May 6—INDIANAPOLIS — It's evident when you talk to Craig Houk about boxing how much he loves it. The passion, the excitement and the joy are undeniable, especially when he's telling stories about his glory days, like how he once had a bout in St. Paul instead of Greensburg just so the promoters could sell beer.
"Boxing has been my identification all my life," Houk, 56, said.
It should come as no surprise Houk found a way to stay connected to the sport after his days in the ring were over.
The Greensburg native started the Indiana Boxing Hall of Fame in 2018, and the fourth class is set to be inducted this month.
A banquet will take place Friday, May 21 at the Holiday Inn Carmel. The next day will feature a meet and greet, an autograph session and the induction ceremony.
Both days are open to the public and tickets are available for purchase at indianaboxinghof.com.
Houk dubbed it "World Championship Weekend" because so many world champions will be in attendance.
Here are the 2021 HOF inductees, along with their title achievements:
—Michael "Second to" Nunn; held the IBF middleweight title from 1988-91 and the WBA super middleweight title from 1992-94
—Donny "Golden Boy" Lalonde; WBC Light heavyweight champ from 1987-88
—Randall "The Knock-Out King" Bailey; held the WBO light welterweight title from 1999-2000 and the IBF welterweight title in 2012
—Tony "TNT" Tubbs; held the WBA heavyweight title from 1985-86
—Montell "Ice" Griffin; held the WBC light heavyweight title in 1997
—David "Dangerous" Diaz; held the WBC lightweight title from 2007-08
—"Sugar" Ray Seales; won a gold medal in the 1972 Olympics and former NABF and USBA middleweight champion
A lifetime achievement award will be presented to Bill and Connie Paige. Dennis Hardesty will be given the hero award.
Michael Spinks will be a celebrity guest, and other former champions might be in attendance.
'Bringing in greatness'
Houk started the Indiana HOF as a way to recognize Marvin Johnson, an Indianapolis native who won a bronze medal at the '72 Olympics.
"Marvin Johnson was a three-time world champion ... we're talking about greatness," Houk said. "That's what we've brought to the Indiana Boxing Hall of Fame — bringing in greatness. That's been the key."
Houk and Johnson's relationship dates back to when Houk was struggling to get his career off the ground. He was working at KB Foods, making $5.35 an hour. He tried training in Columbus, but the owner of the gym kicked him out, saying Houk was a professional. So he drove his '72 Nova to Indianapolis, where he met and started training with Johnson.
Inducting boxers into the Indiana HOF serves multiple purposes to Houk. It gives the boxers an opportunity to relive their glory days, whether through social media and podcasts leading up to the event, or talking to fans. And giving them this recognition, sometimes 20-30 years after retiring from boxing, is a joy for Houk.
"Me inducting people, it gives them a lift up," he said. "I enjoy that. That's the best."
Houk visits other boxing halls of fame, where he makes connections and hangs out with other former boxers. He almost always will be wearing a black and red T-shirt featuring a logo of the state of Indiana and the Hall of Fame across his chest. Game Plan Graphics in Greensburg makes the shirts.
The Indiana Boxing HOF features a museum, but Houk is in the process of relocating it to Vevay. Because he's gathered so much memorabilia, the office space at 120 Market St. is no longer adequate. The location in Vevay is bigger and has a boxing gym attached to it.
Houk will likely be inducted into the HOF in the not too distant future. Until that day arrives, he's enjoying inducting world champions and building the nonprofit organization to reach "uncharted territory."
"I think to get to where you want to go you have to be blessings in people's lives," Houk said.
Andy Scheidler may be contacted at 812-663-3111 ext. 217401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.