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    Friday, October 31st 2014

Blackburn, McClellan Accept Award!

On Friday night, the Boxing Writers Association of America held its annual awards banquet. The ceremony was a moment for the sport of boxing to take deep pride in and feel profound shame all at the same time. Pride in recognizing the work of photographer Teddy Blackburn whose efforts to help Gerald McClellan is an example of the very best the human spirit has to offer. Shame because the sport that we love has given McClellan a life of darkness and has failed to provide for his medical needs.

The highlight of the New York City affair came when Blackburn was honored with the Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award for his years of friendship and heroic efforts to provide for McClellan, a former middleweight champion who suffered serious brain injuries in a 1996 bout against Nigel Benn. McClellan, who is cared for by his two sisters, now requires constant attention.

Blackburn and McClellan received a standing ovation as they came on stage to accept the award. McClellan, blind and mostly deaf, was wheeled on stage by his sister Lisa (the other sister did not make the trip from their Illinois home). Although the award went to Blackburn only, the soft-spoken photographer told the crowd, "this award is for Gerald."

The presentation of the award capped an emotional day in which many in the boxing industry came to pay tribute to McClellan both at the dinner and beforehand in his hotel room. Lou DiBella brought several of the young boxers he advises to meet McClellan. The former WBC and WBO middleweight champion, still a competitor at heart, brightened up noticeably whenever a fellow boxer stepped forward to shake his hand.

McClellan's rare public appearance overshadowed Bernard Hopkins and Bouie Fisher, the boxer and trainer of the year, respectively, for their accomplishments in last year's middleweight championship tournament. With Fisher in his corner, Hopkins beat reigning world champs Keith Holmes and the previously-unbeaten Felix Trinidad to unify the middleweight title. Ricardo Maldonado was named manager of the year, largely in recognition of his work on behalf of Marco Antonio Barrera and Teddy Atlas was honored for his broadcasting work on ESPN2.

Fisher and Hopkins worked together for more than a decade, culminating in Hopkins' knockout defeat of Felix Trinidad last September. Since then, however, Hopkins and Fisher have become estranged. At the awards ceremony, they were seated separately at tables located on opposite sides of The Supper Club. Noticeably, the seventy-four year old Fisher did not mention Hopkins’ name during his acceptance speech. Hopkins thanked Fisher during his speech but made a point of mentioning that Fisher could not have won the award if Hopkins didn't execute their plan in the ring. Hopkins also repeated that Sloan Harrison was his new trainer. Prior to receiving his award, the controversial middleweight champion refused to autograph a boxing glove that will be auctioned off to raise money for McClellan. In contrast, all three former world champions in attendance besides McClellan, Iran Barkley, Juan LaPorte and Chris Byrd, all donated their signatures to McClellan’s cause.

At last year's dinner, held months before he knocked out Trinidad, Hopkins graciously signed every photograph that was put in front of him as he watched Trinidad accept the fighter of the year award for 2000.


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