NY Hall of Fame Inducts Dempsey

By Clarence George on March 6, 2013
NY Hall of Fame Inducts Dempsey
Jack Dempsey's Broadway Restaurant opened in 1935, directly across from the Garden.

“New York State was the driving force in boxing for more than a half-century and remains a major player in the sport,” says New York State Boxing Hall of Fame and Ring 8 president Bob Duffy. And that’s putting it mildly. New York is the home of Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of Boxing, as well as the defunct and lamented Stillman’s Gym and the Neutral Corner Cocktail Lounge and Restaurant—“Steaks and Chops Our Specialty, Meet Your Favorite Fighters and Managers Here”—yes, guys like Charley Goldman, Whitey Bimstein, and even an intrusive boxing writer or two, such as the inimitable A.J. Liebling. Rocky Marciano himself might pop in for a hard-boiled egg and a sip of water and a natter with retired and fatter-than-ever Tony Galento, fresh off his learning Jackie Gleason the perils of presumption.

How did that song go? Ah, yes:

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end

Only in its second year, New York’s Boxing Hall of Fame is doing its part to enshrine the city and state’s incomparable boxing history by honoring those boxers, as well as the sport’s non-participants, who are native sons (born or raised). Yes, yes, there are some non-New York boxers who are of the highest caliber. Joe Louis, for example. And one or two others…I guess.

This year’s posthumous inductees include heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey (whose Jack Dempsey’s Broadway Restaurant opened in 1935 between 49th and 50th Streets on Broadway, directly across from the Garden, closing in 1974), two-time featherweight and junior lightweight king Sandy Saddler, light heavyweight champ Maxie Rosenbloom, and featherweight and junior lightweight titlist Johnny Dundee, who fought Benny Leonard a remarkable nine times. Deceased non-participants are promoter Mike Jacobs (not to be confused with Joe Jacobs of “We wuz robbed!” fame), promoter Tex Rickard, announcer Don Dunphy, and Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner.

Among those boxers still with us who are to be inducted are two-time welterweight titlist Mark Breland, three-division world champ Iran Barkley, bantamweight and junior featherweight titlist Junior Jones, junior welterweight and welterweight titleholder James “Buddy” McGirt, light heavyweight champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, heavyweight Doug Jones, light heavy Bobby Cassidy, and middleweight Joey Archer. This year’s non-participant inductees are promoter Bob Arum, manager Tony Graziano (where’s Brooklyn-born Rocky?), manager Shelly Finkel, and boxing analyst Larry Merchant.

Dempsey and Arum together again for the very first time. Or something. Who’d have thunk it?

The inaugural class was graced by the likes of Carmen Basilio (since deceased), Jake LaMotta, Emile Griffith, Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Mike McCallum, Vito Antuofermo, and Carlos Ortiz. Those posthumously inducted were Sugar Ray Robinson, Gene Tunney, Tony Canzoneri, and Leonard. Non-participants inducted were Jimmy Glenn, Steve Acunto, and Harold Lederman. Posthumous non-boxer inductees were Nat Fleischer, Ray Arcel, Gil Clancy, Arthur Mercante Sr., and Bill Gallo.

In order to be considered for induction, boxers must be retired for at least three years and must have been residents of The Empire State for much of their careers. Nominating-committee members are Steve Farhood, Jack Hirsch, Don Majeski, Henry Hascup, Ron McNair, and Neil Terens.

The inductions will formally take place at a celebratory feast to be held at Russo’s On The Bay in Howard Beach on April 28. Tickets are $150 for adults and $50 for children, and may be obtained by calling Duffy at 516-313-2304. Alternatively, phone Tony Mazzarella, owner of the Waterfront Crabhouse in Long Island City, at 718-729-4862.

The ticket cost for Ring 8 members is $125. In addition, members are entitled to attend a monthly dinner at Mazzarella’s restaurant, where rubbing shoulders with “The Bronx Bull” and other boxing luminaries is anything but uncommon.

Ring 8’s motto is “Boxers Helping Boxers.” I’m a proud member of this outstanding charitable association, which did much to help what Thom Jones would no doubt call “Pugilists at Rest”—Saddler and Frank Sinatra favorite Tami Mauriello, among many others, and continues to do so. Griffith is a notable and deserving beneficiary. Membership is reserved to the boxing world’s elite, aka those who can afford the yearly $25 fee.

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