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Fall 2002 l Capital University Journal
KO'd - but not forgotton

Photo of Terry Smith and Jim FloodIn its brief but storied history, Sac State boxing was a big hit with fans and fighters alike. The team flourished in the late 1950s, quickly producing a pair of national champions and several Pacific Coast Champions.

Those early champions were honored with their own Hall of Fame last spring, which was announced at a special CSUS Alumni Association event.
Boxing at what was then Sacramento State College went from club sport to team sport in 1956, holding its first home card in Hornet Gym that February. It soon became a campus favorite.

“It was a sellout every time,” says Norm Tavalero, a member of the team from 1958-60 and the driving force behind the Hall of Fame. “We were very well-liked in Sacramento, but we were not liked at places we went. We were booed in Wisconsin. We were booed in Nevada.”

Photo of The 1958-59 Sacramento State College boxing teamBy 1957, the Hornets were ranked number three in the nation and that year Jim Flood won his first national championship. Flood won championship honors again in 1958 when Sac State was co-host of the NCAA championship tournament at Memorial Auditorium. And boxing fever continued to sweep the campus.

A November 1959 story in the student newspaper, the State Hornet, says, “Boxing at SSC is probably the most popular of all campus sports, and rightly so. For SSC has a reputation for coming up with some of the finest collegiate ring material in the nation.”

In 1959, Terry Smith became the second Hornet to win a national championship. Throughout the team’s run, several other Hornet boxers earned All America honors, placed near or at the top in Pacific Coast and NCAA tournaments and took home conference titles.

But despite the sport’s success both athletically and with the fans, concerns were surfacing nationwide about boxing safety. In May 1960 a committee of faculty and staff recommended to then-president Guy West that Sac State discontinue boxing as an intercollegiate sport. The following January, the NCAA voted to discontinue the sport and abolished the National Collegiate Boxing Championships.

Photo of Larry Lewis and Coach Hank ElespuruThough their tenure was short-lived, the team has not been forgotten. For the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, a contingent of more than 250 devotees jammed the Steven Lee Yamshon Alumni Center to pay tribute and share memories.

Tavelero saw the event as a way to recognize the accomplishments of a group that might otherwise be forgotten.

A committee, led by Tavalero and teammates Bob Bell and Frank Reynoso, determined the criteria for being inducted. The inductees were: Dan Di Re, Bob Ericson, James Flood, Joe Jimenez Jr., Frank Reynoso, Bernie Roberts, Terry Smith, Bill Snelson, Norm Tavalero, George Waggoner and coach Hank Elespuru. All had won an NCAA championship or Pacific Coast championship.

Each year’s team was also inducted as a group. And all boxing team members for the five years the team was in place received awards. The teams were also honored at the department of intercollegiate athletics’ Images of Excellence awards ceremony the following night.

The boxing team will live on as well with a scholarship created with the proceeds from the Hall of Fame event. The award, in the name of Coach Elespuru, will go to a student-athlete in any sport. Information about making a donation to the Hank Elespuru scholarship is available by contacting the alumni association at (916) 278-6295.

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