The Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame is set to celebrate and honor the Class of 2023 this weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - The Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame (ACBHOF) returns to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 29, 2023. The star-studded weekend will feature the induction of 24 fighters, trainers, and contributors who have had significant impacts on the boxing scene and community in Atlantic City.
The seventh annual installment of the Awards & Induction Weekend kicks off with the Opening Bell VIP Cocktail Reception from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM on September 29th at Hard Rock's DAER Club. An evening of professional boxing, presented by Hard Hitting Promotions, will close out Friday night’s festivities. The first bout on this card is scheduled for 8:00 PM at Bally’s.
The weekend continues Saturday, September 30th with the Fight Fan Experience at Hard Rock, 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and Awards & Induction Ceremony at Hard Rock’s Sound Waves Theater, 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
The weekend's festivities shift from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to the Flagship Hotel on Sunday, October 1st with the Brunch with Legends at the Blue Water Grille, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
This year’s induction class includes 24 of boxing’s finest, ranging from fighters to ringside reporters, with connections to the seaside resort town. This year's class is also significant in that it includes a new category of inductees, the Pioneers, a group of boxing people who made significant contributions to the city’s rich boxing scene in the pre-casino era.
The following individuals will be inducted into the ACBHOF this weekend:
George Foreman needs little introduction in the world of sports and grilling. The legendary two-time world champion reigned supreme as undisputed world heavyweight champion between 1973 and 1974, scoring victories over Joe Frazier, José Roman, and Ken Norton. His reign as champion was halted by sports icon Muhammad Ali in the October 30, 1974 showdown dubbed The Rumble in the Jungle. In the 1990s, Foreman held the World Boxing Association (WBA), International Boxing Federation (IBF), and World Boxing Union (WBU) world titles in the heavyweight division. The big man, whose career spanned nearly 30 years (1969-1997), fought in AC five times against notable heavyweight opponents such as Gerry Cooney, Evander Holyfield, Lou Savarese, and Shannon Briggs. Prior to his professional career, Foreman won the gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. Non-sports fans became familiar with the former world champion for his namesake, fat-reducing, and portable grill, the George Foreman Grill.
Two-time world heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs fought professionally from 1992 to 2016. A veteran of 68 professional fights, Briggs fought ten times in AC. Two of these contests in the city were for world titles. On March 28, 1998, he challenged Lennox Lewis for the World Boxing Council (WBC) world heavyweight title at the Convention Center. Briggs later unsuccessfully defended his World Boxing Organization (WBO) world heavyweight title against Sultan Ibragimov at Boardwalk Hall. Other notable opponents in Atlantic City included fellow 2023 ACBHOF inductees Darroll Wilson (1996) and George Foreman (1997). A native of Brooklyn, Briggs was inducted into the New York State and Florida Boxing Halls of Fame in 2022.
A Samoan-New Zealand former heavyweight boxer, David Tua achieved international notoriety after capturing the bronze medal at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. His December 1, 1992 debut marked the beginning of a nearly 21-year professional boxing career. Over the course of his career, Tua fought 14 of his 59 bouts in Atlantic City. On March 15, 1996, he defeated John Ruiz for the WBC International heavyweight title at Convention Hall. He went on to successfully defend this belt the following year on April 5th against Oleg Maskaev at Bally's Park Place. Other notable opponents in AC included Michael Moorer (2002) and Monte Barrett (2010).
A professional fighter from 1978 to 1993, Pinklon Thomas held the WBC world heavyweight title from 1984 to 1986. A veteran of 51 fights, he appeared on seven boxing cards in Atlantic City. Notable opponents in the city included Gerrie Coetzee (1983), Alfonso Ratliff (1983), and Evander Holyfield (1988), all of whom held world titles at some point in their careers.
Tracy Harris Patterson
The adopted son of former world heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson, Tracy Harris Patterson had a career that spanned over 15 years. A two-division world champion in the super bantamweight and super featherweight divisions, Tracy and his father became the first father and son duo to win world titles in boxing. Out of his 73 professional fights, Patterson fought in Atlantic City 14 times. Notable opponents in the city included Hector Acero Sánchez (1994) and Arturo Gatti (1997). Patterson fought his last professional fight in 2000, and retired with a record of 63 wins, eight losses, and one draw.
Doug DeWitt fought professionally from 1980 to 1992. Over the course of his long career, the Yonkers-based pugilist fought 22 times in Atlantic City. Notable fights in AC included capturing the WBO middleweight title with a victory over Robbie Sims on April 18, 1989, and a defense of this title against Matthew Hilton on January 15, 1990. DeWitt also fought his last fight in AC, a loss to James Toney at Trump Taj Mahal, on December 5, 1992.
