Tuesday, June 28, 2011

California Boxing Hall of Fame 2011

Rocky Burke, Mando Muniz, Louie Burke and Randy De La O
Rocky Burke, Mando Muniz, Louie Burke and Randy De La O

By Randy De La O

The California Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Banquet  took place this past Saturday at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio city and it was one of the best banquets in recent memory, at least it was for my wife Jeri and I. This year it was much more personal. Our cousin Louie Burke from Las Cruces, New Mexico was being inducted and the Burke clan was in town to support and celebrate with their fighter. Louie's brother former undefeated boxer and currently a top referee from New Mexico, Rocky Burke and his girlfriend Angela, Sister Shelly Burke, along with Louie's two children, daughter Samantha and son Vincente, and Louie's always elegant mother, Elba Burke, occupied the Louie Burke table.

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The Burke Family with Mando Muniz

Over at at our table, along with my wife and I, were our children, daughter Meranda, our son Andrew and his girlfriend Laurene Alvarado, our daughter Savannah and her boyfriend Josh Guerrero, my brother Dennis De La O and his wife Teri and daughter Samantha. All of us were there to cheer on Louie. Also sitting withe Burkes were boxing artist Roger and Maria Esty, Ed Hernandez Sr and his sons Ed Jr. and Patrick. Before the ceremonies began Roger Esty presented Louie Burke with a portrait. The portrait was completely unexpected and the entire Burke family was overwhelmed by Roger's generosity. All of us were.

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The De La O Family

The other Honorees include; Gene Fullmer, Dwight Hawkins (one of the greatest fighter to never win a title), John Liechty, Ray "Windmill" White, Tony Tubbs, Zack Padilla, Lance Pugmire, John Montes Jr, Herman "Kid" Montes, Ramon Tiscareno, Guillermo "Willie" Silva, Steve Brenner, John Montes Sr, Loreto Garza, Ray Lovato, Wes Wambold, Richard Savala, Rich Marotta. The posthumous inductees were; Willie Pep, Bob Fitzimmons, Robert "Bob" Voigt, Fritzie Zivic, Noe Cruz, Javier "Baby Face" Gutierrez, Jim Moriarty and Bert Colima.

In the case of Fritzie Zivic, his posthumous induction was made very personal to me. I was asked to receive his induction award. I was more than happy to do it, despite being nervous as hell. Turns out Fritzie Zivic and I share the same birth date: May 8th. Zivic was born May 8, 1913 and I was born May 8, 1954.

There were a lot of heartfelt speeches Saturday nigh but especially moving was the tribute to the late Javier "Baby Face" Gutierrez by his daughter Blanca Gutierrez. It was hard not to be moved by her tribute.

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Remy Damlien, Rick Farris, Andrew De La O and Roger Esty

Others in attendance were my pals Frank Baltazar Sr and Rick Farris, Frankie Baltazar Jr, Rodolfo "El Gato" Gonzalez,  Danny "Little Red" Lopez, Bobby Chacon, Carlos Palomino, Mando Muniz, Cali Martinez, Gwen Adair  and just far too many to mention here.

Frank Baltazar Sr and Frank Aragon
Frank Baltazar Sr and Frank Aragon

Still, with all that was going on Saturday, for our family, it was all about Louie Burke. Maybe it was because we had so much of our family there but the event seemed somewhat surreal to us, almost magical.

California Hall of Famers: Rodolfo "El Gato" Gonzalez and Louie Burke
Rodolfo "El Gato" Gonzalez and Louie Burke

Kudos to Don Fraser and the California Boxing Hall of Fame selection committee for reaching out beyond the California borders and recognizing the best the sport of boxing has to offer. Thanks to Frank Baltazar Sr for his nomination of Louie Burke and to Rick Farris and the California Boxing Hall of Fame for entrusting me with Fritzie Zivic's induction, and last but not certainly not least, congratulations to the California Boxing Hall of Fame Class of 2011 Inductees. You earned it.

The Burke table: Maria and Roger Esty, Ed Hernandez, Vincente Burke (Louie's son), Elba Burke and Shelly Burkea
The Burke table: Maria and Roger Esty, Ed Hernandez Sr, Vincente Burke, Elba Burke and Shelly Burke
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Laurene Alvarado (Andrew's girlfriend), Meranda, Andrew and Savannah De La O

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