closed circuit television after a live card featuring Starling. More than 13,000 fans packed the place that night. Russo would subsequently join forced with Shelly Finkel to help promote some of the top talent from the 1984 Olympic boxing team. Now 66 years-old, he is currently the business development chief for Global Spectrum.
Taking the stage for his induction, Russo began with, “I don’t think there’s anybody in the house that’s more surprised than I am about this honor, but I really appreciate it. I’m very humbled by it.”
On Saturday night, one might have thought Schiavone was a fighter inductee rather than an official being inducted. The applause was thunderous. Then again, many of his family members and friends from New York City and New Jersey made the trek for his induction. Schiavone has refereed more than 500 professional bouts, the most in the history of Connecticut boxing. Forty-seven were title fights and he’s been the third man in the ring for bouts involving such names as Roy Jones Jr., Vasiliy Lomachenko, Adrien Broner, Gary Russell, Jr., Hasim Rahman, Ray Mercer, David Tua and many others.
Schiavone told The USA Boxing News he plans to hang his induction plaque over the bar area of his living room.
He said while there are some people in life who might say they made their own success, he added that’s very rarely ever true.
“You have to have good people around you,” he said. “Somebody gave you a break. Somebody who took you under their wing, that type of thing. And I was blessed, really from the time I set foot in the San Juan Center.”
He said George Cruz planted the seed that ultimately led to his Hall of Fame induction.
“He had spoken to me about being an official,” said Schiavone. “I thought about it and I said, ‘Yeah, sure, it might be cool.’”
Cruz would introduce Schiavone to the late Roland Roy, who was the head of USA Boxing Region 1. Schiavone spent six years volunteering his time in the amateurs, as a referee and judge.
“Roland gave me a lot of work. He got me prepared for the pros,” he said. “At the beginning I didn’t expect anything. It was like umpiring Little League, or something.”
After six years of working fights, Cruz sent a film of Schiavone to Mike Mazulli, commissioner of the Mohegan Sun Athletic Commission. Mazulli and company liked what they saw and brought Schiavone in to referee professional fights.
“They gave me a shot, it’s been 19 years and here I am up here,” said Schiavone. He added he and fellow referees have become like family members. He was mentored by the late Arthur Mercante Sr. and retired Connecticut referee Dick Flaherty. He’s super close with refs such as Mike Ortega and New York City-based Benjy Esteves Jr., as well as Joe Cusano, a longtime Connecticut referee who has since retired from the sport.
“I’ve had some great people in my corner,” he said.
The night also saw a handful of individuals honored with special awards.
Unbeaten WBC USNBC super lightweight champion Mykquan Williams was honored with the Professional Boxer of the Year award. He’s been trained since he was seven by Manchester-based Paul Cichon. Williams is unbeaten in 17 fights and plans to “keep climbing that ladder.”
Cichon was a proud trainer inside the Uncas Ballroom.
“It’s great seeing a boxer getting acknowledgement for all the hard work and dedication that they put in behind the scenes,” he said.
Jahnyah Lumpkin, a junior at East Hartford High School, was honored with the Amateur Boxer of the Year award. Fighting out of the Charter Oak Boxing Academy, Lumpkin posted a 7-2 record during 2021, beating six nationally ranked fighters and earning a silver medal in the Silver Gloves National Championships. Lumpkin finished fourth in the U.S. National Championships.
Other award winners were Heather Concepcion (Amateur Official of the Year); judge Frank Lombardi (The William Hutt Official of the Year); Hartford area attorney Jeffrey Dressler (The George Smith Contribution to Boxing Award); and community service activist Jason Jakubowski (Willie Pep Courage Award).
The night also saw the induction of the Class of 2020, which was comprised of old timers that have passed on. Five of the seven were pro boxers – Steve Carr, Eddie Dolan, Al Gainer, Mosey King and Jimmy Leto. Rounding out the Class of 2020 was Barbara Dunn, the nation’s first female boxing commissioner, and Bill Lee, a sports editor and columnist for the Hartford Courant between the end of the 1930s and the mid-1970s. Carr fought during the Great Depression and became a fan favorite in the New Haven area. Dolan retired with an impressive record of 89-9-3. Gainer was a formidable light heavyweight who finished with a record of 77-23-6. King had a brief career as a lightweight, but went on to become the head boxing coach at Yale University. He would also become Connecticut’s first boxing commissioner. Leto, a welterweight, had a career that spanned 19 years. He finished with an impressive record of 125-29-12. He scored notable victories over Chalky Wright, Cocoa Kid and Fritzie Zivic.
