When the World Boxing Hall of Fame began holding its annual banquet
more than two decades ago, inductees didn’t get much in the way of an
Honorees had to be satisfied with a hearty handshake and a sincere
thank-you, and were given a small lapel insignia and maybe a plaque
commemorating their accomplishment.
However, three years ago, the organization finally commissioned an
artist to provide award statuettes that would not only capture the
spirit of the sport, but would also provide a fitting reward for the
The artist who has helped give the hall of fame award its identity
is Burbank sculptor Steve Harpst.
Harpst was in attendance Saturday to watch his works of art being
handed out at the 24th annual World Boxing Hall of Fame Banquet of
Champions at the Commerce Casino.
The award statue is called “The Prizefighter.” The bronze piece
depicts a boxer with his hands up, crouched and leaning forward, with
a menacing scowl, looking like he’s about to pounce on an opponent.
“I got together with the organization and we tried to see if we
could make something that they could use as an award,” Harpst said.
“So I came in with several different sketches and they chose the one
that is used now because it’s such a basic fighter’s stance,
something that everyone associated with boxing can relate to.”
Unlike the Oscar or the Espy, the award hasn’t been given a catchy
nickname -- yet.
“Eventually, we’re going to have to come up with a nickname for
it,” Harpst said.
Harpst’s association with the hall of fame came about through
Maurice “Dub” Harris, a former president and chairman of the board.
Harris was instrumental in helping Harpst’s work find its way into
the hands of the honored boxing inductees.
“Dub Harris saw some of my pieces and he asked me what I could do
in terms of getting an award for them that they could hand out at the
banquet,” Harpst said.
Harris said the addition of Harpst’s statuettes have enhanced the
annual ceremony, and the awards have become coveted pieces.
“Steve does beautiful work, and anything we can do to try and
enhance the banquet and ceremony we try to do it,” Harris said. “And
having his awards as part of that makes it so much better.
“These fighters are so proud to get these statues. Sometimes I
think they are happier to get one of the awards than to be inducted
into the hall of fame.”
With its first induction ceremony held in 1980, the hall of fame
has honored most of the finest fighters the sport has produced.
Members include Burbank’s Jim Jeffries, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano,
Jack Dempsey, Billy Conn, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Marvin
Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard
Harpst has seen his awards given to fighters and boxing
dignitaries George Foreman, Lupe Pintor, Ken Norton, Jim Lampley and
Saturday, the organization honored Roy Jones Jr. as the World
Boxing Hall of Fame Fighter of the Year. Boxers earning induction
into the hall were Azumah Nelson, Joey Giambra, Del Flanagan,
Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, Rodolfo “Gato” Gonzalez and Jose
“Since these [statues] have only been given out for a few years, a
lot of boxers who were inducted into the hall of fame before didn’t
get this award,” Harpst said. “Fighters from before, who didn’t get
one, have requested their own award. I’ve had a lot of previous
fighters ask me ‘How can I get one of these?’
“You don’t know what an honor it is for me to be involved in the
hall. The awards that I make are going to a lot of my heroes who I
have grown up with, guys who I have watched on TV over the years. I’m
really honored that they have asked me to do this.”
At the banquet, Harpst had a table set up outside the hall
displaying some of his work. Throughout the evening, boxing
enthusiasts, hall honorees and interested event-goers stopped by to
admire and complement on the artist’s pieces.
Boxers seemed to be the most impressed with the sculptures.
“This is some of the best work that I’ve seen depicting boxing,”
said former junior welterweight contender Greg Haugen, who fought
Julio Cesar Chavez, Hector Camacho, Vinny Pazienza and Pernell
“You look at the poses of his work, and it really captures the
spirit of what boxing is. It is some real first-class work.”
When he’s not busy working on his art pieces, Harpst is doing work
of another sort. Along with being founder of the Burbank Boxing Club,
he is also a local fitness instructor for adults and children.
Harpst’s works have not only been given to boxers. Recently, one
of his pieces “The Glove” -- a boxing glove raised in victory -- was
presented to California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The artist was able to personally give Schwarzenegger the
sculpture last month at a town-hall meeting at the Hollenbeck Youth
Center in East L.A.
Harpst was invited to attend the event by Inner-City Games founder
Daniel L. Hernandez.
“I know Arnold is a big boxing fan, so I thought I would give him
something that not only has something to do with the sport, but
something that would signify victory in his quest to become
governor,” Harpst said.
“It was a great experience meeting him, and I think he really
liked the piece.”