By Bill Tibbs
It was recently announced that long-time, Top Rank Boxing publicist Lee Samuels was going to be inducted into the 2019 class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, in June, in Canastota, New York.
While there are many non-fighter categories for the Hall, this is quite an accomplishment and honour for Samuels as he is only the second publicist to receive this honour following former Top Rank publicist, Irving Rudd, who was inducted 2 decades ago.
Samuels joins some elite boxing company, and fellow Top Rank family members, in the Hall with Rudd, Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, long-time matchmaker Bruce Trampler, and (the late) matchmaker Teddy Brenner who have all been previously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
As soon as the news came out that Samuels had made the Hall of Fame, his fellow Top Rank family seemed genuinely pleased and proud of him.
“I couldn’t be more happy for my guy Lee Samuels being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame Class of 2019”, said Top Rank ringside analyst Crystina Poncher. “It is so well deserved, just ask anyone who’s had the pleasure of working with him. Way to go Lee”, she said.
“For decades, Lee Samuels has been outstanding in disseminating information about boxers and boxing to the public around the world,” said Top Rank founder Arum. “He truly deserves the honour of being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame”, he said.
Added fellow Hall of Fame member, matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, “There are few individuals more deserving of this honour than Lee Samuels,” Trampler said. “I am honoured to have known him for decades as a friend and a colleague. Welcome to Canastota, Lee”.
A native of New Jersey, Samuels started his career as a sports writer at the Pennsville Progress, Pennsgrove Record, the Camden Courier-Post and the old Philadelphia Bulletin covering basketball, auto racing and boxing. This led to Samuels covering a lot of high profile fights and eventually being hired by Arum in the early 80’s as a publicist.
Now, into decade 4, the rest, as they say, is history.
Through his association with Top Rank, Samuels has worked directly with the boxing’s who’s who list of champions over the decades including Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Manny Pacquiao, Thomas Hearns, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Michael Carbajal, Oscar De La Hoya and current stars like Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko to name but a few.
Maxboxing caught up with Samuels to get his reaction to the announcement and how he feels about joining such exclusive company in receiving, perhaps, boxing’s most prestigious honour.
“When Ed (Hall of Fame’s, Brophy) called me and told me the news I was thrilled”, said Samuels over the phone from New York where he is in for fight week at Madison Square Garden where current P4P star, and Top Rank champion, Vasyl Lomachenko headlines this weekend. “I thought to myself, can you believe that? There has only been one other publicist inducted into the Hall of Fame and that is Irving Rudd who I learned the craft under”, he said. “Irving taught me how to treat writers and how to get them with the fighters and get the stories out. Fighters love to talk and he taught me a very effective way to handle the writers and fighters, and get them together”, he said.
When Samuels reflected on his career, he quickly spoke of his long association with Top Rank legend Bob Arum.
“When Bob sent me out to Palm Springs to cover Hagler, who was getting ready to fight “Sugar” Ray Leonard, that was a turning point in my career as far as being a publicist goes”, he said. “Irving was still with Top Rank, and was out there, and I really got to see and understand what a fighter goes through in preparation for a big fight, both mentally and physically”, he said. “When I think about Bob, and all the years at Top Rank, it still amazes me just what an amazing man he is”, said Samuels with obvious and unabashed admiration. “He is incredibly intelligent and he sure knows how to make big fights. Bob is the reason I am here, I wouldn’t be here without Bob Arum, it’s that simple”, he said.
And, come fight week, after all the publicity is done, and it’s fight time, does he still get that excitement he felt as a young man all these years later?
“Oh, you bet I do Bill. There is nothing like fight night. I love being around other writers, other press people, the fighters, the trainers, everyone, it’s just great. And, then it all comes together on fight night; there is nothing like it”, enthused Samuels.
But, while there is still lots of work ahead in the next few months, there is no question that Samuels is, understandably, excited about the Hall of Fame weekend in June of next year.
“This honour, it’s the greatest, nothing really touches it”, said Samuels. “It’s the biggest award, to be in the Hall of Fame, forever, it’s just great. I mean I never ever thought I’d ever achieve something like this, when you start out you never, ever think about something like this”, he continued. “But, it’s happening, it is a very big deal. My whole family is going to come out and they are very happy and excited for me”, he said. “It’s just the greatest”.