Alongside a class of 12 Hall of Fame inductees, three young writers were announced as winners of the first Muhammad Ali-Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest at the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame banquet on Nov. 8.
Jerseyite Joseph Rinaldi, a recent grad of Cornell, won the top slot; Chance Solem-Pfeifer, also from N.J., is a student at the University of Nebraska; and Staten Island's Nafisa Umarova, a Golden Glover, took third.
In his essay, Solem-Pfeifer reflected about the heroic role champions play for their communities: “There’s a magic to the boxing champion. When we talk about fighters who capture the public imagination, we’re appealing to the idea that one man’s struggle in a boxing ring for 36 minutes is a community’s struggle for recognition: to push out of society’s margins, to push out of poverty, to push out of discrimination. Whether the champion should elect it or not, when the gloves are laced up, he is a symbol.”
The essays were evaluated by writer and professor Gordon Marino, me, fighter Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis, Professor Anna Brown, and writer Ryan Maquiñana. The awards were sponsored by the WBO, IBF, WBA, IBO, the N.J. Association of USA Boxing, N.J. Boxing Hall of Fame Committee, Gleason’s Gym and Global Boxing. The winning essays are posted on Sartonk's website: www.sartonk.com.