Long after these boxers threw their last punch, the judge’s scorecard awarded the legends one last belt.
The rich history of New York boxing was finally honored with the induction of the inaugural class of pugilists into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame (NYSBHOF).
“Boxing in New York will not be forgotten,” said NYSBHOF founder Tony Mazzarella.
The induction ceremony took place Sunday, April 1 at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach.
Each inductee received a Hall of Fame belt, reminiscent of the championship hardware they received throughout their careers.
Inducted into the first NYSBHOF class were “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Mike Tyson, Carmen Basilio, Riddick Bowe, Carlos Ortiz, Vito Antuofermo, Emile Griffith, Mike McCallum, Gene Tunney, Benny Leonard and Tony Canzoneri.
LaMotta, McCallum, Griffith, Ortiz, Antuofermo, Acunto, Glenn and Lederman attended the gala, while the families of Robinson, Canzoneri, Tunney, Arcel, Gallo and Mercante were also represented.
The 90-year-old LaMotta, as famous for Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of him in “Raging Bull” as his legendary career, spoke in his acceptance speech about the greatest fighters he ever saw.
“I fought ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson so many times it’s a wonder I don’t have diabetes,” LaMotta said of his fellow inductee, who passed away in 1989. “He broke my jaw, but you can see he never broke my nose. The greatest pound-for-pound fighter who ever lived is ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson.”
LaMotta bestowed upon the actor who portrayed him similar praise.
“DeNiro is the greatest fighter who ever lived. How’d he play me? He sparred and shadow-boxed 1,000 rounds and when I was finished with him he could have turned pro,” LaMotta said.
The non-boxing inductees were judge/HBO analyst Harold Lederman, coach/instructor Steve Acunto, trainer/cutman Jimmy Glenn, trainers Gil Clancy and Ray Arcel, The Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer, New York Daily News boxing reporter/cartoonist Bill Gallo and referee Arthur Mercante, Sr.
The inductees were selected by a six-member NYSBHOF nominating committee.
To be eligible for hall of fame induction, boxers need to be inactive for at least three years and have had resided in New York for a significant portion of their boxing careers.
“The greatest fighters all fought in New York,” Lederman said.
Commemorative plaques listing the names of the inductees and NYSBHOF board members and nominating committee will be on display at the Waterfront Crabhouse in Long Island City.