GLENDALE — The Tekeyan Cultural Association Metro Los Angeles Chapter hosted a program titled “Vladimir Yengibaryan: Gold Medal Winning Armenian Boxing Legend” on January 25, at the Glendale Central Library. Avetis Bairamian, sports editor of Nor Or Weekly and author of Armenian language publications, Famous Armenians in the World of Sports and Armenian Sports Encyclopedia, served as the keynote speaker and presented the fascinating life of Vladimir Yengibaryan.
Mihran Toumajan served as the program’s master of ceremonies and explained that one of the goals of the program was to continue a campaign for Yengibaryan to become an eligible candidate for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. Yengibaryan’s eligibility would become possible upon the establishment of an “Amateur Section” at the Hall of Fame. Toumajan also made specific references to Armenian Americans throughout the 20th century who made notable contributions to boxing in the United States, including Lud Shabazian of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, who was a boxing writer and cartoonist. Shabazian was also one of many who participated in the organizational work which led to the building of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York.
Toumajan also highlighted the work of Ed Derian, a prominent boxing ring announcer and member of the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame. Also referenced were two Armenian Americans from Massachusetts, including Dr. Nishan Kechejian of Brockton, the personal physician for Hall of Fame middleweight boxing champion Marvin Hagler, and Haroutune “Harry” Bilazarian of Boylston, a successful boxer in the late 1940s, who happened to be defeated by legendary boxing champion Rocky Marciano in Providence, RI in 1948.
Following Toumajan’s opening remarks, Varazdat Pahlavuni, counselor of the Consulate General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, addressed the audience on behalf of the Consulate. In his remarks, Pahlavuni emphasized that Vladimir Yengibaryan was synonymous with “greatness,” in light of his gold medal winning performance at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia in 1956, which elated Armenians around the world. Pahlavuni concluded his remarks by praising Yengibaryan’s service to the Armenian nation, not only as an athlete, but also as a coach.
Upon the completion of Pahlavuni’s remarks, Toumajan read the biography of keynote speaker Bairamian, and invited him to the podium. Bairamian mentioned that Yengibaryan was born in Yerevan in 1932 and made special note of the significance of his birthday being on April 24. Bairamian spoke of Yengibaryan’s prolific career, having retired with a record of 255 wins and 12 losses. Yengibaryan was a three-time European champion (1953, 1957 and 1959) and three-time Soviet champion (1955, 1956 and 1958). Bairamian listed many of Yengibaryan’s noteworthy accomplishments, including his earning of a gold medal for the U.S.S.R. in the light welterweight (-63.5 kg) category at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. Yengibaryan, considered the most prominent Soviet boxer of the 1950s, was the first Soviet boxer to become a European champion. After his retirement, Yengibaryan served as an international boxing referee and judge. Bairamian stressed in his presentation that Yengibaryan was the second gold medalist from Soviet Armenia after Hrant Shahinyan won two gold medals four years earlier in gymnastics at the Summer Olympics in Helsinki in 1952. Bairamian praised Yengibaryan for being a great patriot and national hero of the Armenian people. Bairamian also emphasized the importance of Yengibaryan as a prominent boxing coach, who developed and trained several generations of Armenian youth in the sport of boxing until his death on February 1, 2013 in Los Angeles.
Upon the completion of Bairamian’s speech, Toumajan expressed the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s gratitude to Artur “the White Bear” Aleksanyan of Gyumri, seated in the front row, for his attendance at the presentation in posthumous honor of Vladimir Yengibaryan. Aleksanyan won a gold medal in the sport of Greco-Roman Wrestling for the Republic of Armenia at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Toumajan recounted the significance for Armenians throughout the globe, when, during the medal ceremony, the humble and patriotic Aleksanyan wore a t-shirt with the image of hero Robert Abajyan, a junior sergeant who, along with over 100 fellow Armenian soldiers, sacrificed his life for the defense of Artsakh during the April 2016 Four-Day War initiated by Azerbaijan.