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West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2023 (Series 3 of 4)

The prestigious West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame is proud to announce their Class of 2023 to be feted at The Banquet of Champions— dedicated to upholding the integrity, accuracy, and memory of great boxers. Set for March 12, 2023 at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California, Rick Farris has arranged a boxing gala for the ages.

Jun Aquino, painter of champions, will once again share his ‘Art of Boxing’ honoring the greatest boxers and personalities in boxing. Mr. Aquino has been kind enough to give us a peek into his masterpieces.

In this third of four installments, the WCBHOF introduces the next set of its 2023 inductees.

Walker Smith, Jr., more popularly known as Sugar Ray Robinson, is regarded as the greatest boxer, pound-for-pound. He is the epitome of the classic boxer-puncher, equally adept at offense and defense, reminiscent of a matador. He set the gold standard for pugilists and redefined the sporting meaning of GOAT– greatest of all-time.

His unblemished amateur record, listed as 85–0 with 69 knockouts (40 in the first round) was a prelude to his legendary career. In the unpaid ranks, he bagged the Golden Gloves titles in the featherweight (1939) and lightweight (1940).

Robinson was born on May 3, 1921 in Ailey, Georgia, grew up in Detroit (Michigan) and later Harlem (New York). He turned professional in 1940 at the age of 19, and by 1951 had a record of 128-1–2 (84 knockouts). He fought from 1940 to 1965 in the lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, and light-heavyweight ranks and went on a 91-fight win streak starting 1943 to 1951, the third-longest in boxing history. He wore the world welterweight cown from 1946 to 1951, and won the world middleweight title later that year.

In 1952, he retired but the call of the ring was irresistible, and he made a comeback 2 ½ years later. He regained the middleweight title in 1955.

He is the first boxer to win a divisional world championship five times capped by his victory over Carmen Basilio in 1958 to regain the middleweight title.

In 1942, he was named ‘Fighter of the Year’ and again in 1951, ninety fights later.

He oozed class in and out of the ring, dapper suits matched his slick hairstyle and swagger. His gregarious if not flamboyant personality attracted hangers-on reminiscent of today’s modern day sports entourage.

The late boxing historian Bert Sugar called Robinson as the Greatest Fighter of All-time.

In 2002, Robinson was #1 on Nat Fleishcher’s “The Ring List of 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 years”.

In retirement, he dabbled in dancing and acting, continued to train for health reasons, and did not forget to share his fistic wisdom to the next generation of fighters who trained at the Main Street Gym in Los Angeles, like Gene LeBell, Alexis Arguello and bantamweight Rick Farris who founded the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame with Dan Hanley. still ranks Robinson as the greatest boxer of all-time, pound-for-pound; International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) concurred in their 2006 and 2019 rankings.

Robinson was the role model for former world bantamweight and featherweight champion Luisito “Earthquake” Espinosa according to his late manager Hermie Rivera.

‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali once told an international cadre of reporters, including my late father Hermie Rivera, at the Araneta Coliseum press room leading up to the ‘Thrilla in Manila’,”The best boxer of all-time is Sugar Ray Robinson– make that the Greatest of All-time!.”

In 201 fights, his record remains at 174 wins (109 KO’s), 19 losses (most of which were way past his prime), 6 draws, and 2 no-contests.

He died on April 12, 1989 in Los Angeles, California at age 67.

Ken Buchanan was one of the top boxers to hail from Scotland. Born in Edinburgh on June 28, 1945, he started boxing at eight years old, convincing his father to sign him up for a local amateur boxing club.

He nurtured a sterling amateur career, fighting for his country in the European championships in Moscow in 1963 then Berlin in 1965. He won the British Amateur Boxing Association featherweight title in 1965.

On September 20, 1965, he began boxing professionally, mainly in Scotland. After an arduous climb in the ranks, Buchanan got his first shot at the title , went to Puerto Rico, and upset defending world lightweight champion Ismael Laguna in San Juan via 15-round unanimous decision on September 26, 1970. On February 12, 1971, in Los Angeles, he defended the WBA belt, defeating Ruben Navarro and likewise acquiring the vacant WBC crown in the process.

In 1970, the Boxing Writers Association of America recognized Buchanan with the Edward J. Neil Trophy for being Fighter of the Year.

A brawl with a rugged Roberto Duran on June 26, 1972 left a bad taste for Buchanan and the crowd at the Madison Square Garden. As The Boxing Register put it, “Duran attacked Buchanan from every angle, even using his head as a weapon. Though Buchanan fought well, Duran had the edge as the fight wore on. Duran received a warning for hitting below the belt in the 13th-round, and the fight ended with a blow (perhaps from Duran’s knee) to Buchanan’s groin that floored the champion. He could not continue because the punch was ruled legal, and Buchanan lost the WBA title.”

After experiencing financial difficulty that led him to fight unsanctioned bouts, he officially retired from boxing after losing to Georne Feeney on January 23, 1982.

He has written two autobiographies, High Life and Hard Times and The Tartan Legend.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Syracuse, New York in the year 2000 for accomplishments in the squared circle with a record of 61 wins (27 KO’s) and 8 losses.

Eliza Jane Olson is an accomplished fighter in her own right. Her legendary grandfather and former middleweight champion Carl “Bobo'' Olson— who once defeated the great WCBHOF enshrinee Sugar Ray Robinson— would be so proud of her accomplishments as she gets inducted into the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame on March 12, 2023 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

She won her debut against Debbie Foster at the Feather Falls Casino in Oroville, California on March 3, 2002.

On September 16, 2005, Olson captured the female WBC-World Boxing Council Lightweight and IBA-International Boxing Association World Lightweight championships against a game and then undefeated Jessica Rakoczy at the Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, California.

Jack Reiss is considered one of the best referees in the fight business today.

He is a retired Los Angeles City Fire Captain with an affinity for the squared circle.

He has been a fixture in many boxing fights, more recently the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder classic back in 2018. His arbitration and refereeing skills in the ring easily translate into the mixed martial arts world’s octagon.

More recently, he has acquired his real estate license offering a range of properties in Gold Coast, California. His catchphrase in his newfound venture is 'Have a pro in your corner.'

West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame founder Rick Farris says it like this: “Sometimes, watching a real pro referee move in the ring is more exciting than the fight. It’s all about timing, and sometimes a referee has to change his moves while holding on to true control of the match. I study what everybody does in the ring, and it is all about control, physical and mental. Nobody controls Jack Reiss…his energy controls the ring.”

Mike Serrano heads the company that makes the famed Cleto Reyes boxing gloves, favored by punchers like Manny Pacquiao.

Said Rick Farris: “So we have this idea… The images of our 16 West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame inductees will be painted on Cleto Reyes Boxing gloves by artist Jun Aquino. In addition, to the gloves, our enshrinees get Mr. Aquino’s framed work art on canvas. Jun Aquino’s "Art of Boxing" is the best. Also, a Native American art will be gifted by one of our directors Echo Lynn.”

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Emmanuel Rivera, RRT.

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