The Class of 2019 was inducted into the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame this past Friday night at Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The HOF reception was held in conjunction with the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing and 2019 National Championships. Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein from Showtime Sports served once again as the event’s emcee.
Olympic gold-medalists Mark Breland and “Smokin'” Joe Frazier along with decorated coach Al Mitchell and famed cut-man Ray Rodgers, were inducted during the 3rd annual USA Boxing Alumni Association HOF reception.
Sen. John McCain was posthumously presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award. His daughter, Megan McCain, sent an acceptance video on behalf of her family that was played for the audience.
“We are extremely thankful for the hundreds of USA Boxing Alumni who showed up to support this year’s Hall of Fame class and enjoy an incredible evening of reflection, camaraderie, and joy,” said USA Boxing Alumni Association Director Chris Cugliari. “Unfortunately, George Foreman was unable to attend the event, so we will be sure to honor him at a later date. However, the legacies of Ray Rodgers, Al Mitchell, Joe Frazier, Mark Breland, and Senator John McCain were celebrated with passion and gratitude. It was an evening to remember, and we look forward to a strong 2020 for the USA Boxing Alumni Association.”
The ceremony was well attended, with over 200 traveling to Lake Charles in celebration of this year’s class. 1988 Eastern Olympic Qualifier Champion John “Iceman” Scully, 1972 Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales, 1984 Olympic gold medalist Frank Tate, former middleweight and light heavyweight champion “Sweet” Reggie Johnson, and 1992 Olympian Raul Marquez celebrated amongst peers from their amateur days.
CLASS OF 2019
Mark Breland: “I enjoy boxing, it’s a lot of fun. I’m glad to be here because I’ve seen a lot of fighters I grew up with in the amateurs. I enjoy boxing because it kept me off the streets. I wasn’t a street guy., My father would have beaten me up if I had gotten into trouble in the streets. Boxing kept me off the streets, kept me in the gym. I guess I was good at it. I had a fight with a bully when I was 14 and I beat him up. I went to the gym the same day and my coach asked me what happened. My knuckles were shredded with blood. I told him I had a fight in the street. He said you can’t fight in the street. Then I realized boxing and street fighting are two different things.
Shelly Finkel (his manager), when he came into my life, changed a lot of things. Things changed a lot. I focused more on boxing, focused on the Olympic Games, and won championships. Every tournament I went into, I won, but it was a lot of fun. I wanted to inspire youths. I hope I can inspire some amateurs coming up. To keep going, stay off the streets, and do something that can change your life in a good way., Eddie Futch for life!”
Marvis Frazier(Joe’s son, pictured): “It is so good today to speak about my father, what he meant to me, and Joe Frazier always said to me, ‘There’s no right way to do wrong, no wrong way to do right.’ He said, if you don’t do right, you’re going to smell this, putting his left fist right to my nose. When it was time for me to do bad, it wasn’t me, wasn’t Marvis Frazier. So, today, I’m still smelling it even if he’s not here.
“I just love to talk boxing. As an amateur I was 46-1 and then when I turned pro, I beat the guy who had knocked me out. I love my father. He was a good guy and a champion. I know everybody know Muhammad Ali and I know everybody know ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier.”
Al Mitchell: “I got rid of anybody over 16 who didn’t want to go to school. I’ve been doing this the longest time and I want to thank the coaches. I had three or four who didn’t care about boxing, but they wanted their kids to get an education. Izzy Acosta is one. I got a perfect record at Marquette High, they’ve all graduated. I have four kids with master’s degrees, I’ve got 14 who have degrees, and four guys who are policemen and no way they should be policemen. I’m blessed.
“Old coaches would tell one you’re only as good as your memories. It’s crazy with kids 14, 14, 15. I had a kid named Vernon Forrest, a four-time world champion., It’s not just about boxing. It’s getting an education and after ten years they have a good life. I want to thank you all for putting me in the Hall of Fame.”
Michael Rodgers (Ray’s son, pictured): “First, I want to apologize for my father for not being here. He hurt his back over the weekend working a boxing match, believe it or not, and he apologizes for not being here.
“I want to thank USA Boxing and the Alumni Association for recognizing my father for this award. And when he heard about this, he said he didn’t do any of these things during the 72 years he’s been in the sport for awards. He just did what he did for the love this sport and he did what needed to be done.”
USA BOXING ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Mike McAtee, Executive Director, USA Boxing (pictured): “On behalf of the Board of Directors, President Tyson Lee, I can only say thank you, thank you, and thank you. Tonight, is a culmination of work between our members, our alumni association, but I have to recognize a couple of people. This great event wouldn’t be done without Chris Cugliari, Al Valenti and Nicole Anderson, our Alumni Association Coordinator.
“I have the honor of talking about boxing and obviously we have passion. When Marvis Frazier said this was a brotherhood, a sisterhood, and none of us, quite frankly, who’ve stepped in the ring – I include myself in that – we’re not right. Takes a special person to climb in the ropes. You all can give yourselves a hand for not being right.
“USA Boxing is proud of our history, but more proud of our future, and I can tell you the young men and women battling at the elite levels, we started at 104 and that will be taken down to 13 by Sunday evening. But, more importantly, we’re going to be breeding the next generation of champions, because this is closing the chapter of 2020, but starting the chapter of 2024, and ultimately, when the Olympic Games comeback here in 2028. This is a special time.”
Chris Cugliari, Executive Director, USA Boxing Alumni Association: “Three years ago a group of us sat around a table in Kansas City at the National Championships and this idea was hatched: John Brown, Al Valenti, John Scully, Christy Halbert, Mike McAtee and a few others. So, it’s something I’m very proud of and an organization I’m proud to lead with the support of all of you.
“A quick update of the Alumni Association, we’re at about 1200 members right now and this is our third year. We had events across the country the past year, honoring Micky Ward and Vinny Pazianza in the New England area. We gathered in Chicago. We honored Izzy Acosta at the Junior Olympics in Wisconsin, as well as Buster Douglas and coach Mike Stafford at the Ohio Legends celebration, and here we are today honoring our third Hall of Fame class. We’ve come a long way. Our theme in 2020 is two missions: First, we want to take this down to the grassroots level, second is supporting our athletes and their families as they travel to the 2020 Olympic Games.”
Al Valenti, Special Projects Consultant for USA Boxing: “USA Boxing is the one fundamental difference that makes a difference in a young person’s life. The path to self-confidence, the path to self-respect, discipline, victory, and how to accept defeat all comes through amateur boxing.
“Tonight, the story will be told. Tonight, we will take you on a path, of amateur boxing in the United States that rivals no other nation. Gold medalists, silver medalists, coaches, officials, doctors…they’re all here. It’s like Woodstock for boxing; everybody’s here!”
Al Bernstein, Master of Ceremonies: “I’m delighted to be back here for my third year at USA Boxing’s Alumni Association Hall of Fame. I hosted a lot of events, MC’d a lot of events, and this is the final event because it’s in the end of December. It’s definitely my favorite.”