Ian Cannon, a wheelchair-bound former boxer who created a fitness program for people with disabilities titled Rolling with the Punches, always makes a point to attend the annual induction dinner. He was pleased to be back after COVID had delayed the affair.
Cannon said he enjoyed “catching up with everyone and immersing myself back in the combat sports culture.”
For the first time ever, the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame Board of Directors decided to do a spring event. Past inductions always took place at the end of the year.
“Several people approached me at the dinner expressing their preference for a spring event,” said Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame President John Laudati, adding, “I personally favor a spring event. Weather concerns are less than a late October or November date, and a spring date doesn’t compete with the holiday season when people are so busy with events. It also gives the board a full calendar year to consider our annual award winners.”
Asked to pick a highlight moment of the night, Laudati said there were many, including the inaugural Willie Pep Courage Award. However, he said “having former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney at the event certainly lit up the room.”
He added, “He is a truly gracious man who found time for anyone and everyone who wanted a photo or an autograph. I couldn’t be happier with how Saturday night went.”
Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame
Class of 2021 Announced
Mike Oliver, Danny Schiavone, Frank E. Russo, Jose “Papo” Colon, Elvin Ayala & Mike Criscio
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (April 4, 2022) – The Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame (CBHOF) has announced its six-member Class of 2021 to be inducted during the 16TH annual CBHOF Gala Induction Dinner on Saturday night, May 21, in the Uncas Ballroom at Mohegan Sun.
The CBHOF Class of 2020 consisting entirely of “Old Timers”, will also be inducted on May 21st.
Class of 2021 inductees are retired boxers Mike “Machine Gun” Oliver, of Hartford, and New Haven’s Elvin Ayala, Hartford referee Danny Schiavone, Glastonbury’s (Hartford Civic Center executive director) Frank E. Russo, Manchester trainer Jose “Papo” Colon, and New Haven manager Mike Criscio.
“The Connecticut Boxing Hall of Game is very excited to reconvene our Gala Induction Dinner after a two-year pandemic related hiatus,” CBHOF president John Laudati said. “The pandemic ‘pause’ gave the Selection Committee ample time to research boxing archives in order to support the induction of the 2020 Class of deceased boxing legends. Recognition of these deserving individuals is long overdue.”
“Our Class of 2021 is also exceptionally outstanding, as well. It is a class which truly represents the sport of boxing. Fighters, trainers, managers, promoters, and ring officials are being inducted in this class. I encourage all boxing fans to come out to Mohegan Sun on May 21st for a fantastic celebration of the accomplishments of these two worthy Hall of Fame classes.
Oliver (26-12-1, 8 KOs) first laced-up boxing gloves at the tender age of three. After excelling as an amateur boxer, Oliver captured the vacant IBO Super Bantamweight World title in 2007, taking a 12-round unanimous title from Cruz Carbajal in Boston. The gifted southpaw was also the USBA and New England title holder during his 20-year pro career.
Schiavone has developed into one of the most respected referees in boxing, having worked more than 440 fights during almost two-decade career, including seven world title bouts and more than 40 regional title fights. He has refereed bouts featuring elite fighters such as Roy Jones, Jr., Adrian Broner, David Tua, Hasim Rahman, and Vasiliy Lomanchencko. The Hofstra University graduate also refereed the 2019 Chris Arreola-Chris Kownacki fight, which set a record for most thrown punches during a heavyweight fight. Schiavone has also acted in two boxing movies, “Back in the Day” and the soon to be released “Pep” a movie about Hartford’s greatest fighter Willie Pep. Schiavone also appeared in the television series, “Gravesend.”
Back in 1974, Russo listened to the suggestion of the Hartford Civic Center concessions manager, Johnny Cesario, later a CBHOF member, to host boxing events. Russo later made future world welterweight champion and CBHOF inductee Marlon Starling the Harford Civic Center’s house fighter. More than 13,000 boxing fans attended the closed circuit showing of the first Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight, which was shown after a live card headlined by Starling. Russo also helped promote the pro careers of 1984 USA Olympians Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Meldrick Taylor, Evander Holyfield, and Tyrell Biggs.
The 76-year-old Colon is still an active trainer, now working out of the Manchester Ring of Champions Society. A native of Puerto Rico Colon moved to the U.S. and in 1979, he worked some of New York’s most prestigious gyms, including Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn. Eighteen years later, Colon moved to Hartford, where he worked at the San Juan Center with future CBHOF inductee George Cruz. He later worked out of the Hartford Boxing Center, assisting trainer Tony Blanco in building Richie “Popeye” Rivera’s career.