A professional fighter in the heavyweight division between 1993 and 2006, Darroll Wilson was a respected, and at times, dangerous gatekeeper fighter for young prospects and world champion hopefuls for much of his career. A veteran of 16 professional fights in Atlantic City, notable opponents in the city included Shannon Briggs (1996) and Ray Mercer (2005). In his March 15th bout against Briggs, Wilson knocked out the rising star in the third round of the contest, handing him his first career loss. Wilson was well-liked by AC boxing fans, having fought out of Pleasantville for much of his career.
A graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School, Shamone Alvarez was one of the Atlantic City area’s most popular professional fighters during the early 2000s. A welterweight boxer, who fought professionally from 2002 to 2012, Alvarez was featured on 16 boxing shows in AC. On June 2, 2007, he won the vacant WBO – North American Boxing Organization (NABO) welterweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Jose Luis Cruz at Boardwalk Hall. Alvarez successfully defended this title in the same venue later that summer on August 31st with a victory over Germaine Sanders. He retired with a record of 21 wins and six losses. Alvarez was honored by the New Jersey Boxing of Fame last fall when the fighter joined the 2022 induction class at a ceremony in Garfield.
Jamillia Lawrence fought professionally from 1998 to 2001, compiling a record of seven wins and five losses. Three of her professional contests were on Atlantic City cards, with another fought in nearby Pleasantville. Her December 8, 2000 bout at Bally’s Park Place against Marlene Keyes was on the undercard of Leavander Johnson versus Sean Fletcher.
Arnold Robbins is an Atlantic City-based manager and trainer. Several fighters with connections to the area have worked with him over the course of his career, including the late Leavander Johnson, Shamone Alvarez, Patrick Majewski, Alfred Kinsey, and Osnel Charles. Robbins serves as a boxing coach at the Atlantic City Police Athletic League (PAL).
Matt Howard is a boxing advisor, manager, trainer, and casino executive from New Jersey. Over the years, he has trained and advised several notable fighters, including Ray Mercer, Tracy Harris Patterson, Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, Arturo Gatti, and Virgil Hill. Howard has served in a variety of roles in the casino industry for locations such as Harrah's, Tropicana, Resorts, and Foxwoods.
Joe Hand Sr.
Joe Hand Sr. is the founder and chairman of Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. Hand, a former Philadelphia Police Officer and Detective, started his long career in boxing when he became a charter shareholder of Cloverlay Corporation in 1967. This organization gained notoriety as a guiding force behind Joe Frazier's march to the world heavyweight title. His work with Cloverlay taught him valuable lessons about sports promotions and led him to establish Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. in 1971. Over the years, the company has established itself as a leader in the distribution of pay-per-view boxing, UFC, and special events on the east coast, especially in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Hand's previous honors include inductions into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (1992), Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame (2012), and Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (2013).
Longtime chairman of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission Rudy Battle started his career as a professional boxing referee in 1977. Until his retirement from refereeing in 2004, he was the "third man in the ring" for bouts involving a "who's who" list of boxing royalty. He refereed over 500 matches that included world champion fighters such as Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Riddick Bowe, Matthew Saad Muhammed, Roberto Duran, Vinnie Pazienza, Bernard Hopkins, and Bobby Czyz. A native of Philadelphia, Battle was a fixture at Atlantic City boxing cards ranging from world title fights to club shows. The biggest assignment of Battle’s career came on April 19, 1991, when he refereed the Evander Holyfield versus George Foreman world heavyweight championship fight at Convention Hall in AC.
Benjy Esteves Jr.
Benjy Esteves Jr. has served as professional boxing referee since 1992. Arguably one of the most active referees in New Jersey boxing history, Esteves "cut his teeth" in boxing officiating club shows in the Garden State. Many of his early fights were held in the casinos and convention spaces of Atlantic City. Since then, Esteves' reputation as an outstanding official has landed him refereeing jobs in mega fights such as the September 15, 2018 middleweight world title showdown between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
A native of Pennsville, New Jersey, Lee Samuels is best known for being the longtime publicist for boxing promotion, Top Rank, Inc. Apart from a short break from the company between 1993 and 1996, Samuels served as the promotion’s PR man from 1983 to 2017. Since 2017, he has worked as a coordinator with Top Rank. Besides working as a publicist, Samuels also wrote for the Pennsville Progress, Penns Grove Record, Camden Courier-Post, and Philadelphia Bulletin. Samuels was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York in 2019.
The longtime president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter from the Philadelphia area. He has written feature stories for several major media outlets, including SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin, The Ring, and The Philadelphia Daily News. Santoliquito’s 2006 ESPN.com story, “Love at First Beep,” was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Philadelphia's Buster Drayton held the IBF super welterweight title from 1986 to 1987. A veteran of 21 fights in Atlantic City, Drayton unsuccessfully challenged Julian Jackson for the WBA super welterweight title on July 30, 1988 at Harrah's Marina Hotel Casino in the city. This was Drayton's final appearance as a fighter before an AC crowd. He retired from boxing in 1995 with a record of 40 wins, 15 defeats, and one draw. Drayton died at the age of 70 on November 20, 2022.
