By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ALANTIC CITY — “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
That famous quote which has been handed down for generations faced Ray McCline in 2014 while attending an induction at the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. He was there to support a friend and boxer and started the realize the need for Atlantic City to highlight its own rich, unique history in the sport.
In the three following years, McCline slowly built support and the infrastructure for the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. As the organization approaches its fourth induction ceremony Aug. 20-22 the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, he reflects on how he and the Hall of Fame arrived to this point.
For those who know boxing history, Atlantic City would seem like a natural for a professional boxing Hall of Fame, but it did not happen until McCline, a longtime boxing trainer and promoter, worked to make that vision become a reality.
Atlantic City’s boxing history reads like a who’s who of the greatest names in the sport – from Dick Tiger and Joey Giardello to Hector “Macho” Camacho, Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Spinks and Mike Tyson. In 2014, the Bleacher Report named Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall as one of the top 10 boxing venues in the sport’s history.
The Chicago native arrived in the Atlantic City as a teenager and became connected with the sport in Pleasantville. The former boxing trainer, promoter and business professional, McCline learned the business from the ground up, leading to his love for the sport and people in it.
McCline described the first thoughts about an Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame to Front Runner New Jersey this way:
Ray McCline: “I went to the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014, which was in Garfield. I was there to support one of my former of boxers, five-time world champion and 1984 Olympic silver medalist Virgil Hill. And he was being inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. And in, in, it’s sending it, I’ve heard of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame course. But that was the first time I had actually been there. I was just amazed by the amount of people that were there to support various boxing personalities. I didn’t realize how far back the history of New Jersey boxing as a whole. I kind of reached out to the organization after attending that and said I would love to help you guys do your next dinner in Atlantic City.”
McCline said the body politely turned him down but after seeing how Atlantic City played such a prominent role in that 2014 ceremony, it was clear to him that the historic resort town needed to have its own location to display its rightful place in boxing history.
Ray McCline: “I kind of went on a mission to prep just see if there was anything established in that space [to recognize Atlantic City in boxing.] That wasn’t. So as I started just doing my research and due diligence, getting out there and speaking out loud about my idea. I was sharing it with a few other people and over the course of time, there was a few things that had taken place. Mayor Langford did a bit as a celebration of Atlantic City and a part of that he did a thing called the All Star Gala, which celebrated the boxing history. My complaint to my wife was that they’re doing it, but they’re still not doing it right. She kept telling me ‘Well, stop complaining about what needs to be done. Someone’s else is going to do it, and then you’re going to be upset. Why don’t you do it first?'”
Putting It Together
McCline said that led him to have the confidence to start building the framework in 2014 for the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. He said he was determined to do it right, so it took him three years to build the networking and support to pull it off.
Ray McCline: “I had a background in business a background in the history in the sport and I had the same contacts that a lot of other people had, so I started putting the whole thing together. I’m pretty excited about what’s been done from the inception until now. I appreciate all the people that helped along the way and played a great roles from the legal, to advisory to operational. It took until 2017 to get the infrastructure in place where it all made sense, looking at other Hall of Fames around the country. That’s when I realized doing a Hall of Fame in Atlantic City wasn’t that far off. The Las Vegas Boxing Hall of Fame had just established. Atlantic City has a very unique boxing history. When we did it, it wasn’t like it was something that was just kind of thrown together. I really tried to approach this with the seriousness that it was and that was accomplished.”
At Highest Levels
McCline has been involved in boxing at its highest levels. He trained and traveled with some of its to top stars, including Virgil Hill, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame; former heavyweight champion Ray Mercer; former two-time world champion Tracy Harris Patterson; “Mighty” Mike Arnaoutis; Kevin “Killer” Watts; John “Eastern Beast” Brown; Dennis Allen; Corey Rader; Benny Amparo; Brain Neilsen; Jaywon Woods; Anthony “Juice” Young; John “The Breed” Lennox; Dan Murray and Thomas LaManna.
These boxers were featured on national and international outlets such as ABC, ESPN, HBO, Showtime, and Pay Per View. McCline’s passion for boxing turned into a profession and ultimately allowed him to take part in more than 18 world championship title fights.
