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Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels to enter boxing Hall of Fame

Updated June 8, 2019 - 4:01 pm

Lee Samuels, the longtime publicist for Las Vegas’ Top Rank Inc. who will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, this weekend, was asked if he recalled a seminal moment that might have foretold of him earning the fight game’s highest honor.

The referee’s count stopped at one.

It happened before Muhammad Ali’s first fight against Leon Spinks in 1978 at the Las Vegas Hilton. Irving Rudd was the publicist for Top Rank then, and Samuels told him he was covering the fight for the Philadelphia Bulletin.

“He knows you’re coming,” Samuels recalled of his conversation with Rudd, who preceded him into the Hall of Fame. “Muhammad knows you are on the way, and he wants to talk to you — PR ploy, I learned later.”

Samuels said he also needed to speak with Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee. Rudd told him Dundee would be sitting next to Ali when he arrived at the Hilton.

“They know you’re coming.”

“When I got to the hotel and opened the door, there was Ali and Angelo Dundee, and they were by themselves.”

Samuels said he learned from that experience that boxers and trainers are never too busy to do interviews. When they’re doing interviews, they’re not training.

“Players always talk,” said the affable Samuels, 72. “So I took that (knowledge) when I became a PR person here.”

When Tyson Fury arrived in Las Vegas for his heavyweight tuneup fight against Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand, Samuels called to say that Fury wanted to talk to me — PR ploy, I thought.

No, Samuels said. He wants to talk to you. One-on-one.

When I arrived for the interview, it was more like 4-on-1. There were TV cameras, too.

Now you know why Lee Samuels is going into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

No laughing matter

There was a chance the talk around the office water cooler was about the Aviators on Friday morning after the home side was beaten 26-11 by Round Rock in front of another announced sellout crowd at Las Vegas Ballpark on Thursday night.

After six innings, the Express led 6-3.

When Las Vegas relief pitcher Norge Ruiz couldn’t get anybody out during a seventh inning in which the visitors scored 13 times, the basepaths turned into the Penn Relays. Both teams used position players to pitch during the final two innings, and everybody had a good laugh.

But one of these days, a position player lobbing the ball up to home plate is going to take a line drive with serious exit velocity and launch angle right in the kisser. And perhaps then 26-11 baseball games might not seem quite as humorous.

Consolation prize

It’s no disgrace losing to the best.

After being beaten twice by Central Arizona in the Western District Tournament, the College of Southern Nevada baseball team can take solace in that it took a pretty good team to end its season. Central went on to win the Junior College World Series, defeating Iowa Western 13-8 in the championship game.

CSN, which ended the season 46-12 and ranked No. 5 nationally, lost 5-4 to Central Arizona during the opening weekend of the season.

Gragson mum

NASCAR racer Noah Gragson politely declined an interview request after his father, Scott, crashed his SUV in a Summerlin neighborhood May 31, killing a woman and injuring three others who were riding in the vehicle.

“No comment at this time. Hope you can understand,” texted the 20-year-old who drives for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Xfinity Series and is thought to be on the fast track to a Cup Series ride.

His sponsor is Switch, the Las Vegas data center in which Scott Gragson is a major stockholder.

0:01

Kyle Busch has been known to scarf down chili dogs before races, so fellow NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer — using The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck as an intermediary — asked the Las Vegas racer what would happen if he was leading the Daytona 500 with 10 laps to go and everything came bubbling to the surface:

“I go to Victory Lane,” Busch said. “That’s the only box (Daytona win) I need to check, man. I’m going to Victory Lane, (expletive)-stained or not.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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