Lee Samuels informs family, friends, and colleagues that a boxing publicist does not deserve recognition. However, for the past 38 years, Samuels has been employed at Top Rank Boxing as their lead publicist. Earlier this year, Samuels was reassigned to another role, working side-by-side with the contenders and champions promoted under the Top Rank banner.
The new assignment as boxing coordinator is attending to the fighters. There is fight week preparation, press conferences ,and of course fight night. With that dependency and more of a social media impact, Lee Samuels and the “boxing publicist” are not relied upon as much for the information and press releases. Though, there is still a need for the publicist to handle media credentials and requests to speak with a fighter.
“I still have a job,” Samuels says. His longtime boss, Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, saw loyalty and hard work which kept Samuels on the job at the Top Rank offices in Las Vegas, Nevada.
From publicist, he has made the transition to a boxing coordinator. Samuels has no complaints and enjoys the sport. He resembles that ambassador at ringside on fight night and travels out of town with the staff at Top Rank. Usually that involves arriving six days before fight night and assuring that fighters and personnel are where they have to be.
With their lucrative and extended deal with ESPN, in this new wave of streaming fights to the fans, Top Rank promotes more than 57 shows a year. With their extended ESPN contract, there are more shows shown worldwide on the ESPN streaming Network.
Boxing has changed from a television medium to more of the streaming networks. There are lucrative deals for the promoters and the fighters. Again, social media is the route and the publicist has less of a role in the promotion.
The exceptions are press conferences, the credential process for the media, feeding writers on fight night, bloggers, and the commentators with the necessary facts and quotes.
Thursday evening, at the Venetian Ballroom in Garfield New Jersey, Lee Samuels was one of many of the new inductees into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. He took the long flight from Las Vegas and checked in at a nearby Marriott Hotel. Bernard Fernandez, a longtime boxing writer from Philadelphia, traveled up the Turnpike to induct his friend and colleague.
“He was nervous about what he was going to say up there,” Samuels said. “Very easy,” I said. “Just say Lee Samuels.”
With Lee, there is so much detail. One minute may not be sufficient. Samuels, though, after all these years in boxing is not one for the spotlight. Awards come and go and he is the last to expect one.
“I’m honored to be in this group with all these great fighters and boxing figures,” he said. “Tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting this to be such a huge event and they do so a great job here.”
On the dais: Kendall Holt, the former super lightweight champion, Calvin Grove, former IBF featherweight champ, and Harvey Dock, a well known referee. On this night, the NJ Hall inducted 14 more into their prestigious Hall of Fame that included former fighters, trainers, and those who work the corners.
During his heyday, Holt was a Top Rank fighter. Samuels had a reunion and reminisced about Holt’s championship fight with Timothy Bradley. They worked hand-in-hand back then, and Bradley, now a part of the ESPN broadcast team, informed Samuels to congratulate Holt.
“So many friends over the years,” Samuels said. Top Rank has become his second family over that time.
Samuels has accepted the change as to how boxing is covered. The South New Jersey native started this journey in 1964 as a Sports Editor with the Pennsville Progress in South Jersey. More newspapers followed, freelance work, and then Top Rank. All of this prior to serving in the U.S. National Guard for six years as a tank driver.
Arum, a Hall of Fame promoter, hired Samuels in 1983 as the publicist when ESPN launched a venture with the new “Thursday Night Boxing Series.”
The awards and recognition are well deserved. Samuels has traveled the globe and has been at ringside for one super fight after another, including that Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout three years ago that is, reportedly, the richest fight on record.
Lee Samuels smiles and thanks each and everyone for their kind words. He was recognized twice with awards from the Boxing Writers Association. This latest one, a belt with replica gold, will be displayed at his home in Las Vegas.
However, the biggest award is arriving home safe and being with his beloved wife, Mary. She has not been well the past few years after feeling the loss and unexpected death of their youngest so,n who was possibly headed to a career in the National Hockey League. She no longer travels with Lee.
Recently, Lee Samuels wrote a chronology about his journey and published it for his family.
He says, “From that very moment, Mary Margaret and me and our dear family have been on an astounding journey.”
Yes, it has been a journey and it can culminate next June at the Boxing Hall of Fame up in Canastota, New York. Lee Samuels has been nominated for enshrinement. Of course, he said, “Why me?”
He will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Congratulations from this longtime colleague and see you at ringside in New York, December 8 at Madison Square Garden, when Vasiliy Lomachenko defends the Super Lightweight title.
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