Boxing royalty in Elk Grove Village for Night at the Fights fundraiser
Boxing royalty converged on Elk Grove Village to boost the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame's Night at the Fights fundraiser Thursday night.
In one corner at Belvedere Events and Banquets was former lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, who long has been active with the organization that late Bloomingdale resident George Randazzo started as a boxing hall of fame in Elmwood Park in 1977.
Elsewhere in the spacious venue were former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes and "Sugar" Ray Seales, who was the lone American to win a boxing gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Italian American Sports Hall of Fame board Chairman Tony Ferraro said the special guests Thursday night were a testament to the pull of Randazzo, who was 77 when he died in July.
"George had connections," Ferraro said. "Oh, my gosh, yeah. All the guys -- (George) Foreman, (Muhammad) Ali. We had Ali one year at the hall when he unveiled the Rocky Marciano statue."
About 375 guests noshed on an Italian buffet and got to watch eight amateur bouts. One of the matches featured Cassandra Rewucki, 18, of Volo, who boxes out of the Conquer Fight Club in Libertyville.
Rewucki, a 120-pounder, even received pointers from Seales and got to hold his Olympic gold medal about an hour before the bouts began. Mancini, Holmes and other boxers including former Golden Gloves champion Luis Mateo also were gracious toward the patrons.
Also on the card was Abimbola "Bola" Osundairo. He and his brother have gained notoriety as likely prosecution witnesses in the Cook County case against actor Jussie Smollett, who's accused of paying the siblings to stage an attack on him.
Mancini has been involved with the hall of fame since about 1980. He said he's eager to see the museum find a new home for visitors to see prized collectibles such as Marciano's first heavyweight championship belt and Mario Andretti's Indianapolis 500 race car
"They have my robe, my trunks from early in my career," said Mancini, who lived in Santa Monica, California, for about 30 years and returned to Youngstown, Ohio, where he's building a full digital media studio for original television and movie content.
Holmes said he still enjoys boxing and looked forward to visiting with Mancini.
"I know Ray personally," Holmes said. "He's my buddy, man. He's just a little guy. He's not a heavyweight, but it's not his fault. You gotta blame his parents."
From its humble start, the nonprofit hall of fame moved to Arlington Heights in 1988 and Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood in 2000.
But the museum's brick-and-mortar home on Taylor Street closed in 2018, and organization directors say they are committed to bringing prized collectibles Randazzo amassed out of storage. They've focused their efforts on opening a new permanent museum in Rosemont, but Ferraro said there are possibilities in other towns.
Hall of fame board member Ron Onesti, whose entertainment empire includes the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, asked the crowd to stand and pay tribute to Randazzo when he spoke in the boxing ring before the fights.
"We dedicate this event, we dedicate the sportsmanship that'll be shown tonight and we dedicate the memory of Mr. George Randazzo -- our president, our founder forever," Onesti said.
Night at the Fights Co-Chairman Bill Conforti then led a 10-bell memorial salute for Randazzo as the crowd stood in silence.