Ayala burst upon the pro boxing scene in 2003, winning his first sixteen fights with a defensive style that left opponents flustered and frustrated. A 2007 draw in Carson, California with unbeaten Sergio Mora (19-0), winner of the Contender series (original) and future world middleweight champion positioned Ayala to challenge 25-0 IBF Middleweight World Champion Arthur Abraham. Abraham stopped the game Ayala in the 12th round.
Criscio progressed from a pawnbroker to a boxing manager where in 2017 he guided Chad Dawson to the WBC Light Heavyweight World Championship by way of a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision over defending champion Tomasz Adamek in Kissimmee, Florida. Criscio managed as many as 35 pro boxers, including Dawson, Alfredo Angulo, Jean Pascal, Peter Manfredo Jr., Toka Kahn Clery, Chris Avalos and the late Luis Rosa Jr.
CBHOF’s 2021 award winners will soon be announced.
The Class of 2020 inductees are boxers Jimmy Leto, Eddie Dolan, Al Gainer, and Steve Carr, as well as coach Mosey King and commissioner Barbara Dunn.
Leto, a welterweight from Hartford, had a superlative 125-29-12 record from 1924 to 1943. Managed by legendary Lou Viscusi, Leto defeated future International Boxing Hall of Famers such as Chalky Wright, Cocoa Kid and Fritzie Zivic. Leto died in 1986 at the age of 75.
Dolan not only fought in the same era as Leto, but he also defeated him in 1940. Dolan tuned pro in 1931at the age of 18 and finished his career with an 89-9-3 pro record, including victories against Cocoa Kid and Zivic. The Waterbury welterweight, who was undefeated throughout 1939, died in 1964 at 51.
After a brief pro career as a lightweight, King became the head boxing coach at Yale University in 1907. The New London native held that post until 1952, when Yale dropped boxing as a sport. King was so highly regarded that he became Connecticut’s first boxing commissioner in 1921, serving in that capacity for two years. King passed away in 1956.
Gainer was a formidable light heavyweight from New Haven who compiled a 77-23-6 (41 KOs) record from 1930-1941. Gainer defeated James J. Braddock and Tony Galento. He fought Maxie Rosenbloom to a draw and had two different win streaks of 12 and 13 fights. He died in 1973.
Fighting during the Great Depression, Carr’s career lasted only seven years, but the Meridian native retired with a 52-14-8 pro record, his most notable win versus Nathan Mann. Carr died in 1954 at the age of 41.
Newton native Dunn was a pioneer. She was named the Connecticut Commissioner of Consumer Protection in 1971, also taking on the role as the nation’s first female boxing commissioner. Her fearless regulation of the sport of boxing earned her respect throughout the boxing industry. A University of Connecticut graduate, Dunn passed away in 2017 at 90.
Tickets for the CBHOF 16th annual Gala Induction Dinner, reasonably priced at $90.00, are on sale and available to purchase by calling Sherman Cain at 860.212.9029 and Rider Productions at 860.413.9067. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. ET, followed by a full sit-down dinner at 7 p.m. ET.
Go online to www.ctboxinghof.org for additional information about the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame, its 16th annual Gala Inductee Dinner, event sponsorship opportunities, and past CBHOF inductees.
Arturo “Thunder” Gatti and “Bad” Chad Dawson Lead Connecticut Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2019
Story By Kirk Lang
Photos by Alyssa Lang
The late Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, who was dubbed “The Human Highlight Reel” for his blood-and-guts performances and ability to bounce back from the brink of disaster, was posthumously inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame at Mohegan Sun on November 9.
While no one associated with Gatti was present to accept his induction plaque – trilogy opponent Micky Ward, who usually attends the annual dinner, was home nursing a double ear infection – top notch judge Glenn Feldman, founder and past president of the Hall, read some remarks he sought out from Kathy Duva, of Main Events, Gatti’s former promoter, and Pat Lynch, Gatti’s manager.
“He was an icon, an idol, a legend, an energetic impish presence and a great and loyal friend,” said Duva, who would add that the induction honor was “bittersweet.”
Gatti’s life ended in July 2009 at only 37 years of age under a cloud of controversy. His death was initially treated as a murder, with his Brazilian wife looked at as the prime suspect. A knife and bloody purse strap seemed to implicate her. However, Gatti’s death was subsequently ruled a suicide by Brazilian authorities.
