You always knew when Kelly Pavlik was fighting in Atlantic City.
Busloads of fans would roll into town from Youngstown, Ohio, to cheer for their favorite fighter. They donned bright T-shirts emblazoned with “Ghost” — Pavlik’s nickname — and filled the seats at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
Some of his loyal followers will be back in town Friday, Aug. 20, to Sunday, Aug. 22, to see the former middleweight champion get inducted into the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame as part of its fifth ceremony.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to it,” Pavlik says. “Atlantic City is where everything happened for me. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad, but the good definitely outweighed the bad. And my fans were there to see all of it.”
The Hall of Fame, which was created by Galloway Township resident and Pleasantville High School graduate Ray McCline, will be celebrating two classes of inductees during a variety of festivities.
Pavlik is part of the 2021 Class, along with former fighters Simon Brown, Ivan Robinson and Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Ocean City boxing publicist Ed Keenan is also among the inductees, along with Philadelphia cutman Joey Eye, former trainer Aaron Snowell, late referee Frank Cappuccino and ring announcer Nino Del Buono.
Trinidad. a former welterweight, super-welterweight and middleweight champion, only fought once in Atlantic City — a fourth-round TKO over Larry Barnes in 1995 — but was one of boxing’s most celebrated fighters of that era.
A large crowd is expected to celebrate the Puerto Rican legend. Popular American salsa singer Victor Manuelle, also known as “El Sonero de la Juventud,” will be there to sing the National Anthem and a song in honor of Trinidad.
Brown (47-12, 34 KOs), a former welterweight champion, fought 22 times in Atlantic City (19-3, 15 KOs). He essentially got his start in boxing at Tropicana Atlantic City as a regular at the Trop’s popular “Tuesday Night Fights” series in the early 1980s with promoters Don Elbaum and Ted Menas.
Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs) had four bouts on the boardwalk, including the biggest victory of his career. On Sept. 29, 2007, he stunned the boxing world by capturing the WBC/WBO middleweight titles by rallying to score a seventh-round TKO over champion Jermain Taylor at Boardwalk Hall.
“That was definitely my biggest fight,” Pavlik says. “And it happened in Atlantic City.”
The 2020 Class will also be celebrated, since last year’s induction ceremony was TKO’d by Covid-19. That distinguished group includes fighters Riddick Bowe, Pleasantville’s Ernest Bing, Al Cole, Calvin Grove, Tony Thornton and Pernell Whitaker; trainers Tommy Parks and Percy Richardson; referee Earl Morton; judge Steve Weisfeld; promoter Ron Katz; announcer Al Bernstein; publicist Marc Abrams; Pleasantville manager Laoma Byrd; and IBF official Murad Muhammad.
Thornton, Whitaker, Parks, Richardson, Morton and Byrd are being honored posthumously.
McCline, a former boxing trainer at the Pleasantville Recreation Center, formed the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017. He got the idea after watching former light-heavyweight champion Virgil Hill get inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010.
“I toyed with the idea of starting one in Atlantic City,” McCline says. “I spent a lot of nights researching other Halls of Fame and thought about what it would take to pull it off. Finally, in 2014, my wife (Michelle) convinced me to go for it.”
The festivities, which are being hosted by Hard Rock Atlantic City, The Claridge — A Radisson Hotel, and FantaSea Resorts, begin Friday with a happy hour 5 p.m. at the Flagship Resort’s Blue Water Grille, followed by an opening bell event and birthday celebration for 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Michael Spinks from 7 to 10 p.m. at Bourre Restaurant.
On Saturday, the Claridge will be host of a roundtable discussion about boxing in Atlantic City along with an interactive fight fan experience and an autograph session with inductees and other celebrities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Sunday, Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall on Tennessee Avenue in Atlantic City will host a “Brunch with Legends” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The brunch — offering $5 breakfast sandwiches, $5 select beers, $5 mimosas and Bloody Marys — is free and open to the public and will allow fans to get up close and personal with many of the Hall of Fame fighters (autographs available to a fee being inducted later that night at the official induction ceremony 4 to 8 p.m. at Hard Rock’s Sound Waves theater.
“I wanted it to be different from the others,” McCline says. “I’m not a big fan of banquets. I wanted an event that would allow fans to interact with the greats of the sport. But this is not just about boxing. It’s spread out over an entire weekend at different places, which enables us to really show off Atlantic City to the people.”