Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The BWAA Annual Awards Dinner

What struck me about last week's BWAA Annual Awards Dinner was how much it mattered to the honorees. It was significant enough for Naoya Inoue to take the around-the-world flight to accept the Fighter of the Year award, becoming the first Japanese fighter in the history of the BWAA to win the honor. It was enough for Bill Haney to fly in from Las Vegas to receive the Manager of the Year award, for Brian McIntyre to leave a training camp to come to New York to accept the Trainer of the Year award. 

That it was so meaningful to the honorees surprised me. Listen, every media outlet hands out awards of one kind or another (including this one) and does receiving an award from a group of writers still move the needle? In that this was my first BWAA Awards dinner (having recently been admitted into the association), I didn't exactly know what to expect. But the answer to the above question was an emphatic yes. There was little jadedness from the stars and dignitaries in the room. They were very excited to be there. And the ceremony itself packed an emotional wallop far deeper than I anticipated. The night wasn't one of going through the motions for each honoree; it was the culmination of a life's work. 

Inoue giving his acceptance speech
Photo by Adam Abramowitz

The great boxing photographer Ed Mulholland was honored for his fight against cancer. Also honored was Lisa McClellan, the sister of Gerald McClellan, the former middleweight champion who was severely injured in a fight against Nigel Benn in 1995. Lisa has been Gerald's primary caretaker for almost three decades. 

And there was Gordon Hall, the executive producer from the great ShoBox series, who was honored for his service to the sport. As grateful as Hall was for the recognition, his acknowledgment of the end of Showtime Boxing cast a brief pall over the room. One of the bright lights of American boxing had now gone dark. 

McIntyre choked up when talking about his journey to the top of the sport as a trainer. With his wife in the audience, he acknowledged the sacrifices needed to become the best. "I never stopped working on my craft," he said. And that had led to days, weeks, and months at a time of not being home. There was much joy and humor in his speech too, but his remarks were a reminder that boxing does not involve too many ordinary professions. 

Bill Haney spoke about overcoming the criticism that he received during his son Devin's developmental fights. The Haneys were determined to do it their own way. They were promoting shows in out-of-the-way places in front of few fans, but they believed in their mission. They wanted to be able to call their shots when the time was right. And they did, with Devin becoming an undisputed champion at lightweight and making millions upon millions in the sport. But it wasn't easy. It rarely is. 

One of the key players in the evening was Bob Arum, who sat at the table nearest the stage. Although he was not technically an honoree, his name was mentioned throughout the evening. McIntyre thanked him for taking a chance on Terence Crawford and him (this is despite an ongoing lawsuit between Crawford and Top Rank). Tim Bradley, who was honored for his achievement in broadcasting, thanked Arum for promoting him when he was a fighter and giving him a chance as a broadcaster. Bradley felt that he wasn't particularly good when he started behind the mic, but he credits his work ethic for success in both phases of his career. 

And sitting directly next to Arum during the dinner was Inoue. Arum raved about Inoue to me earlier in the evening, calling him a great kid. He loved his fighting ability. He loved his desire to be great. He loved his manners. 

Inoue was clearly the star of the show. With a group of 30 or so people traveling with him from Japan, (many were journalists and media members), whenever Inoue moved around the room, a crowd followed him. Other top fighters at the dinner, like Teofimo Lopez and Amanda Serrano (who was honored as Female Fighter of the Year), all wanted to have their picture taken with him. Jorge Linares and Inoue exchanged pleasantries in Japanese (Linares spent several years in Japan). 

During his speech, Inoue spoke about his gratitude for winning the award, and admitted how challenging his fights against Stephen Fulton and Marlon Tapales were. But he believed that those opponents helped push him to even greater heights. 

Inoue fought in America in 2017, 2020 and 2021 and while he won all three fights by stoppage, he returned to Japan for bigger opportunities. Although Inoue was certainly appreciated during his time in America, he has now become a much bigger deal. There was an excitement whenever he circulated around the room. An entourage followed his every step. At least in boxing circles, there is no doubt that he has become a genuine star, not just a great fighter. 

The evening also contained elements of the expected. There was a good steak. The booze was hit and miss. Lots of lawyers and fighters and girlfriends and sanctioning body henchmen filled the tables. There were those looking for opportunities and those whose opportunities in the sport had passed. There were dreamers, opportunists, functionaries, and old-timers. But among all the attendees, the boxing people who make up this crazy and ridiculous and beautiful sport, there was joy. There was warmth. It surprised me. And I loved it.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Panel, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
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