Though the induction came 10 years after Gatti’s life was cut short, his presence was definitely felt on this night, due in large part to a gigantic banner that Feldman and Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame President John Laudati unveiled and raised to the roof of the Uncas Ballroom.
“This banner will be raised to the roof at the Mohegan Sun Arena,” said Feldman, “Hopefully at the next boxing match.” It featured an image of Gatti and Ward entrenched in battle with the words “Fight of the Century.” That’s not exactly an exaggeration either, since the fight was truly an epic battle, as well as the fact the current century (that of the 21st variety) isn’t even 20 years in yet.
The previous boxing match dubbed “Fight of the Century” took place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier 31 years prior to Gatti-Ward I, in the 20th century.
Feldman, reading words from Lynch, said, “Arturo was one of the most special and gifted fighters boxing has ever seen. He was known as the heart and guts warrior and was exactly that.” Lynch added, “Arturo never quit in the ring and he never quit in life.”
Gatti was a modern posthumous inductee along with another legend, referee Arthur Mercante Sr. Mercante Sr. refereed more than 140 title fights across 47 years, and became a judge after retiring as a referee in 2001. The first title bout he worked was the second fight between Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson on June 20, 1960. The most famous bout he worked was the first Ali-Frazier fight, which took place at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 1971. Mercante had many assignments in Connecticut over the years. One of his children, Arthur Mercante Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps to become a top notch referee.
Mercante noted he inducted his father into the International Boxing Hall of Fame back in 1995.
“And now here I am 24 years later for his induction into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame, he said, adding, “It is especially moving because he is still recognized as one of the best referees in the sport.”
Mercante added, “To continue to be recognized by your peers all these years later is quite an accomplishment and my family and I are humbled and thankful for the award, which means another award that my brothers and I will have to fight over.” Mercante had said early in his speech that the Connecticut award marks his father’s seventh induction into a Hall of Fame.
The living members of the 2019 induction class were former light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson and two-time USBA welterweight champion Delvin Rodriguez. Two other inductees who went in posthumously were Teddy “Redtop” Davis and featherweight Eddie Compo.
Davis, who once took legendary featherweight champion Willie Pep the distance in back-to-back fights in 1948, won the New England lightweight title in Boston in 1953 against George Araujo. He retired in 1960 and passed away in 1966 at 42 years old. The New Haven-based Compo won his first 25 professional fights and eventually fought for the title against Pep in Waterbury in 1949. The match was much anticipated, as Compo boasted an impressive record of 57-1-3 heading into his fight with the featherweight legend. However, Pep recorded a 7th round TKO. Compo retired from the ring in 1955 and finished his career with a 75-10-4 ledger. He passed in 1998 at the age of 69.
Dawson’s entry into the Hall marked the first time in 15 gatherings that an active fighter saw induction, and as such, rather than speaking solely about past glory days, both he and promoter Jimmy Burchfield promised there’s more entertaining fights ahead.
“Chad has given the world of boxing so many thrills throughout the years, and it’s not over yet,” he said. “It’s far from over.”
Six years removed from the last time he held a world title, Dawson is confident he can rise again after some setbacks.
“I’m 37. I’m not that young 23-year-old kid that won that world title back in 2007,” said Dawson. “I’m older, more mature…I just learned so much over the years. When I won my world title I thought I was the man, but I was still a little boy. I’m 37 and I’m still learning how to be a man, still learning every day, learning from my wife, learning from the people around me. People don’t understand that boxing is a dangerous sport. If I told you I wasn’t scared every time I get into that ring I’d be lying to you.”
He added, “It’s a dangerous sport and due to recent ring tragedies we just had, you know sometimes I’ve got to second-guess myself and think am I doing the right thing at my age? Should I still be fighting? Should I give it up? But I’ve still got that passion inside me and I still believe I’ve got one more world title inside me and I still can be one of the best fighters in the world.”
As he talked at the podium, Dawson was surrounded by his four children of varying ages – all boys – wearing T-shirts under their suit jackets with images of their father on them. The oldest one, Chad Jr., now 16, earned a bit of fame himself years back when he would accompany his father into the ring in his prime years, throwing educated punches as a toddler that he learned from his champ dad. He and another son now box amateur.
“All four of my boys look up to me,” said Dawson. “They are the greatest gift God gave me.”
