The following article was originally published on July 7th, 2010. It is being republished today because the Hall of Fame will honor its first class of inductees with a banquet and presentation this week, on Tuesday October 12th. PLEASE NOTE that the banquet location has changed since July; it will instead be held at Jax Cafe on University Avenue in North East Minneapolis. All tickets were quickly sold for the smaller venue at Mancini’s in Saint Paul, and following the change of venue to the larger hall at Jax, all the additional tickets also sold out quickly.
Over many years there have been several attempts to create a Minnesota boxing hall of fame with varying levels of seriousness and commitment. Until now, however, there has never been a legitimate “official” Hall of Fame that boxing fans could take seriously. That began to change in 2009, when boxing historian Jake Wegner recruited partners and started a tax exempt organization whose purpose would be to create and operate a Hall of Fame.
Wegner wanted this Hall to be the genuine article; not a private club or a for-profit enterprise, and not a privately owned entity which would serve any promoter’s interests. It would be a serious, independent institution that Minnesota boxing fans could call their own. Never before had the concept been pursued with such ambition. “We saw that other states had their own boxing hall of fames, and many of their presidents could not believe that we in Minnesota did not have one,” says Wegner, the visionary and now the organization’s president. “[Now] when a boxer in Minnesota hangs up his gloves, he will want his name called one day in the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame, right up there next to all of the other past greats.” A permanent display is planned, but its actual location is uncertain: initially Roy Wilkins Auditorium was interested, but they couldn’t guarantee the safety or security of the display. Other venues currently under consideration include the Warner Coliseum at the state fairgrounds and Uppercut Gym’s spacious facility in northeast Minneapolis, among others.
The organization that now exists is recognized as an official Hall of Fame by the Minnesota Boxing Commission and is benefitting from the advice and support of other state boxing Halls of Fame, including those of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Florida. Non-profit status has been applied for and is expected to be granted, and a website has been created by Jesse Kelley, proprietor of Minnesotaboxing.com. In addition to president Jake Wegner, the Minnesota boxing HOF is staffed by vice president Jeff Flanagan and board members Denny Nelson, Jim Carlin, Wayne Bebeau, Jim Wells, and Don Evans. At present the Hall is being funded by membership dues and some private donations, but in the future additional funds should come from banquet tickets, ad space in the banquet program, and especially from corporate sponsorships. Only one sponsorship has been announced to date, but it’s a big one; Summitt Brewing Company is providing all the free keg beer that can be sold at the induction banquet, the proceeds for which will all to go to the Hall of Fame organization.
Speaking of the induction banquet, that event will be held on Tuesday, October 12th at Mancini’s Char House on 7th Street West, just southwest of downtown Saint Paul. Ticket prices haven’t been determined yet, but no more than about 175 tickets are to be made available, so they’ll be a hot item at any price.
The inaugural (2010) class of inductees into the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame has been announced:
Mike Gibbons – the St Paul Phantom was a world class boxer in the middleweight division.
Tommy Gibbons Mike’s brother lost only five times in well over 100 career bouts. The losses came against Harry Greb (twice), Billy Miske, Jack Dempsey, and Gene Tunney.
Will Grigsby – Two-time IBF light flyweight world title holder.
Del Flanagan – finished his career with a record of 105-22-2 with 38 kayos, having fought many of the best in the world in his weight class. Del is a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
Glen Flanagan – final record was tallied at 84-23-13 with 34 kayos after a 7-7-1 stretch in the last five years of his career. Glen was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.
Bill Kaehn (Managers/Trainers) – an influential figure in Minnesota boxing from the ’50s through the ’00s, Kaehn managed and trained a slew of successful fighters.
Scott LeDoux – a successful amateur and professional boxer, philanthropist, broadcaster, politician, and head of the Minnesota Boxing Commission.
“The Black Pearl” Harris Martin – “The Black Pearl” was the “Colored Middleweight Champion of the World” in the late nineteenth century.
Don Riley (Journalists/Historians/Photographers) – a writer for the Pioneer Press and a broadcaster, Riley is best known in boxing circles for his role in the infamous Willie Pep-Jackie Graves Round Without a Punch controversy.
Rafael Rodriguez – known as a ring technician and a beautiful boxer, Rodriguez was also a badass. A bad slide toward the end of his career marred his record, but not the memory of how good he had been.
Dr. Sheldon Segal (Administrators/Doctors) – a fixture at professional and amateur boxing events in Minnesota since 1972.