COVID-19 continues to have an impact on big get-togethers. Just ask Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame President Michelle Corrales-Lewis, who recently made the tough decision to postpone this year’s Hall of Fame induction weekend and gala.
Due to COVID, the 2020 class will now be inducted with the 2021 class in 2022. Combining the classes is a first for the nonprofit and Corrales-Lewis says it’s not the only impact of the pandemic: The 2021 class is expected to be fewer in number.
Nevertheless, Corrales-Lewis promises to deliver a great event for these legendary boxing figures in 2022. In 2019, the last time the event was held, the inductees were: Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ronald “Winky” Wright, Terry Norris and Vinny Pazienza.
Corrales-Lewis, ex-wife of the late, great lightweight champion Diego Corrales, explains the ins and outs of the operation, what led to the decision to postpone the event, and much more.
Percy Crawford interviewed Michelle Corrales-Lewis for Zenger.
Zenger: Unfortunately, due to COVID you were forced to cancel the pending induction of the class of 2020 and 2021 Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. I’m sure that was a difficult decision for you.
Corrales-Lewis: The epic weekend that we deliver around the gala takes more than just a couple of months to prepare. Yes, Vegas is starting to open, but it’s already summer. So, to truly prepare adequately for an event of the magnitude of ours, it takes a year of getting the right sponsorships, the right partners, the right venues, preparing the inductees to be flown in, working with their schedules, ordering their induction rings, the custom-made trophies and a lot more.
When we present that gala on that weekend, it’s important for us to deliver it at that same level that we’ve done in the past. Could we have tried to rush and done a scaled-down version of what we normally deliver? Absolutely. But would that be fair to our inductees or to the fans that are used to a certain standard? No. And you can’t deliver that in the matter of a couple of months of preparation.
Zenger: Clearly, a lot of hard work goes into planning these weekends.
Corrales-Lewis: Absolutely. We’re working long before we announce the class, long before we even tell the inductees who they are. Also, everyone knows our custom desserts are a huge deal. You have no idea just how much energy goes into picking that (laughing). It seems trivial to most, but it’s so important to us. Our team pays attention to every detail. Our lighting, our centerpieces are all custom-made. It’s just a handful of us that work personally to make those. We are making everything for a 100-plus tables. We have our own little mini-Hall of Fame chop shop going on in our garages. You’d be amazed.
We would’ve had to secure our venue months ago when there was so much uncertainty in the world. We just didn’t know where to go. Unfortunately, when you’re putting up these deposits and things for these hotels, they’re not as forgiving to just hand out refunds. It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that people just don’t understand about the event.
Zenger: I’m sure there is a lesson learned with this whole ordeal in terms of factoring in the unknown. COVID made us all vulnerable to that.
Corrales-Lewis: It showed that even though the world is opening back up, COVID is still here and could slap us in the face at any moment and bring us back to reality. Which is why I said, “OK, we can’t hold this. Let’s stop torturing ourselves. Let’s just go ahead and make the official announcement to postpone.” Summer is usually our time to shine and induct our legends, but when that happened, that solidified the fact that I needed to make the announcement and get over that last-minute idea of possibly doing our weekend in October. That actually brought it home for me.
Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame President Michelle Corrales-Lewis says fans can look forward to something spectacular in 2022, when the classes of 2020 and 2021 will be inducted together. (Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame)
Zenger: As a silver lining in all of this is, it sounds like you’re planning a spectacular event for the 2020-2021 classes.
Corrales-Lewis: Again, absolutely! I’m looking for the best venue, I’m looking for the best event, the best organic touches, from the dessert to the centerpieces. Something we haven’t seen before. We have an epic class of 2020, we are going to announce 2021, and 2022 will be around the corner. I want the fans to hang in there with us, and we will definitely deliver something spectacular in 2022.
Zenger: Is this the first time you have had to rearrange this event and combine classes?
Corrales-Lewis: Yes. I think we all would say that this has been a time of firsts. COVID did a number on us. Even our class of 2021 — I’ll give a teaser on that — it’s going to be a lot smaller. We’re going to address some of the icons who should be recognized and inducted that we have held out because of their fight careers. I think everything suffered because of COVID.
Zenger: Your inability to do fundraisers and events leading up to the big event played a big part. So, people have to understand, things seem normal now, but the lead-up was disturbed, and you couldn’t get that time back.
Corrales-Lewis: That’s correct. When you don’t have someone come along to sponsor the entire event, it falls on myself, our vice president and our founder to pay for it personally. That’s the reality of it. The fundraisers are critically important. And that’s what some people don’t understand, being a smaller nonprofit, if no one comes along with a huge donation or a big sponsorship, this is a family-oriented, blood, sweat and tears hall of fame.
Our organization is about the love of our core team. We put in the work and quite frankly our own finances to help get by. When you’re talking about an event of that magnitude, it’s a lot to bite off, especially coming off of COVID with our own personal household suffering as well. The reality check is, we need those fundraisers, we need those smaller events, we need those alliances. I’m glad you realize that because most people don’t. They see these events and figure we have millions and millions of dollars. We stretch a dollar and what we can’t afford to buy, we make.
Zenger: What are the qualifications for being inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame?
Corrales-Lewis: For fighters, you need to be retired for at least two years and have fought in Nevada. For our non-fighters, we look for someone who has had huge ties to the Las Vegas community. Because we are the fight capital of the world, Percy, that really opens our panel to several people. We have that landscape to say, if you’ve made a name for yourself, and you are a legend in boxing, chances are you are on our radar. If you were a champion, you’re on our ballot. So many greats had their legacies built and cemented here in Las Vegas.
Zenger: You honor a lot of great people within the fight game, but you deserve to be honored, as well — you’ve done an amazing job of keeping this thing going. I know it will be huge when it returns. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Corrales-Lewis: Thank you so much for supporting the hall of fame. We appreciate that. Look out for our teasers and announcements on Aug. 20, the night before the Errol Spence Jr.-Manny Pacquiao bout. I also want to encourage people to keep donating to the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame through our website.
(Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Judith Isacoff)
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