In its previous life, the HeadzUP interactive entertainment center at Boulevard Mall was a J.C. Penney’s department store. Owner Chad Dillow likes to tell visitors it’s where Liberace bought his underwear.
Joe Cortez insists that had nothing to do with HeadzUP becoming the brick and mortar home of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
The legendary referee was discussing adding a boxing-themed mural to the exhibit’s 3D Trick Art Museum when it occurred to him that HeadzUP would be the ideal place to host the boxing shrine. It had existed only in a virtual world since boxing enthusiast and former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Kings and Clippers broadcast analyst Rich Marotta founded it in 2013.
“I saw this big space here, and in the back of my mind I kept thinking this would be a great place for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame,” said Cortez, who retired in 2012 and was part of the hall’s inaugural class of inductees feted in a 2013 ceremony at Monte Carlo. “Let me see how I can bring this across to (Dillow and partner Tim Shelburn) and see if they would accept my idea.”
As per his familiar cautionary advice during prefight instructions, Cortez put a little “fair but firm” on the HeadzUP entrepreneurs. He won by knockout. Within weeks the exhibit came together, and Saturday night Cortez hosted a ribbon-cutting attended by two-time world welterweight champion Shawn Porter and some other guys with flattened noses who coulda been contendahs.
“I think we can bring a lot of traffic in here, a lot of fight fans from around the world,” Cortez, 75, said. “We plan to have exhibitions in here, press conferences and weigh-ins for championship fights. Without Tim and Chad, it would never have been possible.”
The exhibit features display cases of boxing memorabilia that will be changed and rotated and a permanent display honoring Hall of Fame members. In keeping with HeadzUP’s interactive theme, there are heavy and speed bags upon which visitors can punch away frustrations, and a regulation-sized boxing ring in which gloves can be put on and disputes about who was the greatest of all time settled on the spot.
Rematches at the HeadzUP axe-throwing pit flanking the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame are not advised.
“Joe had told me a couple of months ago that he was working on something, that he may have found a home for the hall,” Hall of Fame founder Marotta said from Reno, where he now makes his home since retiring from the broadcast business. “I was happy to hear that, but I was a bit skeptical because we’ve had a lot of people pay lip service to us through the years.
“I didn’t think it would take us seven years to find a physical home for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. But that was always part of the dream — that we would be honoring through our events and inductions the greats of boxing, and the history of boxing, and that we would have somewhere people could come and visit and put their hands, basically, on the history of boxing through a hall of fame.”
Chico and Castillo
Speaking of that — putting hands on something or somebody — one of the exhibit cases currently on display is dedicated to the two fights Jose Luis Castillo and Diego “Chico” Corrales fought in Las Vegas in 2005. The first, which Corrales won via a thrilling 10th-round TKO, is widely considered one of the greats fights in recent boxing history.
Two years to the day of that fight, Diego Corrales was killed in a motorcycle crash. His widow, Michelle Corrales-Lewis, is the president of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
“We’re relying on the community to come out and support what we have here with our exhibit, and support HeadzUP — HeadzUP has blessed the sport of boxing,” she said.
“We’re honoring the history of the sport and the legends within it. But it’s a community effort. Let’s show HeadzUP how much we appreciate the space they have given us, and let’s stay active and involved and continue to support this entire vision right here inside the Boulevard Mall.”
As Joe Cortez might say, that would seem the fair but firm thing to do.