Dawson won the light heavyweight title in February 2007 with a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tomasz Adamek. He would go on to twice defeat Antonio Tarver as well as Glen Johnson and in October 2011 fought Bernard Hopkins to a no-contest in a bid to become champion again after having lost his light heavyweight crown to Jean Pascal. The fight was initially ruled a TKO victory for Dawson but that result was later ruled a no-contest when it was determined Hopkins was unable to continue after getting thrown from a clinch in the second round. A rematch took place in April 2012 and Dawson dominated the boxing legend en route to a unanimous decision victory. And Hopkins’ career was far from over. Though Dawson gave him fits, Hopkins went on to win the IBF light heavyweight belt, as well as the WBA strap, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, in his late 40s, further cementing his legendary status as one of boxing’s all-time greatest pugilists. Hopkins won three world titles in his 40s between 2011 and 2014, but he never had his way with Dawson, because at his peak, Dawson was as good as anyone. In fact, The Ring magazine once had him ranked 10th on their pound-for-pound list. However, no less than Floyd Mayweather Jr., once gave him even better praise. During one of his retirements, he proclaimed Dawson the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
Dawson isn’t that young gun anymore but he told everyone assembled at the induction dinner,” Don’t write me off yet. I’ve still got one or two special moments in me.”
The night’s final inductee was Rodriguez, who retired in 2017 with a 29-9-4 record. During his peak, he could always be counted on for truly entertaining fights. A two-time USBA welterweight champion and a regular face of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights broadcasts, he won 19 of his first 22 bouts (one bout in there was a draw).
He would lose his USBA belt to Jesse Feliciano by stoppage in March 2007 but regained the belt in July 2008 with an 11th round TKO of Oscar Diaz in Diaz’ hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Diaz was 26-2 at the time.
In 2008, he tangled with Isaac Hlatshwayo and managed a draw in Hlatshwayo’s home country of South Africa. The two would meet again, this time at Mohegan Sun in August 2009 with the vacant IBF welterweight championship on the line. It was Rodriguez’ first world title shot. Once again, he fell a tad short, losing a split decision.
However, the night of his Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame induction, Feldman presented Rodriguez with an IBF championship belt.
Feldman told him, “Many people felt you had won one, if not both of your fights against Isaac, and in honor of those two great fights, please accept this IBF world title belt. This is a belt that may have alluded you 10 years ago, but we’re going to make up for that right now, and on behalf of IBF President Daryl Peoples (who was sitting at a nearby table), congratulations.”
Rodriguez was elated to be enshrined among greats such as Marlon Starling, Willie Pep and others, but on a more basic level, he was simply happy to see so many familiar faces again.
“An event like this brings so many memories back to mind,” he said, as he looked out into the crowd and saw referee Johnny Callas, a gym owner who also served as a mentor to Rodriguez as a youth. Rodriguez came to the United States at 8 years old from the Dominican Republic. He also talked about Ishmael “Mike” Salazar, who was a volunteer trainer at the Hat City Boxing Club in Danbury. Salazar passed away in 2016 at the age of 98. Rodriguez, who now does some broadcasting work, also made sure to mention his wife Evelyn, who has been “with me since she was 15.”
He added, “I’ve got so many friends because of boxing. Good friends, bad friends, but you learn. You learn business. I became a businessman because of boxing…Thanks to all the people that surrounded me. There are so many people that couldn’t make it tonight. It is because of everyone that my life turned out the way it is.”
In addition to the inductees, there were five awards presented early in the night. Kevin and Roma Smith received the Amateur Officials of the Year Award; Feldman took home The William Hutt Official of the Year Award; Felix Parilla, who was named the Outstanding Boxer at the New England Tournament of Champions for the second straight year, earned The Roland Roy Amateur Boxer of the Year honors; NABA light heavyweight champion Charles Foster, 29, received the Professional Boxer of the Year award; and Sherman Cain, a longtime writer for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, was presented The George Smith Contribution to Boxing Award.
The night’s Master of Ceremonies was Randy Gordon, former Editor-In-Chief of The Ring magazine, former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, and current host of “At the Fights” on Sirius XM Radio Network. The night began with a cocktail reception just outside the Uncas Ballroom. There was also a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle that earned one lucky winner $895.
Fighter attendees at the 15th annual dinner/induction, included, among others, “Iceman” John Scully, “Poison” Junior Jones, three-division champion Iran Barkley, former ESPN welterweight champion Troy “Schoolboy” Wortham, former IBO super middleweight champion Dana Rosenblatt, former NABF junior welterweight champion “Sucra” Ray Oliveira, former USBA lightweight champion Israel “Pito” Cardona and ex-welterweight king Marlon Starling.
