Local boxing legend Tracy Harris Patterson has been named to the Alabama Boxing Hall of Fame’s (ABHF) Class of 2021 in the Pro Boxer category. Patterson was adopted by former world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson and moved to New Paltz, where he trained as a boxer and became a two-time world champion himself.
Patterson, who still lives in the New Paltz area, said he was honored to be inducted into the ABHF, especially as he still has family in Alabama. “It means a great deal,” he said. “A lot of my family is still there. My mom, it’s nice to see that she’ll get a chance to see her son get inducted. She let me stay in New York when she moved back to Alabama the last time around. It’s rewarding to her as well as me. She’s seen me win two world championships, but this really caps it off.”
Patterson had a 16-year boxing career, amassing a 63-8-2 record with 43 knockouts. He won the WBC (World Boxing Council) super bantamweight title with a two-round technical knockout of Thierry Jacob in 1992. He held the title for two years.
In 1995, Patterson won the IBF (International Boxing Federation) super featherweight title against Eddie Hopson in a second-round TKO in which Hopson had four knockdowns recorded against him. Patterson retired from boxing in 2001.
Patterson was born in Grady, Alabama, a small community roughly 30 miles south of the state capital, Montgomery. Patterson will be just the fifth fighter to be inducted in the ABHF’s Pro Boxer category, following Joe Louis, Evander Holyfield, Earnie Shavers and Frankie Randall. Also in the Class of 2021 are Sgt. Sammy Baker (old-timer), Jerry Tillman (manager-trainer-promoter) and Larry Bright (support personnel).
According to spokesman Jay Deas, the ABHF started six years ago by pitching an idea for a Hall of Fame to the Alabama Athletic Commission, with the induction ceremony taking place during a fight card. After reviewing the criteria of other state and national boxing Halls of Fame, the ABHF created its own set of rules, which include one annual inductee per category. In the Pro Boxer category, a list of between 70 to 80 candidates are first whittled down to 15, and then further reduced to six finalists before an inductee was selected. Judges are not allowed to discuss their process or votes with one another.
Boxers are eligible to be inducted into the ABHF only after retirement, and only if they qualify based upon three criteria: They were born in Alabama, or they were born elsewhere but made their mark in the boxing world in Alabama, or both. Deontay Wilder, who held the WBC heavyweight title from 2015 to February 2020, is likely to be inducted in his first year of eligibility, both for his successes in the ring and his birth in Alabama, where he remained during his professional career. Deas, who trains and co-manages Wilder, said the live induction ceremonies at the Tuscaloosa River Market, with inductions staggered between fights, are popular with fans and previous ABHF inductees alike.
“The reason we did that was because we noticed in Georgia they did all the inductions first and then the fights, and what happened was people that came for the inductions would leave after the induction,” Deas said. “So they switched it around and they did the fights, then the inductions, and the people that were there for the fights left. I asked the guy, ‘Why didn’t you just go back and forth?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea.’”
The 2020 event only included a socially distanced induction ceremony, as the Alabama Athletic Commission pandemic requirements for testing within two days of all fighters, officials, judges, ring announcers, corner men and others was deemed too difficult to manage. Deas added that there was no realistic alternative if a fighter on the card tested positive for Covid-19.
The 2021 ceremony has yet to be set, but Deas is hoping that by pushing it deeper into the year there’s a better chance of a return to normalcy. “We’re hopeful that things will be relaxed and opened up in 2021, and that we can kind of do our normal boxing show,” he said.
Deas hopes Patterson’s induction into the ABHF, alongside with his joining the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014, will help open the doors for the New Paltz fighter elsewhere.
“We can be that stepping stone of recognition, and I think that that is exactly what will happen with Tracy Harris Patterson,” Deas said. “I think he was so good and so consistent, so technically proficient and also exciting. But by the same token, he’s not a guy that’s out there shouting his name and doing 500 interviews …. He’s a more of a quiet, reserved guy, and sometimes that can work against you ….Tracy Harris Patterson had a phenomenal career, and I think this [induction] will open a lot of people’s eyes, and I think his induction into other halls of fame will follow very, very shortly after this one.”
Entering its fifth year, the ABHF is currently a ceremony and not a physical Hall of Fame. Deas said he hoped that will change by 2026, perhaps with a display of plaques and boxing history at a recreational center in Tuscaloosa. “No charge or anything, people could just to walk in and be able to see a plaque and a bio on the guys that have been inducted,” Deas said. “That would be a really a really neat thing.”
Patterson said he was honored to be a member of the ABHF Class of 2021. “You look back at how much time you put into it and it’s rewarding that way, knowing the hard work over the years to capture two world championships and then get into a Hall of Fame,” he said. “It’s special stuff, and it’s a great honor.”
Patterson added that the family connection makes this honor particularly meaningful. “I go to Alabama every year to visit my family,” he said. “I’ve got brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. It’s great for them to see. A lot of my family down there have never even seen me put on a pair of boxing gloves. When I was inducted into the New York [State Boxing] Hall of Fame I didn’t shed one tear. It’s not that I wasn’t happy about it, I was. But just being that it’s my home, where I come from, Alabama, it’s even more special.”