On a day when the boxing world turned its focus to the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony, remembering The Greatest was part of the celebration.
Following the national anthem at Sunday’s ceremony, an honorary 10-count was given in honour of the late Muhammad Ali and fellow class of 1990 inductee Bob Foster, who died last November.
“It’s been a very difficult period for me. My dear friend Muhammad Ali passed away,” said Jerry Izenberg, a longtime sports columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger and member of the class of 2016. “He was perhaps one of the greatest, if not the greatest, humanitarians I’ve ever known. I will never forget this moment. I will never forget this day.
“I don’t know that writers belong in the Hall of Fame, but I’m honoured. To be here is a gift for me. It’s a marvelous gift.”
Hector Camacho, who overcame the mean streets of Spanish Harlem to become a three-division champion, was among the group enshrined Sunday in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Camacho, who was shot and killed just over three years ago at age 50 in his native Puerto Rico, headed a class that also included two-division champions Lupe Pintor of Mexico and Hilario Zapata of Panama.
Camacho’s son, Hector Camacho Jr., and mother, Maria Matias, accepted the honor.
“What time is it?!” Camacho Jr. asked the crowd, which roared back “Macho time!”
“On my father’s behalf, what I got to witness firsthand was, he poured his heart, blood, everything he had into the sport,” Camacho Jr. said. “A little crazy, you’ve got to admit, but he was a wonderful person and a big-hearted father.”
Inducted in the non-participant and observer categories were: Harold Lederman, a judge for over 30 years; Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission for 14 years; and Col. Bob Sheridan, an international television broadcaster since 1973.
Inductees were selected in December by the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international boxing historians.
His lightning-quick hand speed, devastating combinations, and the accuracy of his punches defined Camacho inside the ropes — he won his first 38 pro fights before losing a split decision to Greg Haugen in 1991 — as did his flamboyant style.
Few boxers grabbed more attention in the 1980s and 1990s. Camacho retired in 2010 with a record of 79-6-3, with 38 knockouts.
Camacho, who fought drug and alcohol problems for years, was shot in the left side of the face in November 2012 as he sat in a Ford Mustang with a friend outside a bar in his hometown.
He died four days later after being taken off life support and is buried at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.
Pintor, the former WBC bantamweight champion from Mexico, compiled a career record of 56-14-2 with 42 knockouts.
He was joined on stage by his son, Lupe Pintor Jr., who translated his speech.
“I’m really honored to represent my country, to be here today with you and to be a part of this Hall of Fame,” Pintor said.
Zapata, the former WBC and WBA flyweight champion from Panama, was born in 1958 in Panama City and began boxing as an amateur in 1974 before making his professional debut in 1977.
At 5-foot-7 unusually tall for a 108-pound boxer, the southpaw retired with a pro record of 43-10-1, with 15 knockouts.
“Thank you to the Hall of Fame because God put my name in their minds to have me inducted here today on this special day,” Zapata said through a translator. “Personally, I would like to say, I didn’t fight very much here in the United States, but for those of you who followed my career, thank you, and to everyone in Panama as well.”