Hastings honours boxing greats
Three hundred fight enthusiasts from all over Britain, including several legendary ex-boxers, will converge at the Azur on St Leonards sea-front this Sunday afternoon. There’s no live boxing to view. But a number of former champions and representatives of the good and the great in UK boxing history will be attending for induction into the British Ex Boxers Hall of Fame.
The idea for the event is lifted from an American version, the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which has a permanent location in Canastota, New York. But that has a natural American bias in its selection of inductees, besides being anchored over 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic. Dave Harris, once himself a lightweight boxer, then a promoter, who chairs the Hastings Ex Boxers Association, was determined to establish a British version to honour the historical careers of home-grown boxers, both alive and dead. Last year the inaugural meeting attracted 150 invitees to the awards dinner. This year the number has doubled to 300, paying £30 each to attend. The takings will cover costs, including travel and hotel expenses for inductees and their families, rather than generating a profit. Entertainment will include a Welsh choir, a Scottish piper, and three-course lunch. Tickets were sold out seven months ago, Dave says, and could have been multiplied far beyond. With at least 250 arriving from out of town and most staying one or more nights here, it’s a significant boost to the local economy.
There are separate awards in many different categories: pro and amateur fighters, pro and amateur trainers, former managers and promoters, “pioneers” of the sport etc. Dave was determined that nomination should be by popular accolade rather than by a pre-appointed committee as with the American version. The 27 Ex Boxers Associations (EBAs) around the country each put in a nomination for each category, and the inductees are those with the most – a true judgment of their peers.
Last year’s award-winners included John Conteh, Alan Minter and Dennis Andries as former pros; posthumously, Randolph Turpin and Terry Spinks; and Barry Hearn as promoter. This year’s nominees include Dick McTaggart, Ken Buchanan, Ricky Hatton and John H Stracey, all of whom are expected to attend this weekend. A posthumous award honouring Howard Winstone will be accepted by his widow and son. “It will be a Who’s Who of the British boxing world”, Dave says.
The organisation of the Hall of Fame, on top of all the other charitable work which the Hastings EBA does, is clearly a labour of love for Dave. He is planning an even bigger and glitzier award ceremony for next year, then he hopes that another EBA will take it on from 2018, so that it is shared around the country. We should appreciate it here while we can.