Broomall, Pennsylvania’s Marty Feldman wore many different hats during a lifetime in boxing. A professional boxer, manager, trainer, and gym owner, Feldman is well-known for his work with fighters Frank "The Animal" Fletcher, Prince Charles Williams, and Dave Tiberi. Feldman fought professionally in the middleweight division between 1953 and 1962, compiling an impressive record of 20 wins and three losses. To kick-off his career, he won by fourteen consecutive knockouts between 1953 and 1955. Over the course of his boxing career, he fought once at Convention Hall in AC on July 1, 1961. Feldman died at the age of 83 on February 14, 2017. He is the father of boxing promoters David and Damon. Feldman was inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
Rocky Castellani lived and fought out of Northeast Pennsylvania over the course of his professional boxing career, with the exception of a stint in the Marine Corps during World War II. He was considered a top contender for the world middleweight title, fighting boxing greats such as Bobo Olson in 1954 for the world middleweight title, Sugar Ray Robinson in 1955, and Gene Fullmer in 1956. Following his long boxing career, Castellani retired with his family to Atlantic City where he trained young fighters and owned Rocky Castellani and Sons taverns in AC and Galloway Township.
A native of Philadelphia, Jerry Anzalone fought professionally under the moniker Frankie Polo from 1930 to 1934. An AC transplant, the lightweight fought 20 of his 37 recorded professional fights in AC. On July 8, 1930, Polo squared off against Philadelphia’s Eddie Roberts on the first boxing card held at AC’s Convention Hall. A veteran of 16 fights at the legendary Waltz Dream Arena in AC’s Northside, Polo retired with a record of 21 wins, 11 losses, and five draws. Following his retirement from prizefighting, Polo ran many local boxing shows for churches and charities, and trained amateur fighters at the AC, Pleasantville, and Somers Point PALs. His grandson, Guy Loggi, owns and serves as the senior instructor at International Karate Academy in Somers Point.
A promoter of several hundred boxing cards, Joe Miller was arguably one of the most important figures in AC during the pre-casino era. He purchased the Waltz Dream Arena, a 3,000-seat venue on the city’s northside, in 1925. Miller turned the former jazz club on Ohio Avenue into the most consistent and important AC boxing venue during this era. Miller offered high quality shows featuring rising prospects, club fighters, and visiting stars. Miller also welcomed African American fighters and allowed “mixed-race” matches between Black and White boxers. He sold the Waltz around 1941 and opened a newsstand and sandwich shop on the Boardwalk.
Horace M. Leeds
Horace M. Leeds was born in AC on November 1, 1865 to a notable family in the area. Known as the “Fighting Quaker” during his bare-knuckle boxing career, Leeds is credited with fighting the first boxing main event in the history of AC, a February 1887 loss to Willie Clark. He fought and trained with notable fighters of his day including Willie Clark, Al O’Brien, Billy Leedom, Professor John H. Clark, Dominick McCaffrey, and James J. Corbett. Known as a particularly aggravating fighter in the ring, Leeds had excellent footwork, speed, and defense that helped him to avoid punishment in amateur and professional contests. In 1929, Leeds, a lifelong resident of AC, died at the age of 64 and is interred at the Atlantic City Cemetery.
"KO" Becky O'Neill and Willie O'Neill
The O’Neills, “KO” Becky and Willie, are considered boxing legends in the city of Philadelphia and beyond in large part thanks to their work with WBA bantamweight world champion Jeff Chandler. The O’Neills’ connection with Chandler began in the mid-1970s when the then rising Philadelphia prospect approached his friend Willie to help guide his career. Willie, under the impression that past legal issues would hinder his ability to get a manager license from the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission, turned to his wife Becky to officially take on the role of Chandler’s manager. With Willie as his trainer and adviser, and Becky as his manager, “Joltin’” Jeff Chandler went on to capture the WBA bantamweight title in 1980 with a victory over Juan Solis in Miami. Willie passed away in 1994, with Becky dying after a long illness in 2005.
Founded in 2014, the ACBHOF is committed to preserving the rich boxing history of Atlantic City, through live historical curation, exhibits, legendary boxing stars, and personality appearances.
Visit the ACBHOF website for tickets, room accommodations, and a full schedule of this weekend’s events.
Matthew H. Ward is a historian and journalist who specializes in boxing, Jersey Shore, and Philadelphia history. He is the co-author of the Arcadia Publishing books BOXING IN ATLANTIC CITY with John DiSanto, and THE RARITAN BAYSHORE with John Allan Savolaine.
This story also appeared on Patch.