By Phil Doherty
Last week in Miami, Florida Boxing Hall of Fame President Walter “Butch” Flansburg and VP Sam Cohen cast the hands of legendary promoter Don King.
This was the second time in 3 months the duo performed the casting ceremony. They cast the hand of inductee Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. last October in Kissimmee prior to Wilfredo Jr.’s stirring WBO super bantamweight title defense.
The Florida Boxing Hall of Fame seeks to do in Florida what the International Boxing Hall of Fame does across the US and globally. The seed for today’s Florida Boxing Hall of Fame was planted in 1977 by Irv Abramson; who also played a part in establishing the Florida State Athletic Commission. However, internal conflict broke things up two short years later. Butch Flansburg was a member of that original group and displaying the type of tenacity and heart required of fighters in the ring, he kept that seed alive for 30 years.
In 2007, Flansburg joined forces with former manager, promoter, announcer and fighter Steve Canton to get things off the ground. Canton used his experience as a voting member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame to set the blueprint for the Florida model and serves as a Vice President today.
Flansburg was also looking for another colleague with extensive boxing history and business savvy. Fortunately, there was one such man who coincidentally was looking to establish this organization at the same time.
His name was Sam Cohen. They’d been friends for many years and agreed to meet and discuss the vision for the new organization. Eventually they met on the grounds of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York over a couple of beers.
You could say boxing is in Sam’s blood as his father Marty Cohen was a renowned boxing promoter, manager and the founder of the International Boxing Council. Indeed, Cohen maintains a comprehensive collection of boxing history and memorabilia reminiscent of his mentor: the late historian Hank Kaplan.
As Flansburg and Cohen talked, they immediately found common ground. Now just three years later, the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame will celebrate its third anniversary with the enshrinement of the class of 2011. The inductees will be announced at a press conference on January 15th during the grand reopening of Steve Canton’s new SJC Boxing Gym in Ft. Myers FL. Canton’s prior gym location served host to fighters from 59 different countries and produced 10 world champions.
The Florida Boxing Hall of Fame depends on the selfless, non-profit work of friends and family to survive and grow. Former referee Brian Garry regularly contributes his time and vast knowledge to the Hall. Butch’s wife, Kathy Flansburg designed the website on her own and helps to organize events such as the recent book giveaway in Tampa; home of the present –day Florida Hall of Fame.
The list of Florida inductees reads like a who’s-who of the sport in general with such names as: Muhammad Ali, Angelo Dundee, Don King, Willy Pep, Willie Pastrano, Chris Dundee, Florentino Fernandez, Pinklon Thomas, Marty Cohen, Phil Alessi, Ferdie Pacheco , Hank Kaplan …and the list goes on.
Additionally, special awards recognize recipients for honorable service to the sport of boxing in Florida. Past winners of this award include Ramiro Ortiz, Pete Fernandez and Steve Yerrid. These recipients will one day receive formal induction into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame.
The men and women of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame make it their goal to provide us a living link to the grand tradition of this glorious sport.
As Don King says:”Only in America.”