Martial arts will get the red carpet treatment at an upcoming event, billed as the “Academy Awards” for the sport.
The 2008 Aaron Banks Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden is a gathering of top martial arts talent from across the globe, culled by Banks himself.
Honorees at this year’s Jan. 18 event include Jackie Frazier Lyde, the ex-boxer and daughter of boxing heavyweight Joe Frazier; Paul Mormando, Brooklyn’s ‘Mr. Karate U.S.A.’; Jackie Tanawanda, the pioneering female boxing icon; Gary Alexander, a pioneer of karate tournaments; Rico Guy, a “supreme grandmaster”; and Rico Mercado, the world champion breaker who is without equal, according to Banks, a great grandmaster and master promoter.
“Many of these names are legend, and many will become legend,” Banks said.
The show will feature demonstrations by renowned martial artists like Brooklyn-born Maurice Elmalem, a master breaker; Kickboxing legend Louis Neglia; and Tony Loupakis, a Grecian ‘god’ in the world of martial arts stunts. Also slated to appear is Dennis “Sup – short for super” Burgess, a master breaker who makes mincemeat out of planks of wood and sheets of glass.
Back in 1968, Banks said he held his first hall of fame event at the Waldorf Astoria.
For years, Banks has showcased the varied martial arts disciplines, as well as incredible displays of strength and agility in the form of live entertainment. He hosted his 374th tournament last March.
The hall of fame is sponsored by the World Professional Martial Arts Organization, which Banks founded. The event is a culmination of his love and respect for the sport, he said.
“It is the first hall of fame in the history of martial arts,” Banks noted.
Now 80 years old, Banks credits himself with being the spark behind reality television, introducing the world to talent like Ralf Bialla–a brave fellow who caught bullets with teeth.
His shows have been held in esteemed venues like the Garden and Radio City Music Hall. He’s also dabbled in movies, appearing in films with Bruce Lee, Richard Roundtree, Roddy McDowall and Adolph Caesar in the 1970s.
One memorable moment came years ago, when making an appearance on the Mike Douglas Show. While demonstrating a move, Banks took down Roger Moore, the actor who played James Bond. Moore was none too pleased, Banks recalled.
“He said, ‘Now I have to take you down, you know, because of my image,’” Banks said. “I said, ‘Ok, no problem.’” And then 007 returned the favor.
Aaron Banks 2008 Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden will be held on Sunday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. The event will be held at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, 7th Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets. Tickets are $99 each. For more information, call 718-271-7997.