"Tyson was smoking grown men and Al put a stop to it," former WBC Light Heavyweight champion Montell Griffin says. "Just for a minute."
“He was real wild the first two rounds and he was throwing a lot of punches,” Al had told the Chicago Tribune. “In the third round, I noticed he wasn`t coming out so fast and staying away more. I got a left hook in and that started it.” Down went Tyson and, shortly afterwards, the referee stopped it.
Now 61, Chicago’s Al “Chico” Evans, whose rugged, gnarled face betrays his wars inside the boxing ring seemed genuinely pleased that I recognized him.
"Keep takin' them pictures," he said, fist-tapping me with his giant-sized mitts.
Evans was one of some 400 guests at Second Annual Banquet and Induction Ceremony of the Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame.
The roar of the crowd long gone for many, the atmosphere was akin to a large reunion as boxers, trainers, their families and fans alike mingled at spacious Abbington Banquets facility. With a sport that has become increasingly marginalized, the fighters and their families, like Evans, were grateful for the recognition.
The inductees (some who were awarded posthumously) were:
- Muhammad Ali — the former Olympic Gold Medalist and three-time World Heavyweight champion and acclaimed civil rights activist was honored by his daughter, Khaliah Ali, receiving his award on his behalf.
- Jesus Gabriel Sandoval Chavez — Nicknamed “El Matador” in honor of former trainer, Tommy O’Shea’s gym, the Northwest Settlement Matadors in Chicago, the former WBC Super Featherweight and IBF World Lightweight champion, Chavez (44 wins, 8 losses and 30 KOs) was accompanied to the ceremony with his brother, Jaime Sandoval.
- Johnny Coulon — A legendary boxer and trainer with a formal record of 50-6-4 and a claim of over 300 professional bouts, he founded Colon’s Gymnasium in 1923, which hosted luminaries such as Jack Dempsey, Sugar Ray Robinson, Eddie Perkins, Ernest Hemmingway and artist Leroy Niemann. His sold his gym to fellow inductee, Clarence Griffin, who would rename it “Windy City Boxing Gym.”
- Sean Curtin — A former boxer who refereed and served as Director of CYO Boxing, he served as Boxing Commissioner in Illinois for five years and co-authored ‘Chicago Amateur Boxing’ and ‘Chicago Boxing.’
- Rocky DiFazio — A rugged middleweight boxer with a record of 19-2-2 (12 KO’s), he entertained tonight's crowd with his sense of humor.
- Mike Glienna — A boxer briefly, he judged more than 550 boxing matches worldwide.
- Andrew Golota — A Bronze Medalist for Poland at the 1988 Olympics, he fought multiple times for world heavyweight titles in amassing a 49-9-1 (33 KOs) record.
- Clarence Griffin — His son, former WBC Light Heavyweight champion Montell Griffin (who was accompanied onstage by a train of supporters, received the award on his father’s behalf and gave an emotional speech. The late Mr. Griffin was a trainer who founded the famous Windy City Boxing Gym, training Muhammad Ali when he was in town.
- Johnny Heard — A top-rated fearless contender who fought hard and often over 64 pro fights.
- Fred Houpe — A talented fighter who was the victim of some bad decisions, he amassed an official record of 14-6 (12 KOs), beating former World Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks at the end of his career.
- James Kaulentis — A commodities trader, he promoted and helped boxers like James “Quick” Tillis, Johnny Lira, and Johnny Bray.
- Primo La Cassa — Winner of multiple CYO Championships, he had a pro record of 17-5-2 as a pro.
- Jeff Lanas — A talented middleweight contender with a 17-4 pro record.
- Tony LaRosa — a rugged contender with 55 pro fights against killers in the cruiserweight and heavyweight division.
- Vince Letizia — A hard-punching boxer with 14 KOs in 17 pro fights, defeating former IBF World Lightweight Champion Harry Arroyo.
- The Fighting O’Shea Brothers — Brian, Mike Rory and Tom O’Shea were top flight amateur and pro fighters and trainers. Family members flocked onstage to honor their memories.
- Alonzo Ratliff — Winner of the WBC World Cruiserweight title, he faced rugged competition, including a young Mike Tyson in 1986. "God is good," he said as he spoke graciously about his Maker's role in helping him have a successful boxing career.
- Genaro Rodriguez — a boxing referee with nearly 600 boxing matches under his belt, including international and world championship bouts.
- Barney Ross — Boxing’s first three division champion, this all-time great was never stopped as a professional fighter.
- Henry Sims — A highly talented fringe cruiserweight who never got a shot at a title.
- Jim Strickland — A pharmacist and an acclaimed cutman and trainer who trained world champions David Diaz (who accompanied him onstage and spoke at some length), Lee Roy Murphy and William Guthrie.
- James “Quick” Tiflis — The first pro boxer to go the distance with Mike Tyson, he retired with a record of 42-22-1.
Additionally, several inductees who were unable to make it to last year’s event were honored tonight, including the hard-hitting former middleweight contender, John Collins.
The Illinois Boxing Hall of Fame, which is two years old, was established by the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame, which has been in existence some 13 years. The founders -- Pete Hoffman, Mike McNamara and Fred Richmond were shocked that given its rich boxing history, Illinois did not have a hall of fame organization, so they moved quickly to fill the void. Clearly tonight, their efforts to celebrate this boxing community were not wasted.