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Area pair honored to be inducted

Harpst and Chong among this year’s honorees in the California Boxing Hall of Fame.

June 25, 2008|By Jeff Tully

STUDIO CITY — Steve Harpst and Michele Chong walked into the Empire Ballroom at the Sportsmen’s Lodge and were amazed at what they saw.

A sold-out crowd of more than 600 guests were on hand Saturday afternoon to attend the California Boxing Hall of Fame’s annual Banquet of Champions induction ceremony.

“It is a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said Harpst, glancing at the crowd that included boxing legends, politicians and other dignitaries. “This is pretty overwhelming It’s a great crowd.”

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In years past, Harpst and Chong attended the event as just audience members. However, with Saturday’s installment, they were inductees

The Burbank residents, who were being honored by the hall of fame for their work for more than a decade with the Burbank Boxing Club, took their places among a prestigious group.

“I look around at the group that is being inducted and I still can’t believe I’m part of it,” said Chong, who is the first Asian-American women to be inducted. “I am truly honored to be among such an incredible group.”

Harpst and Chong said they were humbled and grateful to be recognized among a fine group of inductees, which included Joe Louis, Eddie Futch, Laila Ali, Mando Ramos, Jackie Kallen, John Hall, Jack Mosley, Joey Olivo and Israel Vazquez.

Former inductees include Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Carlos Palomino, Jorge Paez, Freddie Roach, Archie Moore, Jack Johnson, Danny “Little Red” Lopez and Ken Norton.

“Just to see and be around some of these people is an honor for me,” Harpst said. “Here we are in the same room with all of these people and we’re being honored in the same class with them. That’s unreal. It’s an emotional experience for me.”

Chong couldn’t hold back her emotions when she and Harpst were called up on stage to receive their inductions.

“This means a lot to me,” Chong said. “I will never forget this honor.”

Since its inception in 1996, Harpst has helped the Burbank Boxing Club — which operates out of the Burbank Community YMCA — grow, serving as its head trainer and instructor. Along with his teaching, he has also promoted amateur bouts for some of the club’s fighters.

In the past two years, Harpst has promoted international fight cards in Calgary and Edmonton, Canada.

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