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!