Bridgeton native and Vineland resident Richie Kates will receive another honor in recognition of his outstanding boxing career when he is inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame on May 15.
Kates, who turns 60 on May 21, earned a 44-6 record with 23 knockouts from 1969-83. He fought twice for the WBA light-heavyweight championship against the late Victor Galindez, suffering a controversial, 15th-round knockout in South Africa on May 15, 1976. Galindez won a 15-round decision in Rome in the rematch 13 months later.
"I was never the same fighter after that first fight with Galindez," Kates said Friday in a phone interview. "I thought I had been done an injustice and I never got over it."
In their first bout, Kates landed an uppercut that opened a nasty cut over Galindez's eye. According to Kates and various press accounts, Galindez, who died in a car accident in 1980, turned his back and seemed to want referee Stanley Christodoulou to stop the bout.
Galindez went to his corner while Kates started to celebrate. But Christodoulou allowed Galindez's handlers to fix the cut and resumed the bout about 15 minutes later. Galindez knocked Kates down in the final seconds of the fight. Kates thought he beat the 10-count, but the bout was stopped with one second remaining.
"There was a lot of stuff that went on that night, but I can only blame myself for not being a world champion," Kates said. "When I hurt him, I should have jumped right on him and thrown punches until I couldn't lift my arms anymore."
Kates fought 14 more bouts after the Galindez fights and posted an 11-3 record. He staged two more memorable fights in that span, losing via sixth-round TKO to future champ Matthew Saad Muhammed at the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1978 and a 10th-round TKO to James Scott in Rahway State Prison a year later.
He retired from boxing after earning a split decision over Jerry Martin - who will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Kates - at the now defunct Sands Hotel Casino on Oct. 26, 1983. He also retired three years ago from his job as program development specialist with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and now works part-time in the Vineland school system and as a boxing trainer at the Vineland PAL.
"After the Martin fight, I was just done," said Kates, who already is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. "I turned pro when I was 16 years old and my heart just wasn't in fighting anymore. I was only giving 60 or 70 percent instead of 100 percent. Once I realized I wasn't going to get another title shot, I thought it was time to stop. I still like working with fighters, though. I guess boxing is something that will always be in me."
PUNCHLINES: In addition to Kates and Martin, other inductees to the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame include former WBA junior-middleweight champion David Reid and flamboyant promoter Don Elbaum.
Reid, a Philadelphia native, won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, then became a pro champion by beating Laurent Boudouani at Atlantic City Convention Center three years later. Reid (17-2, 7 KOs) was forced to retire in 2001 because of eye injuries.
Elbaum is best known locally for teaming with the late Ted Menas to bring "Tuesday Night Fights" to Tropicana Casino Resort in Atlantic City in the early 1980s. Starting in 1981, they promoted 196 shows at the Trop in a five-year span.
"I was living at the Mayflower Hotel in New York at the time, right underneath where Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro were filming `Raging Bull,' " Elbaum said in an earlier interview with The Press. "The initial thought was for us to do a long-term monthly show, but I told them somebody was going to try to do a weekly show and I wanted it to be us.
"I told them I would move to Atlantic City and I guaranteed it will be a success. I told (the Trop) to give us the worst night of the week and we would make it Trop boxing night."