McCline forged relationships with some of the most iconic figures in the boxing world and was recognized in 2012 as Trainer of the Year by The Press of Atlantic City. In 2015, McCline received a resolution naming McCline and his team as the city’s official Boxing Ambassadors. He received The Atlantic City Home-Town Hero Award for his dedication in 2019.
McCline received a Lifetime Achievement Award from then-President Donald Trump in 2019, letters from New Jersey Senate and Assembly and famed boxing promoter Don King.
He is CEO and founder of Nu Vision Consulting Group, which strategically supports business leaders and government officials — both domestic and international — to create revenue, spark investment, and promote economic development.
Nu Vision handled the marketing campaign for a prominent realty and construction company. They arranged the first Chinese New Year Parade, partnered with the official credit and debit card of China to launch and develop their product into the Atlantic City market, and collaborated with one of Asia’s leading travel providers to bring more business and tour groups into the Atlantic City area.
As a teenager, McCline worked at the Pleasantville Recreation Center where he met one of his mentors in boxing trainer Mike Hall and executive Brian Gallo. He did menial jobs but the two men started to take McCline under their wings.
Ray McCline: “We cut the grass at the Pleasantville Recreation Center and clean up the building where the boxers were training. I started at the bottom where he cleaned out the spit buckets, cleaned the mirrors from the sweat from the guy training and then we would hang around and watch various fighters train. It was 1982 and we were watching some of best fighters in the sport coming up. Because he would always see me around, one of Michael Spink’s trainers told me, ‘You’re going to be running this place one day.’ That really stuck with me. I look back now and go wow, someone just kind of made a statement that was just kind of like a throwaway statement but it had a lot of meaning to me.
Now, McCline is the only African American running a boxing Hall of Fame in the country and one of the few maintaining a sports Hall in any sport. He said his stepfather ran a barber shop in the area, so he would see a lot of the people from the recreation center a second time getting their hair cuts. He said getting to see them in different setting gave him a fuller perspective on the people in the sport. He said he always admired the courage of people who had the fortitude to step in a boxing ring in front of thousands of people.
Ray McCline: “It’s a sport, but people then to forget that it’s a fight. We call it boxing, but it’s a fight and you get hurt and there’s a lot of pain involved, no matter how disciplined and tough you are. It doesn’t feel nice to get hit in the mouth and punched in the gut. It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot self-belief. If you don’t perform at a high level there is some embarrassment that comes with it. For many people, you’re only as good as your last win, right? People will forget that quick. There are a lot of sacrifices that the guys give up. It’s not always a lot of money. There are pros and cons to it but I love the sport without question. Because of those sacrifices to the sport and the body, with the Hall of Fame want to pay homage and show that appreciation for those who had that courage and remember their work.
McCline said the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fames goes to recognize not just the boxers but everyone who had the sport what it is, including trainer, promoters, behind-the-scenes organizer and even journalists. Legendary names like Roberto Duran, Michael Spinks, Mike Tyson and promoter Don King are all well known. He said it was also important to remember those who were needed to make Atlantic City and one-of-a-kind boxing mecca.
Ray McCline: “You get these backstories like relatives coming up to me saying how much the induction mean so much to their father or my grandfather, to be recognized in this way. Some are getting a second look at Atlantic City because they came here to fight and didn’t get a chance to experience the city the way they can now because they were focused on fighting. Now the come back to experience the Boardwalk, restaurants with their children and grandchildren and get to soak up the memories.”
As the Atlantic City Hall of Fame moves toward its next induction ceremony as coronavirus restrictions start to ease, McCline said he is even more grateful for his supporting staff like our Vice President Rodrick Green, Angela Crockett, legal counsel Steve Smoger and people like Mimi Nambo, who have meant so much in helping grow the organization.
Ray McCline: “I just want to thank everyone for playing their role and working behind-the-scenes. They don’t always get the recognition they deserve but they are all important. I want to thank all of them.”
Last year’s ceremony was postponed because of the coronavirus.
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