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The long wait is over for the state of Nevada officially welcomed its first boxing hall of fame class at the inaugural Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame (NVBHOF) Saturday August 2 at the Monte Carlo Resort Hotel & Casino.
Founder and Chief Operating Officer Rich Marotta of the NVBHOF can finally rest now, because he surely couldn’t do that as he enshrined 19 individuals at the sold out ball room.
The event nearly took as long to finish as it did to establish the NVBHOF, but it was well worth the wait as six Blacks including former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, legendary boxing promoter Don King, former welterweight champion ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, former middleweight champion Mike ‘The Body Snatcher’ McCallum and the late iconic trainer Eddie Futch was inducted.
Las Vegas resident Floyd Mayweather received NVBHOF Fighter of the Year honors and was on hand to accept his awards with a massive contingent of fighters and officers from his fledging Mayweather Promotions Company.
“I want to thank all of the legendary fighters who paved the way. Mike [Tyson], Sugar Ray Leonard, and I want to thank Don King and Bob Arum,” Mayweather said. “I want to take my company to the next level, and without the fans, the media, HBO, CBS and Showtime this would not be possible. The most important things to me are my health and my family.”
Holmes was without question the best heavyweight champion since Muhammad Ali credited King for his sustained success in the ring and financially.
“I owe a lot of this hard work to someone who helped me when nobody else would. Don King, the man who put up with me for 20 years. I just wanted the fight and the best fight. I call it in the box, my wife my mother, sister and my Don King. They made me who I am.”
Leonard, a 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses, won world titles in five weight divisions and defeated future fellow International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees Wilfred Benítez, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Durán, and Marvin Hagler. He was named "Boxer of the Decade" for the 1980s.
Dressed casually in white jeans and a white shirt, Leonard was just as classic as he’s always been during his induction.
“I just want to say how excited and humble I am to be acknowledged in such a prestigious like manner,” he said.
“You know I love Vegas, Vegas to me was my second home. I won all of my fights in Las Vegas, or maybe I lost the second Hearns fight,” he added, although he actually won that one too.
Tyson, who was the last of the inductees is a former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at 20 years, 4 months, and 22 days old. He won his first 19 professional bouts by knockout, 12 of them in the first round.
“I’m not much of a talker. I’m very grateful for Cus D’Amato this would have never happened, [because] I couldn’t ever done this if I was with another trainer. No one knew how to reach the core of me like Cus D’Amato did, and I never did anything else in my life, I never played basketball, I never played any other sport. All I ever did since I was 13 was fight. That’s all I ever knew and that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Tyson continued; “ I knew the history of great fighters and they all went broke and they went crazy and insane. Normally it wasn’t a good ending and I knew about this ending. I just wanted to be a part of this fraternity. Most of them died young.”
Tyson concluded speaking about his humble beginnings.
“A guy who came from where I came from, a prostitute mother, a pimp father and I go to other countries and I’m being mobbed it’s like the president came there. I am very grateful for that. I’m very grateful for my wife because I would never have a life like I have now. I’d be dead. Somebody would have killed me for that dope or that prostitute or something,” Tyson said.
The Jamaican born McCallum won titles in three weight classes.
“It’s a privilege to be here tonight and I loved to fight and worked hard at it. Jamaican own ‘ONE LOVE.”
Futch was one of the all time great trainers who was responsible for the careers of fighters such as Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, and Trevor Berbick, four of the five men to defeat Muhummad Ali.
Futch was also the trainer of record for Joe Frazier, Riddick Bowe, and Montell Griffin when they defeated and handed future Hall of Fame fighters Ali, Evander Holyfield, and Roy Jones, Jr., their first professional defeats.
King promoted all of the fighters including Julio Cesar Chavez who were inducted.
The world-renowned promoter of boxing luminaries including Muhammad Ali, “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, “Big” George Foreman, Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, “Iron” Mike Tyson, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr., Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, Ricardo “Finito” Lopez, Salvador Sanchez and Wilfredo Gomez, to name a few was at his best when accepting his award.
“I’m deeply grateful and appreciative of the honor. I got into boxing trying to help people. That’s how I got here because when I came home from the penitentiary the community came to me to save the only Black hospital in Cleveland, Forrest City Hospital,” eloquently stated King.
He added, “They were about to close their doors because they could not get insurers to come there and they asked me if I could do something to help and that’s when I decided to call on some of my friends before I went to the penitentiary and one of them was Muhummad Ali.”
It was Ali who introduced King to the sport and encouraged him to become a promoter and thus his illustrious career began.
Now, over 500 world championship fights later, nearly 100 boxers have earned $1 million or more in Don King Productions-promoted fights.
King holds the distinction of having promoted or co-promoted seven of the 10 largest pay-per-view events in history, as gauged by total buys, including three of the top five: Holyfield vs. Tyson II, 1.99 million buys, June 1997; Tyson vs. Holyfield I, 1.6 million buys, November 1996; Tyson vs. McNeeley, 1.58 million buys, August 1995; and Bruno vs. Tyson, 1.4 million buys, March 1996.
The Nevada Hall may be the last stop for King, but not his last hurrah.