Chicago, IL (February 24, 2014) – February 25 marks the 50th anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s historic victory over Sonny Liston to become the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (NIASHF) not only recognizes Ali for his extraordinary accomplishment, they thank him for his continued and ongoing support of their organization and charitable programs.
It was through Ali’s relationship with legendary trainer, Angelo Dundee, that Ali first became associated with the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Ali credits Dundee, a 1977 Inductee into the NIASHF, for his victory over Liston to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
The NIASHF was originally founded in 1977 as the Italian American Boxing Hall of Fame and it wasn’t until the following year that the Hall was formed to include Italian American athletes of all sports. Since its inception, Dundee was a champion supporter of the NIASHF; particularly its charitable program – A Level Playing Field.
A Level Playing Field brought at-risk youth from some of Chicago’s most dangerous and violent neighborhoods to the NIASHF, where they learned that in order to become a champion in any endeavor, they must first embrace the values of dedication and commitment. The mission of the NIASHF was so important to Dundee that his 90th and last birthday was hosted at the NIASHF, where he was celebrated by Ali and other boxing greats in attendance.
George Randazzo, Founder and President of the NIASHF, became friends with Ali over 40 years ago as Randazzo grew up in Chicago and Ali moved there. They got to know each other quite well through their mutual affiliation in the sport of boxing, where Randazzo had established a reputation as an honest and successful boxing manager and promoter. They have also both been recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which is presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life.
George Randazzo stated, “I cannot adequately express the significance of Ali winning the championship. Not only did his win positively alter sports history, but it also helped influence change in American and even world history.” Randazzo went on to say that “as an Italian American I am extremely proud of the pivotal role that Angelo Dundee, the son of Italian immigrants, played in Muhammad Ali’s career and his life. To have these true American icons affiliated with the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor and source of great pride.”
Over the years, Ali has attended many of the Hall’s events including the dedication of the Rocky Marciano statue in the NIASHF. His family is represented on the Board of Directors of the NIASHF through his son-in-law, Mike Joyce, who is married to Ali’s daughter Jamillah. Mike Joyce is a leading Illinois attorney who remains heavily involved in boxing through his management of the Celtic Boxing Club in Chicago and his co-chairmanship of the NIASHF’s annual boxing tournament. Mike and Jamillah, actively and directly support the NIASHF and its charitable programs. Mike said, “Our family became involved with the Hall of Fame because of boxing but we became committed to the organization because of its mission to help others, particularly disadvantaged kids.”