Scully, a regular attendee, told The USA Boxing News, “I love going to the event because I am sure to see someone I have not seen in a long time from my boxing past in the state.”
He added, “I think most guys like me are at the age and time in their boxing career where they really appreciate running into people from days gone by.”
Steven Ike, a local boxing historian and serious autograph collector, said his highlight moment of the night was running into two granddaughters of the late Vic Cardell, a 2007 inductee who fought the likes of Kid Gavilan, Ike Williams, Carmen Basilio and others in the 1950s.
He gave them the only Vic Cardell autograph he had.
“They had never met him (Cardell passed in 1987). I just felt they should have it,” he said. “It made them happy.”
“You’ve got to love the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame,” said referee Danny Schiavone, ‘Because it’s geared toward honoring the great boxing people from around our region.”
SAVE THE DATE CT BOXING FRIENDS & FANS 14th ANNUAL GALA INDUCTION DINNER/CEREMONY!! SATURDAY EVENING, October 13th, 2018 AT THE MOHEGAN SUN BALLROOM NEAR THE CONVENTION CENTER.DETAILS BELOW.
PLEASE TAKE SOME TIME TO VISIT OUR CT BOXING HALL OF FAME MUSEUM. The NEW location at Mohegan Sun is near the SKY Entrance at Mohegan Sun, next to Jersey Mike’s. TICKETS ON SALE NOW !! DETAILS BELOW !!AT THE MOHEGAN SUN UNCAS BALLROOM –THE CT BOXING HALL OF FAME 14th ANNUAL GALA INDUCTION DINNER/CEREMONY –RECEPTION/COCKTAILS 6:00PM (CASH BAR)
7:00 PM DINNER & INDUCTION CEREMONY – DINNER WITH VEG. & DESSERT included$90 / TICKET**TICKETS ON SALE NOW**Please call Sherman Cain @ 1-800-237-3606 (Ext.321)
And for CREDIT CARD ORDERS PLEASE CALL ANN MURPHY at MOHEGAN SUN 860.862.8846
THE 2018 CBHOF INDUCTEES ARE:
The Minor Award Winners for 2018 are:
◦Pro Boxer of the Year – Anthony Laureano
◦Amateur Boxer of the Year – Nephateria Miller
◦Official of the Year – Pete Hary Jr
◦Amateur Official of the Year – Jason Concepcion
◦Contribution to Boxing – Roland Roy
◦NO TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR> TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE NOW, GET OFF THOSE ROPES AND ORDER YOUR TICKETS SOON !!
The 14th Annual Induction Ceremony & Dinner will held in the gorgeous Uncas Ballroom at Mohegan Sun and will include: ◦The Induction Ceremonies, *Full Dinner & Speeches (*Alcoholic Beverages available, but not included in ticket price)◦Surprise Auction/Sale featuring boxing !
◦ A 50/50 Raffle – 1/2 to the CBHOF SCHOLARSHIP FUND & 1/2 to the CASH winner!! Last year’s winner got hundreds of $$!!
You will meet & rub elbows with the Inductees, as well as Professional & Amateur Boxers, Promoters, Trainers, Judges, Referees, Doctors and many other boxing dignitaries. (There will even be some professional FANS there…lol!)
You’ll hear speeches, trade some boxing stories, have some laughs, take some photos, get some autographs, make new friends and party with old friends, all while supporting a great cause…BOXING IN CT!Please consider joining us and celebrating our 14th Annual Ceremony with our Inductees…You’ll have a great time!
Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame
Class of 2017 Announced
“We continue to break barriers at CBHOF as we induct ‘Professor’ Charles Hadley who may have been the best ‘pound-for-pound fighter of his era,” CBHOF president John Laudati said. Like many black athletes of this period, he never received the recognition he richly deserved. The CBHOF will rectify that this year. Other members of this year’s class are equally deserving and represent all aspects of this great sport. Dr. Alessi is not just an accomplished ring physician but also a world-renowned sports doctor. Clark Sammartino is one of the best judges boxing has ever seen. Dick Flaherty has not only refereed championship fights all over the world, but he was in charge of the action for Ward-Gaetti I, one of the greatest fights of all time. Dan Parker is an International Boxing Hall of Famer whose career as a reporter is unparalleled in any sport. Hughie Devlin Sr.’s contributions to this sport in Connecticut are immeasurable. We look forward to seeing boxing fans of all ages at this year’s dinner. It will be a wonderful evening for our inductees, our award winners, and especially for their family and friends.”
