Mike McNamara, Director of the Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame, formally announced the Hall’s most recent class of inductees today and provided details on the Hall’s Fourth Annual event.
As was the case with the Hall’s three earlier classes, this year’s inductees include a wide range of participants and contributors to boxing in Illinois. They are:
Al Bernstein – Illinois native and member of many international Halls of Fame for his work in media, for his writing about boxing and especially for his work as an announcer since 1980, first for ESPN’s Top Rank Boxing and now for the Showtime Network
Charlie “White Lightning” Brown – After a stellar amateur career Brown, a native of Moline, turned pro and didn’t suffer a loss until his 24th fight when he challenged Henry Arroyo for the IBF World Lightweight Title. Despite that loss, Brown continued to fight the best of the best, finishing his career with a 31-11-0 record. Brown passed in August of 2018.
Rick Fornuto – Longtime amateur boxing coach for the Chicago Park District, particularly at Scottsdale Park where he produced numerous amateur champions. He was also a successful amateur boxer.
Bill Heglin – another well known amateur boxing coach for the Chicago Park District’s Hamlin Park, starting in 1974. He trained David Diaz, Frez Oquendo, Luis Perez, Anwar Oshana, and many others to many amateur titles.
Young Joe Lewis (Eddie Taylor) – Busy local Cruiserweight who fought several times for the World Title. His pro record was 38-18-1 with most of those losses coming at the end of his career.
Johnny Lewus – Former World Title Challenger who fought three people who held pro titles during his long career. A 25-5-1 pro who held the Illinois State Boxing Championship. He won the Open Division of the Golden Gloves three times, Lewus currently works as a trainer.
Gerald McClellan – Freeport, IL native McClellan is a the former WBO and WBC Middleweight Champion of the World with a 31-3 professional record. He scored devastating knockout wins over John Mugabi and Julian Jackson. His last fight was a loss to Nigel Benn in England where he was challenging for the World Super Middleweight Title.
Nick Petrecca – a former amateur fighter and busy professional judge. He was the 1963 CYO and Golden Gloves Champion.
Leticia Robinson – a pioneering women’s boxer with a 15-1 professional record. She was the Golden Gloves Champ from 1995-1998 before turning pro and winning the International Women’s Boxing Federation’s World Title in 2006.
Joey Ruiz – Ruiz was the Illinois State Super Lightweight Champion in 1986. Trained by Angelo Dundee and managed by HOF inductee James Kaulentis, he retired with a professional record of 24-4-1. He went to St Rita High School in Chicago but turned pro in Mexico at age 15.
Gerald Scott – Scott is a long time and extremely busy professional and amateur referee who has worked many World Title fights around the world. He has also been a successful trainer of amateurs and a promoter of amateur cards.
Davey Day – a two time World Champion who boxed in the first Chicago Golden Gloves tournament in 1931. A 61-9-4 pro, he battled all time pound for pound great Henry Armstrong for the World Welterweight Title despite coming in 11 pounds under the 147 limit. He fought many Hall of Fame fighters throughout his long career.
Jackie Fields – 1924 Olympic Gold Medalist, a 72-9-2 pro, he was a two time World Welterweight Champion. He fought all of the top fighters of his era. After his retirement in 1933 and having many of his investments wiped out by the Depression, he worked a number of jobs before moving to Las Vegas in 1957 where he became part owner of the Tropicana Hotel. He also served as head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Battling Nelson – Nelson was born in Denmark but moved to Chicago while still a baby. He turned professional in 1896 when he was 14 and fought as a pro for the next 21 years. His official record is 59-19-22 but he likely fought as many as 125 professional fights. He held the World Title in 1905, losing it the next year in 42 rounds to the legendary Joe Gans. It was the first “Fight of the Century” (the first time that phrase was used). His trilogy with Gans is one of the greatest rivalries in sports history.
The Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame is an outgrowth of the successful 15-year-old Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame. McNamara, an accomplished kickboxer, tournament fighter, and trainer of former ISKA World Cruiserweight Kickboxing Champion Rob Salazar, is also Director of the IMAHOF.
This year marks the fourth year of the Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame’s existence, following its first three hugely successful events in recent years.
This year’s Illinois Boxing HOF event was originally scheduled to take place in September 2018. “We had the event scheduled for months and then the GGG-Canelo fight wound up being scheduled for the same night. It was unfortunate and we knew it would create a conflict for most if not all of our attendees, so we decided to postpone it.”
According to McNamara “The Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame continues to try to recognize the very best contributors to the rich 150-year history of boxing in Illinois. As our first three events have shown us, the Illinois boxing scene continues to be vibrant.
“We’ve sold out prior events, and this year’s ticket sales are far outpacing previous years,” said Co-Director Pete Hoffman. “It is always a great evening with a great crowd and this year will be a sell out!”
The genesis of the idea for the Hall came when the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame began to induct boxers seven years ago, as IMAHOF’s Directors considered boxing a fighting art. Those boxing inductees were extremely appreciative, but they also pointed out that despite the rich history of boxing in Illinois, there was no Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame and “they suggested to us that we start it and run it,” says McNamara.
In fact, this year’s event will be combined with the Fifteenth Annual Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
“When we had to postpone our fall event, combining the two this year made the most sense. The crowds are very similar and there are more than a few people who have been inducted into both Halls. There is a lot of overlap. When you factor in the rise of other combat sports that have integrated boxing into their training it really makes sense.”
The Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring people from Illinois and/or who participated in or contributed to Boxing in Illinois. Its Fourth Annual banquet and induction Ceremony will be held Friday, April 12, 2019 at Abbington Banquets, 3S002 IL-53, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 near Butterfield Road and Route 53. The event starts at 6PM with a social hour, followed by dinner at 7PM, and the ceremony at 8PM.
For tickets and more information about the event, contact Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame Director Mike McNamara at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 708-473-0682. Tickets are $50 per person including dinner and the event or $450 for a table of ten.