Golden Era Boxers Enter California Hall of Fame

By Johnny Ortiz

Oscar "The Boxer" Muniz, Terry Norris, Joey Orbillo, George "Scrap Iron" Johnson, Reuben Navarro, Paul Gonzales, Frankie Duarte, Monroe Brooks, Jose Luis Cotero and Stan Ward are the fighters that will be inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 5, 2005 at Steven’s Steak House in Commerce, California.

They were all once a part of an elite group of local boxers that filled the old Olympic Auditorium to capacity every Thursday night for years on end. They joined names like Jerry and Mike Quarry, Ernie and Danny Lopez, Bobby Chacon, Albert Davila, Armando Ramos, Raul Rojas, Rudolfo "El Gato" Gonzalez, Carlos Palomino, Armando Muniz, Mike Nixon and Richard Steele.

Every once in a while, fighters such as Ray "Windmill" White and Manny Lugo would provide comic relief. These are just some of the great fighters who come to mind during the heyday of the Olympic, it was a time when the Olympic Auditorium and the Main St. Gym worked hand in hand to provide the fight fans of Los Angeles with the best weekly fights in the entire country. When the Grand Old Lady that was known as the Olympic Auditorium eventually closed, and later reopened, it never came close to recapturing its former glory.

One would have had to witness the weekly fistic ritual to truly comprehend the uniqueness and magnificence of it all. Those particular days of beer and cheering for your favorite fighter will never come again…not in my lifetime.

In essence…it was truly the best of times.

A part of that grand history will be on display this Saturday afternoon when the aforementioned fighters are inducted, those who were lucky enough to be there when they fought, will be taken back in time by their memories.

Two of my boys, Oscar Muniz and Reuben Navarro called me earlier in the week; they wanted to know if I would be there when they are inducted. I told them both that I would not miss it for the world. With the exception of Stan Ward and Jose Luis Cotero, I am extremely proud to say that I am very good friends with the rest of the inductees.

Jerry Quarry and I were the very best of friends; I met him when he was nineteen years old. He started hanging out in the Stardust, a saloon my brother Ray and I owned in Downey, California. He was a fun-loving guy who had the formula down pat whenever he came in, it was quite simple, he was a good looking young boy from Oklahoma who liked the girls and they liked him.

When Jerry signed to fight another undefeated young heavyweight by the name of Joey Orbillo, it was a huge LA matchup. Both crowd favorites, the arena was full of electricity the night they fought. Joey lost the fight, a fight he says he didn’t remember after the fourth round. The story he tells of finally remembering the fight later in the night in a bowling alley with a friend is hilarious.

Joey will always be eternally grateful to Jerry. He was on leave from the Army when they fought. Due to the fact that he came out of the fight with a perforated eardrum, thanks to Jerry’s big left hook, Joey’s orders to go to Viet Nam with his company were deleted. Joey later learned that his entire unit was wiped out in Nam.

I later became close friends with Joey and his good friend Scrap Iron Johnson. A few years ago, Rick Paap, a talented actor and TV Sports host with his own show, "Talk of the Town," was hosting his annual pre Los Angeles World Boxing Hall of Fame Induction show, his guests included: President Kenneth Thompson, George Latka, Mando Ramos and the present WBHF president Armando Muniz. The other two guests were Joey Orbillo and Scrap Iron Johnson.

Scrap brought down the house when Rick, knowing that Scrap had fought Sonny Liston in Las Vegas, asked him if Sonny hit as hard as they say he did. Scrap replied, "Sonny hit me so hard, I married the wrong woman." Over the years, I would, and still do, run into Joey, Scrap and Jimmy Harriman at Southern California’s most popular Sports Restaurant, "Phil Trani’s" in Long Beach.

I am pleased to see that all of Saturday’s inductees will get the recognition they all so deserve, I will be especially happy to see Oscar Muniz receive his award. During my tenure as co-owner of the Main St. Gym with Carol Steindler, Oscar, complete with his great smile, was there every day I was.

Oscar should have been a world champion. He would have been if he had been given the title shot he deserved. On December 11, 1980, he fought a bantamweight elimination fight with Francisco "Kiko" Bejines…Oscar won a unanimous decision. Thinking he would be fighting for the title, he was sidestepped by his manager who gave the title shot to Oscar’s stablemate Albert Davila. Albert won the vacant WBC Bantamweight crown by beating Kiko Bejines, the same fighter Oscar beat in their elimination bout.

Oscar was a terrific fighter, on July 23, 1983, he beat the great bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler in a ten round non-title fight. No one deserves the recognition, and the award more than...Oscar the Boxer.

Reuben Navarro fought the very best, on February 12, 1971, he fought and lost a close fifteen round decision to Lightweight Champion Ken Buchanan at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Rueben was so good; he was often dodged by the managers of up and coming fighters. Not many wanted to fight "The Spoiler."

