Jeff Jowett reporting: Ring 10 of the Veteran Boxing Foundation presented their 3rd annual awards luncheon and fund raiser on the afternoon of Sept. 8. The affair was held at the well-appointed Marina del Rey, on the water in the Throgs Neck neighborhood of The Bronx. President Matt Farrago did a first-rate job putting everything together. Matt shared the mike with the multi-talented Harold Lederman, who showed yet another side of his capabilities by doing a bang-up job as Master of Ceremonies. Topping the bill of ring luminaries was a reunion of old lightweight championship foes Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini (29-5, 23) and Livingstone Bramble (40-26-3, 25).
Arriving early, the affable and gregarious Lederman was followed into the parking lot by a police car! No, not an escort…or an arrest. Recognizing the well-known HBO scorer, the officer just wanted to talk boxing! Initially, the affair looked like it would be a bomb. But that was deceptive. On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, guests had the option of the Bayside walk or relaxing around the spacious facility. By the time the food came out, the tables were full. The comfortable banquet room held some 200. The accommodations were good and the food was tops. Just don’t count on a cup of coffee! Someone would appear with a pot sporadically, but like the old Peter, Paul & Mary song, “They’re like the stars on a summer’s morning; first they’ll appear and then they’re gone.” For a caffeine addict, first things first.
The afternoon was pleasant, the presentations often humorous, at times moving, and always entertaining. Lacking a ringside bell, Sgt-at-Arms Tyrone “The Harlem Butcher” Jackson tapped out the ceremonial final ten for Emile Griffith and others on the microphone. Mike Bernard admitted to not being as handsome as Iran Barkley. Former middleweight Farrago (25-2-1, 11) introducing prolific author Ron Ross with a list of his boxing titles, quipped, “…and more to my level, The Tomato Can.”
The dais was star-studded, with old rivals Mancini (now a wine merchant; autographed bottles of “Southpaw” were on sale) and Bramble featured. A scary guy when in his boxing persona, Bramble is outgoing and loquacious when outside the ring. “I should have quit after that fight,” he remembered of his epic title-winning victory, “Because I knew I would never match that performance again.” Citing Ring 10’s ongoing program of outreach to destitute and hard-luck former boxers, Mancini observed, “Nobody else looks out for us. We gotta take care of each other. ”Indeed, Ray and Livingstone weren’t the only old rivals on the dais, but Farrago summed up, “When we were fighting, we hated…I mean hated…each other. But once it’s over, we’re all friends.”
The Arthur Mercante Award went to ex-boxer and referee Wayne Kelly…sadly, posthumously. His son and daughter were there to receive. Another referee was honored with the Jose Torres Renaissance Man Award, Tony Perez. He observed that his worst moment as a referee was in the Roy Jones-Montell Griffith fight. “To disqualify a champion? I had to. There was nothing else I could do.” The Steve Acunto Lifetime Dedication Award went to Star Boxing promoter Joe DeGuardia. After fantasizing some of the matches he could have made among the stars on the stage, he went on to credit the strength to fight back that he gained as an amateur boxer with the resolve needed to survive a devastating a head-on car crash on Long Island. “Boxing saved my life.”
The Bert Sugar Award was presented to the host, Harold Lederman. After thanking Iran Barkley for describing him as “The nicest white dude I ever met”, Harold took no credit for himself while praising just about everybody else in the building including wife Eileen and HBO comrade Steve Weisfeld, and choked up while introducing one-bout pro Dewey Bozella, who had served a long prison sentence before being exonerated.
Other former rivals present on the dais were “Moochie” Starling (45-6-1, 27), who Harold introduced as the second greatest fighter to come out of Connecticut, and Mark Breland (35-3-1, 25). Starling took Breland’s welter title in a huge upset, then in a rematch got no more than a draw in one of the worst decisions in boxing history. Lederman quipped that when he was a youngster in the notoriously tough Bed-Sty section of Brooklyn, someone gave Mark a replica of the Statue of Liberty, “…and the statue had both hands up.” Also honored on the dais were Iran Barkley, described by Harold as “The nicest Black guy I ever met”, and seldom-seen Larry Barnes, victim of one of the worst decisions in boxing history to Saoul Mamby. “If it wasn’t for boxing, I’d be dead or incarcerated,” Larry opined. Why do these guys think that? Must be the music.
Honored posthumously were the Belloise brothers, Steve, Mike and Sal, along with ‘30s middleweight Harry Balsamo. Members of their families were there to receive the awards. Other luminaries present were John Duddy, Aaron Davis, Peter Quillan, Ron Katz, Joe Santarpia, Henry Hascup, Barbara Perez, Sean Sullivan, Eddie Post, One Half of The Murphy Boys, and former boxers Dennis Milton (who got one the worst decisions in boxing history over Michael Olajide) and Pat Prisco. Danny Aiello put in a cameo appearance. Conspicuous absences were Randy “Too Sweet” Gordon and Julie Elizabeth Lederman, who opted for a Jets game. Shame! This was better than any darned football! Look forward to next year. This is a nice affair.