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Sparkle Lee to Become First Referee in IWBHF
by Bernie McCoy - IWBHF Press Release

PORTLAND, OR - (May 14, 2015) Both the first class of the International Women's Boxing Hall of Fame and the eight women who will be inducted on July 11, are heavily skewed toward a veritable "Who's Who" of female boxers from both the "modern" and "pioneer" eras of the sport. Sparkle Lee, who will be inducted with the second class on July 11 in Fort Lauderdale, FL., is the first referee to be so honored. And to know the story of Sparkle Lee is to know just how fitting and appropriate honoring her with this induction is.

"I actually started as a professional wrestling fan and then gravitated to boxing after I reached my limit of 'heroes and villains'. I eventually wound up spending a lot of time in Gleasons Gym, which, at the time was located near the Garden in New York City. Refereeing peaked my interest as a way to get involved in boxing and following a lengthy training program, I was assigned to work amateur bouts. This was 1983." That's Sparkle Lee describing the start of her somewhat circuitous path to the boxing ring. "At the time," she continues, "it was a struggle getting work, particularly for a female, a rarity even then at the amateur level. And believe me, 'struggle' is an understatement. (a movie treatment of the story would have the struggling Sparkle Lee suddenly being discovered, maybe working in a small fight club in the Bronx. But this story was real life; no dramatic background music, no benevolent boxing benefactor offering to help, "Sparkle, you're going to get a shot at the pros." But Sparkle Lee knew from real life; for twenty years she proudly served as a member of the New York City police department).

"I worked over twelve years in the amateurs until, in May,1995, Randy Gordon, then the New York State boxing commissioner, offered me an opportunity to step up to the professional ranks. I still have, somewhere, the receipt that I paid for my temporary license. It was $75. Two days later Randy was out of his job and I was out of a opportunity to move up to the pros. But when one door closes, sometimes another opens. Shortly thereafter, I was given the opportunity to be the first female referee to work the NY Daily News Golden Glove tournament, which was awesome." It was six more years in the amateur rings before the "powers that be", in New York boxing, saw what Randy Gordon had seen earlier; Sparkle Lee was ready for the professional ring. In 2001, Lee's ring skills earned her an appointment as the first female licensed to referee professionals bout in New York state. Six years later, in 2007, former referee Larry Hazzard, now New Jersey boxing commissioner, picked Lee as the first female to work professional bouts in the Garden State.

Lee has officiated many female bouts and is both enthusiastic and confident about the future of the sport of Women's boxing. "I can't count how many (fight) cards I've worked when, at the end of the night, the consensus is that the 'best fight' was the female bout. The talent level of women boxers has continued to improve and I, for one, would like to see them fight three minute rounds. Women constantly do this while training in gyms, where the timers are set on three minute intervals. And, believe me, it's not a question of stamina, these are well conditioned athletes; the Olympics, in which the only US gold medal came home around the neck of a female fighter proved that. I think the future is bright for women in the boxing ring. All they need is a fair opportunity."

In response to her upcoming induction into the International Women's Boxing Hall of Fame, Lee, a deeply religious woman, attributed it, first and foremost, to "God's plan" which she considers the paramount factor in her life. She also admits to surprise when she heard the news, a "Wow!" moment that she sought to confirm with Sue Fox, founder and driving force behind the IWBHF. "I'm humbled and grateful for this honor, especially since I'm going to be able to share it with my children and grandchildren."

Surprise at Sparkle Lee's induction will be absent among the boxing fans who have seen her take charge in a ring. Surprise will not be a factor among those in the boxing community who have watched her develop into one of the most respected referees in the NYSAC lineup. The ancient boxing adage has it that the best referees become "invisible" in the ring when doing their job well. Invisibility is markedly more difficult when you're the first female referee in a boxing hotbed such as New York City. But Sparkle Lee often manages to achieve that state of competence. She has grown into an accomplished a referee; not an accomplished female referee, an accomplished referee. However, on July 11, in Fort Lauderdale, FL., Sparkle Lee won't be invisible. She'll be easy for all to see, shining brightly, as she is, fittingly, inducted into the International Women's Boxing Hall of Fame. It will be another first for Sparkle Lee, and, like her elevation as the first female referee in New York and New Jersey, a well deserved honor.

Lee will join "modern era" boxers Laila Ali, Jeannine Garside, Laura Serrano, Ann Wolfe, Deirdre Gogarty and Terri Moss. In addition, a posthumous award will be made to Phyllis Kugler, a pioneer fighter in the 1950s. The ceremony will take place in the Crystal Ballroom of the Pier Sixty-Six Hyatt Regency in Fort Lauderdale, FL. (3:00-6:30 PM) on Saturday, July 11 and will be held in conjunction with the National Golden Gloves Tournament.

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More to look forward  on July 11th at the 2015 Induction Ceremony!

The July 11 ceremony will mark the initiation of the "IWBHF Lifetime Achievement Award" to be presented, annually, to a selected member of the boxing community whose career has been distinguished by longstanding contributions to the sport of boxing and, specifically, support of Women's boxing. The initial recipient is Jose Sulaiman (posthumous), longtime president of the World Boxing Council (WBC) who passed away in 2014. It has been confirmed that representatives of the WBC will be present in Fort Lauderdale to accept the award. 
Full Press Release

Schedule of Event

2:15 - 4:00 p.m.: Meet and Greet (with a Cash Bar) including the photograph and autograph session with inductees / celebrities present. We will have available for purchase IWBHF Official posters, IWBHF Official programs, 2015 IWBHF T-shirts, Everlast Gloves for autograph purposes.

4:00 - 6:30 p.m.: IWBHF Induction Ceremony. There will be a plated dinner for guests. The event will be world-wide live webcasted, with host Jake Gutierrez of Las Vegas, Nevada, who has appeared on appearing on HBO, Showtime, ESPN, BBC, TSN, Telemundo, Univision, and various Pay Per View and Satellite Networks.

7:00 p.m.: The Finals of the Women's National Golden Gloves 2015 - Guests will see many of our top rated USA amateur female boxers fighting in the finals at this time.

For special Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel rates, go here: https://aws.passkey.com/event/11917349/owner/4921/home  

Hyatt Regency Parking:
$10 overnight self, $15.00 overnight valet. Day self parking is $3.00 for the first hour and $1.00 for each additional hour.


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