They grew up in surrounding Miami neighborhoods. Boxing became their outlet to counter the lure of the streets that targets young adults.
Juan Arroyo and Lamar Murphy may not have won all the battles against the personal demons they encountered in their lives but they have earned special distinction thanks to the body of work built during their respective boxing careers.
On June 23, Arroyo and Murphy head a noticeable list of retired South Florida fighters with their inductions into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame in Tampa.
“When I got word from the Hall of Fame, I felt excitement,” said Arroyo, 54. “It is an honor I can now share with my twin grandkids.”
After a successful amateur career, Arroyo, who was raised in Allapattah, turned professional in 1981 and built an unbeaten record through 20 fights over a two-year period. In an era when fighters fought a busier pace, Arroyo won the Florida lightweight title and became a popular headliner at War Memorial Auditorium and Miami Jai Alai Fronton.
“I was a cocky young man and that helped me in my fighting career but it also got me in trouble,” Arroyo said. “Obviously, you think of how better my career might have been had I not become addicted to drugs.”
Arroyo now works as a personal trainer. His last bout in 2008 capped a five-fight winning streak for a career-ending record of 37-5-4 with 16 knockouts. He credits his mom, Eva, promoter Walter Alvarez and historian Hank Kaplan as influential people who helped him in the lowest moments of his life.
“Yes, I suffered but my past is just that now – the past,” Arroyo said. “Look at how beautiful life is now and it wouldn’t be without God’s guidance. Everything leans to him.”
Murphy’s amateur background was highlighted by one of the sport’s top accomplishments. In 1990, fighting blocks from his Overtown home, Murphy won the 132-pound division of the National Golden Gloves championship at Miami Arena.
Like Arroyo, Murphy compiled an extended unbeaten record after he turned professional in 1991. The impressive amateur pedigree and an 18-0 professional record helped Murphy land a world title fight against lightweight champion Miguel Angel Gonzalez in 1995.
Although many fight experts and fans believed Murphy won the bout, Gonzalez retained his title with a disputed majority decision. The following year, Murphy earned another title fight but lost a unanimous decision against Jean Baptiste Mendy.
Murphy, 46, last fought in 2006 and finished his professional career with a 29-11-1 record and 20 knockouts.
“Lamar Murphy is the most talented fighter I’ve ever worked with,” said Tommy Torino, president of boxing for Gerritts Boxing, which promoted Murphy early in his career. “This kid had radar in his mind that when you started thinking of throwing punches he already had the defensive maneuver. He was a great counter puncher with extremely fast hands.”
In addition to Arroyo and Murphy, the 2019 Hall of Fame class features other fighters with South Florida ties. Jimmy Navarro, a bantamweight contender in the late 1980s and Eromoseme Albert, who challenged for a middleweight belt in 2011, also will be part of the new class.
A two-time Olympian representing his native Nigeria, Albert moved to Miami in 2002 and eventually ascended in the middleweight rankings. After his unsuccessful title bid against Daniel Geale in Geale’s native Australia, Albert retired in 2012 with a record of 24-6-1 and 12 knockouts.
“One of the things that set Albert apart was his willingness to fight in opponents’ hometowns or countries,” said Richard Dobal, who promoted Albert during the final three years of his career. “Something else that made Albert stand out was that he was a punching machine, never ending stamina. He was the ultimate busy fighter, always in the gym and in tremendous shape.”
Other members of the local boxing community who comprise this year’s class are trainer and matchmaker Chico Rivas and trainer Nelson Lopez.
The induction ceremony will culminate three days of Hall of Fame-related events at the Westshore Grand Hotel in Tampa. For information, visit the event website at www.floridaboxinghalloffame.com.
Saturday (10 p.m., ESPN+): Tyson Fury vs. Tom Scharwz, 12, heavyweights.