Mike Martino (long-time pal, Nevada Athletic Inspector and the guy who introduced Frankie Gambino and moi to Abby’s Highway 40 in Reno) called and suggested I cover the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame event at the Monte Carlo. Unfortunately, the date conflicted with me “uncovering” at the Chicken Ranch (chickenranchbrothel.com) just outside of Vegas.
Ever quick to the stick I called my ghost of a gumbah Frankie Gambino. Of course, the ever erstwhile Gambino was hunkered down at our favorite Las Vegas watering hole, Davy’s Locker (opened in the 60’s by legendary referee Davy Pearl).
Boston Dave answered on the third ring and coughed it up that my phantom of a friend was at the other end of the bar.
Of course Frankie was all in—boxing is about the only thing that gets him off the stool.
A call was placed to Hall of Fame founder Rich Marotta who put Frankie in contact with James Wimberly and viola, press-credentials were confirmed.
Since I was not in attendance, I’ll let Frankie take it from here…
(Frankie Gambino narration)
It seems like the first ones to show up at a pug party are those third men in ring types. And it as no different at the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame inaugural event!
There I was mingling with Richard Steele, Joe Cortez, Kenny Bayless, Jay Nady and Vic Drakulich.
Of course, being a man of few words (and only one sports coat—which I wore), I decided to keep my questions short and sweet—like a good hook.
My stock query to the myriad of fighters, referees, trainers, promoters and pundits consisted of a single sentence; “Give me your most memorable Vegas boxing moment.”
Jay Nady recalled the John Ruiz/Roy Jones Jr. fight back in 2003 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Ruiz’s trainer Norman “Stoney” Stone was MF'ing me all night long,” Nady said with a laugh. “I warned him multiple times to cool it but he wouldn’t. Finally, the little league umpire in me kicked in and I gave him the hook! I tossed him from the ring. That was a first!”
I tell you what, Nady’s a big guy—lucky for Stoney he only got the hook and wasn’t tossed by the scruff of his neck!
Richard Steele wistfully turned the clock back to 1985 and the Hearns/Hagler bout at Caesers—arguably one of the greatest battles ever. Marvelous Marvin knocked out the Hitman in Round 3 of that bloody slugfest.
For Kenny Bayless it was 2009 at the MGM Grand—Manny Pacquiao/Ricky Hatton.
“It was the first and only time that I had an adrenalin rush while working the ring,” Bayless said, honestly. This slugfest lasted two rounds before Pac Man delivered a knockout.
Vic Drakulich took me to Mandalay Bay 2011 for the Zab Judah/Amir Khan bout for their Light Welterweight, unification fight.
“In the 5th Round Khan hit Judah with a devastating body shot.” Judah went down and Vic picked up the count and counted him out. There was a lot of confusion with Judah’s corner and loyalists claiming a low-blow. Vic recalled looking up at the jumbotron and feeling vindicated when it proved the punch was clearly on the belt-line.
For Leon Spinks it was 1978 and his upset of Muhammad Ali at the Hilton, becoming the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Ernie Shavers smiled as he recalled 1979 (also at the Hilton) when he knocked out Ken Norton in the 1st Round (Ernie, by the way, looks and sounds super).
Larry Holmes didn’t hesitate and hearkened back to 1978 and Caesers Palace when he took the Heavyweight Title from Ken Norton in a 15 Round split decision.
Mike Tyson, with that smile and tattoo in tow, spoke of Razor Ruddick in 1991 at the Mirage. The “Melee at the Mirage” had Mike decking Razor—a redemption, of sorts, from the Buster Douglas dookie-fest in Japan.
Sugar Ray Leonard didn’t hesitate, he flashed back to his Tommy Hearns tussle at Caesars in 1981 “The Show Down” (that’s what they called it). Davy Pearl, from Davy’s Locker, put a stop to it in the 14th Round.
Don King ducked my question the first time around but ever the gent and fulfilling his promise to provide, King Don referenced 1980—Caesars Palace—Ali vs. Holmes. King qualified how Holmes was the most underrated Heavyweight Champion ever and that he was so very proud that he and Clifford Perlman were able to put that fight together.
Bob Arum rolled in and shared how those outdoor bouts at Caesars were the greatest thing since lox found its way to a bagel!
Julio Cesar Chavez, was keen to yap with me, but I needed a little help in the translation department—no problemo! Julio (the padre grande) mentioned his bout with Meldrick Taylor. It would be named Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year (1990) and Fight of the Decade. Who can forget that famous final round victory for Julio!
Freddie Roach, so kind and genuine, told this old dog that meeting Manny Pacuqiou in Vegas was his highlight.
Al Bernstein, the genteel non-gentile ring-announcer extraordinaire, didn’t hesitate to mention Hagler/Hearns –that would be 1985, at Caesars, and outdoors. It was the fight of the year—Al was ringside, calling the shots.
Ran into Mike Martino again (as I did so very often). Mike was deep in conversation with his UNR wunderkind Josue Gaytan (on this night Josue was receiving the Amateur Boxer of the Year award). Of course I asked the kid if he had thoughts of going pro, and of course, the ever patrono Martino looked him square and Gaytan responded, “Perhaps, after I receive my degree.”
Mario Serrano is from Stockton, Ca. He had the suit, tie and patent leather shoes. He’s 13, began boxing at 8. He’s 13-3. His hero is Salvador Sanchez—an old school idol. Go get ‘em Mario!
And then there is Miles Lane—the go-to-guy—the Marine, the man. One look in his eyes and you melt quicker than ice in a glass with the best Scotch Vegas can pour…
There is no question Nevada warrants a dedicated Boxing Hall of Fame. The list of classic bouts hosted in the Silver State is lengthy and kicking off the Hall right here in Vegas was sensible as so much of the fight game—past and present—is based right here in Sin City.
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