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Tommy Salem

Induction Year: 2004 Sport: Boxing

At age 17, he had an athletic scholarship to Michigan State and an art scholarship to the Cleveland Institute of Art in his pocket and was well along the path in his studies to become a concert violinist. The choice was obvious to the youngster from Bolivar Rd. in downtown Cleveland. With an amazing 126 bouts already under his belt as an amateur in the flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight divisions, he elected to become a professional boxer. By the time he turned 18 he was fighting some of the world’s best featherweights and had been featured as the world’s “Featherweight of the Month” by the National Boxing Association. Boxing in elimination bouts to become the next contender to face Sandy Saddler for the featherweight title, he ended up Auburn Copeland’s undefeated string of 26 wins, to set up a match with Charley Riley, ranked No.3 in the world. Now 19, he lost a split decision which prevented him from moving up in the rankings behind Saddler and Willie Pep. A draft call for the Korean War put his career on hold from 1951-53, after which he resumed competing in elimination bouts, as a lightweight until he retired in 1958 with a record of 40 wins, including 11 knockouts, and eight losses. Two of those losses were disputed split decisions in New York City to highly rated Johnny Busso and future lightweight champion Carlos Ortiz. Ortiz, later quoted as saying his fight with the Cleveland contender was the toughest of his career. After putting away his gloves he attended college and pursued a career in advertising and sales. He and his wife, Dorothy, a college professor, make their home in Independence.