Every now and again, especially after I've watched two guys whale away at each other, and I ponder the loss of brain cells and potential long-term damage, I need to be reminded about the best elements of boxing. I got some of that on Sunday afternoon, at the annual Ring 8 holiday gala, which unfolded at Russo's on the Bay in Howard Beach, Queens.
Ring 8 is an organization which honors boxing old-timers, focusing on guys who did their thing decades ago, of whom time may have passed by, but still deserve to be remembered and lauded. Ring 8 also exists to give some of these guys a financial hand-up when needed. And as I was reminded Sunday, the organization does a swell job at getting the word out that boxing can be an absolute lifeline to a directionless kid whose career and life options are likely limited to jail or death. Kids who have an iffy home life are often seduced by the street, embraced by other dead enders who haven't been properly nourished by solid role models, and indulge in antisocial and/or illegal acts.
Roy Jones, who fought on Dec. 10, winning a UD10 over Max Alexander. He will turn 43 in January, and lost three straight before beating journeyman Alexander. But he reminded the attendees that he loves the sport, and will do it as long as possible, because he isn't "afraid to get knocked down.
"Boxing taught me more about life than anything," said the future Hall of Famer. "Every little kid needs to know about boxing, especially little boys." He was given the Fighter of the Decade Award. Wiseguys cracked that no one is sure what decade that is.
Trainer-manager-TV analyst Manny Steward gave Ring 8 a shoutout, calling it "maybe the best organization in boxing" as he received his Trainer of the Decade award.
Teddy Atlas, present to give Marcus Browne the Amateur Boxer of the Year award, told the crowd how important it is for aimless kids to receive direction and boosts in self esteem that boxing can give. "It's an opportunity to not just win the Golden Gloves but to become better people," he said. Brown, a 20 year-old light heavy from Staten Island, won at the Olympic Trials and can secure a berth at the 2012 Games if he enjoys success at the US Nationals in March.
John Ruiz, who just wrote a book for kids ("Hook and Jab"), and opened a gym in Massachusetts, looked fit and trim. But the ex heavyweight champ, who was honored as the First Hispanic Heavyweight Champion, told me that he is done. He turns 40 on January 4.
Attorney Keith Sullivan won Member of the Year, and received a loving testimonial from pal Jack Hirsch, the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Hirsch said Sullivan, who does a huge amount of pro bono work, is almost single-handedly helping the reputation of lawyers in the region. Sullivan helps Ring 8, and the Atlas Foundation, and doesn't get a dime for his expertise. He told me he is happy that Ring 8 membership has seen a huge spike in recent years and that the organization is thriving.
David Diamante acted as emcee, and was congratulated by partygoers when it was announced that he beat out hundreds of contenders to win the spot as voice of the Nets, who will play in the still-being-built Barclays Center. Diamante, who emcees Lou DiBella's shows, owns a cigar lounge in Fort Greene, so his vibe will be a good fit for the team. "It's a blessing," he told me. "I was the last man standing."
Also present at the bash: NYSAC commission chair Melvina Lathan, Tommy Gallagher, his guy Gabriel Bracero, another kid saved by boxing, promoter Rich Komissar, Ring 8 president Bob Duffy, Tomasz Adamek, Delvin Rodriguez, Vinny Maddalone, and Vito Antuofermo.