Wade Hinnant and George Hill Inducted into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame
On Sunday, March 21 the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame inducted 15 new members, including two fighters with North Philly roots. The ceremony was held at Romano’s Catering in Juniata Park.
“Smokin’” Wade Hinnant was born in Nash County, North Carolina but moved to North Philadelphia as a child with his family. They settled in Brewerytown near the Athletic Rec Center at 26th and Master, where Wade would eventually train as an amateur before turning pro at age 16. He was a promising Junior Welterweight prospect who started his career with 12 straight victories before an eye injury forced him into retirement in 1979 at the tender age of 19.
He fought all his fights in Philadelphia, with several bouts at the Spectrum and the Blue Horizon, finishing his career at 14-2 with 6 knockouts. One of his losses was a split decision against future world champion Bruce Curry. He trained with the legends of the time: “Choo Choo” Charlie Brown, Fred “Herk” Jenkins, Jerome “Silky”Jackson, “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, James Shuler, and Baby Kid Chocolate. He was the chief sparring partner for Lou Bizarro when Bizarro was preparing to fight Roberto Duran in 1977, and then the chief sparring partner for “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler in 1981.
Upon retirement, Hinnant went on to become a roofer, before returning to boxing as a trainer at the Joe Hand Gym in Northern Liberties. Wade and his brother Randy currently train up-and-comers Jerome “The Conqueror” Conquest, Scott “Irish Thunder” Kelleher and Lisa “The Terminator” Lee. Previously, the Hinnant brothers trained pro fighters Teon Kennedy, Chazz Witherspoon and Lajuan Simon, among many others. In his acceptance speech, Wade thanked his trainer, Walter Headen Jr., his family and friends and the members of the Hall.
“I learned great things from this sport and I am very thankful for it,” Hinnant said.
George Hill had a brief professional career as a heavyweight who sparred with Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier, but he entered the Hall of Fame as a ring official. He began his career at the legendary Blue Horizon and eventually scored bouts up and down the East Coast, as well as internationally in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom. His highest profile jobs included Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward II & III, Wladimir Klitschko vs. Sam Peter, Pernell Whitaker vs. Harold Brazier and Miguel Cotto vs. Carlos Quintana. He is highly respected in the boxing community.
In his acceptance speech, Hill recalled meeting the most famous Heavyweight champion of all time:
“I was going to Champ’s Gym in North Philly on a Saturday morning. When I get to the gym, Muhammad Ali is standing on the corner. He said to me ‘Do you box?’ I said ‘yes.’ He said ‘Heavyweight?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ Then he said ‘We’re going to box when you get upstairs.’ I said ‘Wow!’ So we got upstairs and sparred for three rounds, myself and a couple other boxers. At the end he said ‘Are you going to be here tomorrow?’ I said ‘Yeah, I’ll be here tomorrow.’ So we boxed again and he said ‘I’m going to take you with me to Atlanta, Georgia to box an exhibition to mark my return to the ring.’ I said ‘Okay with me.’ He said ‘You’re going to make $200 per round.’ I had just fought at the Spectrum and I didn’t even make $100, so that was great. We boxed the exhibition at the famous Moorhouse College in Atlanta and from there I worked with him some more. It was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. I became a boxing official in 1976 and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Others inducted this year include Jerry Judge, Richie “The Bandit” Bennett, David “Hand Grenade” Bey, “Smokin’” Bert Cooper, Alfonso “Fonzie” Hayman, William “The Hammer” Jones and trainers Percy “Buster” Custus and Frank Kubach.