On Friday, September 4, 2015, South Florida made boxing history, as 21 former heavyweight champions gathered together under the same roof at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL. Dressed to the nines, the champs filmed a documentary in a closed-curtain set in the back ballroom of the casino. Just before that, the media had the opportunity to meet with each legend and get to know a little about him. The Fighting News, had the opportunity to conduct interviews with several of the fighters, such as Hasim Rahman, Tim Witherspoon, Michael Moorer, John Ruiz, and Wladimir Klitschko.
It was easy to see the excitement on each of their faces, as they were able to meet others they idolized when they were young, fought in their prime, or watch as a successor to themselves. Some of them had never had the opportunity to spend any time with the others on a social level. They laughed and shared memories of their heyday. Some of the stories were intriguing and inspiring. Others were tales of perseverance from before their run of victory. I believe it was a great experience for all involved and many certainly appreciated being a part of it.
On Saturday, September 5, 2015, history continued to be made, as many of the former champions were in attendance as Shannon Briggs, a two-time former heavyweight champion himself, fought in the main event of a heavyweight-only card. Instructions & jeering could be heard from the champs, who were sitting at VIP tables not far from ringside. After Shannon knocked out his opponent, Mike Marrone, near the end of Round 2, he received a standing ovation from several of the former champs.
Upon the conclusion of the fight, Shannon called for Wladimir Klitschko, the current, reigning, lineal heavyweight champion of the world, but he was nowhere to be found. Briggs told the crowd that he deserved a shot at the titles and the crowd began to roar. “Let’s go, Champ,” was repeated many times by Shannon Briggs, his entourage, and his fans. At 8-0 with 7 KOs on his comeback trail, it may be time for Klitschko to at least consider the fight. It is quickly becoming a plausible match-up that may catch the attention of millions of fans.
All in all, the 4-day media event was a great success, from the meet & greets, cocktail reception, red carpet event, weigh-in, the card on fight night, the after party at Club Passion, & everything in between. It was great to see all of the former champs in such high spirits, relaxing, and having a good time. It was especially a treat for any boxing fan – young or old – who have seen these great fighters holding up many belts over the last 40+ years.
Special shout-outs go to The Heavyweight Factory, The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Lucky Street Gym, Club Passion, the champs, the media, the fans, The Fighting News Team, and especially Leon Spinks, who was “getting down” in the VIP Room at Club Passion, dancing to the 80s & 90s R&B and rap music blaring through the speakers next to the dance floor… Priceless !
By Michael Feinberg
The Fighting News Reporter