Class of 2012
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With apologies to the late Godfather of Soul James Brown, Jimmy Burchfield has become regarded as the “Hardest Working Promoter” in the boxing business. Burchfield has promoted shows throughout New England. He was the first promoter to bring a boxing card to the new Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
Burchfield has promoted numerous shows at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut. Burchfield had a very successful promotional relationship with former world champion Vinny Pazienza, a 2011 CBHOF inductee. Showing his eye for talent, Burchfield was the first promoter to sign Chad Dawson of New Haven to a deal.
Dawson would go on to become the world light heavyweight champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Burchfield is the operator of the very successful Classic Entertainment & Sports, which has promoted boxing cards all over the country. Burchfield currently has 35 boxers in his stable. The Providence native was the recipient of the CBHOF Contribution to Boxing award in 2008.
Defying the odds has been a trademark in the career of George Cruz. On Aug. 22, 1987, Cruz was in the corner as the trainer for Marlon Starling in World Boxing Association welterweight title fight against Mark Breland.
Undefeated and touted by many as the next Sugar Ray Robinson, Breland was a 10-1 favorite that day. But Cruz and Starling devised a plan where Starling, instead of fighting in usual defensive manner, would wade through Breland’s jab in an effort to wear the New Yorker down. Starling endured some punishment, but in Round 11, he mounted an assault that forced referee Tony Perez to stop the bout. Starling had pulled the upset, and Cruz was in his corner. It was the crowning achievement in Cruz’s career.
Now living in East Granby, Cruz has been a fixture on the Connecticut Boxing scene for nearly 40 years. He has managed and trained several top pros and amateurs while working as the boxing director at the San Juan Center in Hartford. Cruz overcame heart problems that left him incapacitated for several months in 2005, but at age 68, he remains active. In September, he was the matchmaker for the first amateur card in Enfield in nearly 70 years.
Roach is yet another to have a connection to Marlon Starling, part of the first CBHOF induction class in 2005. Roach was an assistant under the late Eddie Futch, who was training Starling. When Futch and Starling abruptly parted ways, Roach took over the training of Starling. Roach, 52, and Starling had known one another since they were in the amateur ranks. Roach was in the corner when Starling made a successful world title defense against Yung-Kil Chung in September of 1989 in Hartford. Roach has been named Trainer of the Year five times by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
The last award came in 2010. Roach, a native of Dedham, Mass., is the trainer for eight-time world champion Manny Pacquiao, considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world today. Roach has worked with fighters ranging from Oscar De La Hoya to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. In all, Roach has worked with 27 world champions. A decorated New England amateur, Roach compiled a record of 40-13 as a pro. He continues to be active despite having Parkinson’s disease.
“DANGEROUS” DANA ROSENBLATT
“Dangerous” Dana Rosenblatt may not have had all of his professional fights in Connecticut, but it sure seemed that way. Rosenblatt fought 12 times in Connecticut, winning all 12. The first title the Malden, Mass., native ever claimed was the USA New England middleweight crown in a 1993 bout at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard.
Rosenblatt knocked out Sean Fitzgerald in the first round. One of the few prominent Jewish fighters during the 1990s, Rosenblatt would go on to bigger and better things. He would win the World Boxing Union middleweight championship in 1996, knocking out former U.S. Olympian Howard Davis Jr. in the second round. Rosenblatt was knocked out by his archrival Vinny Pazienza in a 1996 WBU super middleweight title bout. But Rosenblatt avenged the lone pro defeat of his career when he won a split decision over Pazienza to capture the International Boxing Organization super middleweight crown. Rosenblatt, 40, finished his career with a sparkling 37-1-2 record with 23 knockouts. He was just 30 when he retired in 2002. Rosenblatt now works as a consultant in the real estate business.
After a sterling amateur career, “Tremendous” Travis Simms turned pro at the relatively late age of 26. The Norwalk native quickly made up for lost time. He won his first 25 pro fights, capturing a world super middleweight title in 2003.
Simms was stripped of his World Boxing Association title, but was reinstated as champion in 2006. In January of 2007, Simms made a successful title defense against Jose Antonio Rivera. Simms, 41, made a title defense in Bridgeport in July of 2007. Simms continues to reside in Norwalk, where the street he grew up on is now named “Travis Simms Way.”
He was just 20 when he moved to Hartford in 1929, but even at that young an age, it didn’t take long for Lou Viscusi to get a handle on the local boxing scene. Viscusi quickly hooked up with a pretty good looking prospect named Willie Pep. Viscusi became Pep’s manager, and they went on to make history. Pep went on to become perhaps the greatest world featherweight champion in boxing history.
Though he became known for working with Pep, Viscusi managed two other world champions. One was light heavyweight champion Bob Foster. Viscusi also managed lightweight champion Joe Brown as well as heavyweight contender Cleveland Williams. Equally skilled as a promoter, Viscusi was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Famed in 2004, and the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007. Viscusi died in 1997.
Foxwoods Resort Casino helped keep boxing alive when it first opened in 1992, and Peter Timothy was a big reason why.
Timothy was the commissioner of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal National from 1995 to 2009. The late John Burns who was a founder and inductee of the CBHOF mentored him.
During his tenure at Foxwoods, Timothy regulated hundreds of fights and more than 90 title bouts. Two of the biggest fights at Foxwoods during his tenure was John Ruiz vs. Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight title and James Toney vs. Vasily Jurov for the cruiserweight championship.
Other big names who ventured into Connecticut to fight at Foxwoods while Timothy was commissioner include Roy Jones Jr., Diego Corrales, Shane Mosley, Acelino Freitas, Dana Rosenblatt, Peter Manfredo and Lawrence Clay-Bey.