Today, Reuben takes his fight to the Devil, working for the Lord. He also expressed to me that he would be interested in doing boxing commentary or radio broadcasting on the side. I have had Reuben on my radio show as a co-host, he is extremely articulate. Rueben would excel in anything he chooses to do.

In the Posthumous induction category, the list includes the great heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, broadcaster Jim Healy, writer Rodolfo Garcia, and two people I knew and greatly admired, Canto Robledo and Bill Slayton. When I made the movie "Play It To The Bone" with Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrleson, I was able to rekindle my friendship with Bill Slayton. The gym scenes were shot at Slayton’s Broadway Gym, I played the gym owner. It was fun reminiscing about days gone by with Bill; he was a very special man.

There are also nine others that will be inducted into the non-boxer category. Two of them are personal friends of mine, Julian Eget and "The Steamer," Bud Furillo.

I first met Julian Eget while being a fellow member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame Board of Directors. We became instant friends, I can say unequivocally…Julian Eget is one of the finest gentlemen I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Without his knowledge, I have personally witnessed on several occasions, his generosity and his willingness to help those less fortunate who he considers a friend. Julian probably wouldn’t like it to be made public, but if truth be known, what he has done for someone we all love, Bobby Chacon, is a testament to his kindness and compassion. Julian’s friendship with "Schoolboy" Bobby is truly heart-warming. A man could not ask for a better friend than Julian Eget.

During our board meetings, you can count on Julian to be the first one to stand up and voice an opinion if he feels a wrong needs to be corrected.

Julian is presently the Vice-President of the Golden State Boxing Association and the Vice President of the California Hall of Fame, which incidentally, is putting on this event Saturday. He is also the Executive Vice President of the World Boxing Hall of Fame. I am not alone in thinking that one-day; Julian Eget will make an outstanding President of our organization.

It has been a long time in coming, but this Saturday afternoon, Julian Eget will finally be recognized for the tireless efforts he has dedicated to Boxing. Being inducted into the California Hall of Fame is a fitting, crowning glory to a humble man who is known by those close to him as the original…stand up guy!

Bud Furillo has been a very well known member of the Los Angeles media for as long as I can remember. He was the Sports Editor of the now defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, largely regarded as the best sports section ever produced in the Los Angeles area.

Among his many responsibilities, Bud was once the President of the Baseball Writers of America. Bud later went into sports radio broadcasting where his sports expertise and connections made him a huge success.

Bud and I have been the best of friends since the Sixties, I first met him when he came into our saloon in Downey. With his help, the cocktail lounge my brother Ray and I owned soon became a hangout for the LA Rams, Dodgers, Angels, fighters, famous actors and the sports media. The Stardust was the frontrunner of what is commonly known today as "Sports Bars."

As sports editor, I accompanied Bud to all of the big social and sporting events in LA., but the biggest thrill for me came when in 1963, he and I went to Palm Springs to attend the Frank Sinatra Golf Invitational, it was there that I would be introduced to his great friend Frank Sinatra. On our way to the Springs, I asked Bud what the chances were that I would get to meet Frank, he replied, "meet him, we’re going to party with him."

True to his word, we partied with Frank and the rest of the rat pack every day in the VIP room after the conclusion of each day of golf. When my book, "Once Upon A Star, My Life Among The Icons," is finally released, you will be able to read all of my exploits with Bud, including the great times spent with "Ole’ Blue Eyes."

While President of the Baseball Writers of America, Bud did something no one had ever done before or will ever do again, when they had their annual Baseball Writers Banquet, who do you suppose Bud called and asked if they would mind performing for the occasion? Just a couple of guys by the name of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Needless to say, those in attendance were thrilled beyond belief.

No doubt about it, some of the most fascinating, memorable times I have ever had were with Bud Furillo, including hanging out with Frank, Sam Giancana and friends in the back room of the Metropole Restaurant in Palm Springs.

In reality, being inducted into the California Hall of Fame is a mere formality; Bud Furillo was born into the Hall of Fame.

After the Stardust, Bud and I became partners in our own saloon, it was called "The Lancer Lounge." It too, became a huge sports hangout. If a guy could pick a super guy to party with…Bud Furillo would definitely be your man.

You will have to wait and read the chapter on Frank and Bud if you want the skinny on all of the outrageous times we had.

In all sincerity, there are not enough accolades or awards to cover the brilliant sports career this unique man has had. I have known them all; there is no one in the sports media whose light ever shown brighter than…The Steamer! is thrilled to announce that our own William Trillo aka "Will the Thrill" has been selected by Showtime Championship Boxing to be one of the three ringside media judges this Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas during the lightweight championship fight between two time champion Jose Luis Castillo and former IBF champion Julio "The Kidd" Diaz.

"The Thrill" is finally getting the attention he so deserves. William is an excellent, hard working boxing writer as well as a super human being.


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