Fighting out of his adopted hometown of Bridgeport, Tennessee-native “Professor” Charles Hadley (25-13-6, 14 KOs) was the reigning World Colored Heavyweight Champion from 1881-1883. His professional career was from 1869 to 1891.
Go online to www.ctboxinghof.org for additional information about the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame, its 13th annual Gala Inductee Dinner, event sponsorship opportunities, or past CBHOF inductees.
Visit the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame at the Mohegan Sun Casino
Story by Kirk Lang and John Rinaldi
Photographs by Richard Esposito and John Rinaldi
Uncasville, CT. The Mohegan Sun Casino has provided the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame with a space for the new museum honoring those fighters, writers, promoters and officials who have been involved in boxing throughout the Nutmeg State.
At the Mohegan Sun, which regularly hosts championship boxing matches, the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame will be open 24/7 daily during the year.
On hand are classic fight posters featuring well-known names such as Chico Vejar and Gaspar “Indio” Ortega, fight-worn clothing that belonged to 1980s and 1990s era champions Vinny Pazienza and Marlon Starling, and even an old MacGregor heavy bag – housed in a wood and glass case – that showed some of the wear and tear inflicted by the quick jab of the legendary 1940’s featherweight champion Willie Pep.
Besides the wall plaques and boxing artifacts and memorabilia, on the wall a flat-screen television continuously displays highlights and interviews with the elite of Connecticut’s boxing community in constant rotation.
“This is a Hall of Fame,” said John “The Iceman” Scully, a former light heavyweight contender and trainer of champions, who is a 2009 inductee into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame. “What we had before was more like a corridor. This is spectacular!”
Scully was one of about 50 boxing enthusiasts who made sure to visit Mohegan Sun on Monday, June 26, 2017 for a ribbon-cutting for the Hall’s new space, just off the Sky entrance to the gambling mecca, still one of the largest in the world.
The Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame had been previously been given wall space inside Mohegan Sun Arena. What it has now is truly a museum and there is a plan to rotate memorabilia every four months.
Longtime referee turned boxing judge Joe Cusano told The U.S.A. Boxing News, “I can remember 20 years ago talking about this (some kind of space) with Glenn Feldman and Don Trella, planning on something like this. And to see it happen now and be available to the public, it’s just great. This is really the perfect place. More people will get to enjoy this, here, than just about anywhere else.”
Micky Ward, forever remembered for his three classic battles with the late Arturo Gatti – the first and best of the trilogy took place at Mohegan Sun – was inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010. He said of the new museum, “It means a lot. It’s great for the people to be able to [see the Hall] without going to an event, because that’s the only way you could see it before.”
Diana Duke, 70, daughter of 2005 inductee Johnny Duke, a longtime trainer at the Bellevue Square Boys Club in Hartford, CT, was more than elated to see her father properly immortalized with the rest of the best from the Nutmeg State.
“It gives you chills to think that somebody finally recognizes those who fought hard for the business, fought in the business, and to walk in and see a rolling film of my dad, who is no longer with us, it sent chills down my spine,” said Duke. “It’s just an honor to see somebody took the time to put this together for the public to see.”
“This is really a culmination of years of hard work,” said Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame President John Laudati during the ribbon cutting ceremony. He thanked, among others, Mohegan as a whole for generously donating the space; the Hall’s board of directors, Mohegan’s engineering department for the care put into the new museum and a few dignitaries from Foxwoods Casino in attendance.
“People don’t understand how generous both casinos have been to this organization,” said Laudati. “We really wouldn’t be here without support from both the Mashantucket Pequots (Foxwoods) and the Mohegans.” Before he wrapped up, the Hall’s president gave a special thanks to two Connecticut Hall board members, George and Renee Phillips. George is listed on the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame’s website as Vice President and Renee as Secretary.
“Most of what you see in these cases they have donated,” said Laudati. “It’s on loan to the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame. George is the official curator. This is intended to be a rotating display.”
Just before the actual ribbon cutting, Laudati called up “the most important people here tonight,” the living inductees, which included, among others, Micky Ward; former IBO super middleweight champion Dana Rosenblatt; 1985 ESPN welterweight champion Troy “Schoolboy” Wortham; referee Michael Ortega (son of Gaspar Ortega); judge Glenn Feldman; Manchester-based trainer Paul Cichon and Foxwoods’ athletic commissioner Kenny Reels. Marlon Starling, one of the Hall’s most famous inductees, also made it to the new museum, albeit some minutes after all the official hoopla.
“I am so juiced to this new Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame,” said the former WBA and WBC World Welterweight Champion Starling. “I love the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame and it is nice that there is a place for fans to visit.”
The inductees on-hand were but a small sampling of all that help make Connecticut boxing a success.
Besides being a world class judge, Feldman was the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame president for 10 years before Laudati took over the position.
“It’s a very proud moment for me,” he said. “This space is worth a lot of money. Let’s face it, and they donated it to the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame and we’re very appreciative of that. They’re boxing people and they’re going to keep boxing alive in Connecticut. It’s a great thing.”
After the ribbon-cutting, Scully spent some time closely looking at all of the display cases. He was surprised to see the museum had the boxing shoes from his final fight in 2001, as well as the specially made Kronk gloves he wore in a bout against former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Graciano Rocchigiani in Berlin, Germany on March 22, 1997, where he lost a close decision. Of course he took a couple of photos. Scully had previously sold both items on the Internet some years ago.
“I figured they might have something of mine in there, but if you asked me to guess, those two items would never have entered my mind as something they might have,” said Scully.
Eighty-one-year-old and former welterweight contender Gaspar Ortega, whose bouts were regularly televised in the 1950s and ’60s, was equally impressed with the new museum.
“Today I feel very proud,” he said, standing about 10 feet from a framed fight poster advertising a fight he had at Madison Square Garden with Federico Thompson. “I feel very proud that the people still remember me, and they still love me.”
Museums such as the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame honor men such as Ortega, who compiled an astonishing 131-39-6 (69 KO’s) record in a career that spanned from 1953 to 1965. Those fighters who plied their trade in venues all over the world would be long forgotten today if it were not for recognition provided in such museums as the CBHOF.
The CBHOF Vice President George Phillips said, “This Hall of Fame is wonderful for the sport and a great way to preserve the history of boxing in Connecticut.”
Besides the numerous displays that included vintage press passes, photographs, posters and memorabilia, the wallpaper of the museum is comprised of photos taken at various boxing bouts that were contested in Connecticut. The photos are by Mark Brett, Emily Harney and The U.S.A. Boxing News’ staff photographer Richard Esposito. The Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame is a great place to visit when at the Mohegan Sun Casino, or just for a boxing fan to visit who happens to be in the area.
In additon to the unique exhibits, the CBHOF routinely airs clips such as Jack Dempsey fighting Gene Tunney and Micky Ward squaring off against Arturo Gatti, all which can be viewed all day and night on the large screen monitor located on the main wall in the museum.
Much credit must be given to the following who are on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame for the fantastic job they did in keeping the memory of fisticuffs alive in the state:
John Laudati – President
George Phillips – Vice President
Peter Hary – Vice President
Renee Phillips – Secretary
Chritopher Mund – Treasurer
Mike Mazzulli – Sgt. Of Arms (For Life)
Dan Schiavone – Sgt. Of Arms
Bob Trieger – CBHOF Publicist
Glenn Feldman – President Emeritus
John Burns – Director Emeritus
Manny Leibert – Director Emeritus
George Smith – Director Emeritus
Kim Baker – Board Member
Sherman Cain – Board Member
Johnny Callas – Board Member
Dick Flaherty – Board Member
Robin Hayes – Board Member
Mark Langlais – Board Member
Bill Morande – Board Member
Kenneth Reels – Board Member
Chris Renstrom – Board Member
Roland Roy – Board Member
Michael Stergio – Board Member
Maynard Strickland – Board Member
Don Trella – Board Member
Marlon “Magic Man” Starling – Board Member and former welterweight champion
The Mohegan Sun Casino now has 400 new rooms, an 18-hole golf course, poolside cabanas, famous entertainers and championship boxing.
The museum is located in the Sky Entrance through the Riverview Garage.
The address, phone number of the Mohegan Sun Casino is :
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, CT 06382
So boxing fans, if you want to visit an entertaining museum, take a trip to the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame located in the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. You will not be disappointed!
The publishers of The USA Boxing News take especially great pride in the fact that it was in the city of Bridgeport, in the great state of Connecticut where the publication was born and eventually flourished to become the success that it has been for over thirty (30) years!
Just like The USA Boxing News, the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame is a champion for the sport of boxing!