International Boxing Hall-of-Fame Diary: Day One

Day One

The International Boxing Hall of Fame was hoping for a nice ‘normal’ year.

But with the wildfires in Montreal jeopardising the air quality in Upstate New York, this year’s induction is anything but.

“It’s a little different kind of a year,” admitted Hall of Fame president Ed Brophy.

The Hall of Fame enjoyed a trilogy weekend last year, when three classes were inducted at the same time after two years were missed because of the pandemic. The last “regular” weekend was 2018.

Things were supposed to go back to normal but Brophy and his team have had to think on their feet and the scheduled events on the Hall of Fame grounds were moved to the Turning Stone Casino about seven miles away. Those grounds, filled with nostalgia, were sadly bleak and barren early on but more and more fans found their way to the Casino. 

For a few hardcore attendees, including England’s Glenn Wilson and Compubox’s Lee Groves, Wednesday is the start of the IBHOF induction weekend but Thursday is the official start.

It didn’t take long upon arrival in the Turning Stone to start seeing fight people. I caught up with former light-heavyweight title challenger John Scully and we spoke in detail about the upcoming clash between Artur Beterbiev and Callum Smith, because Scully has long been a Beterbiev camp insider, and as I queued for coffee I started chatting to Lucia Rijker, whom I interviewed two decades ago in camp in the Poconos when she was sparring Hector Camacho Jr and part of the Lennox Lewis camp as the heavyweight great prepared for his last fight, which at the time was supposed to be against Kirk Johnson but would wind up being against Vitali Klitschko.

Frustratingly, the weigh-ins for Friday’s ShoBox fights some two doors down in the Turning Stone Casino were scheduled for the same time as the first ringside lecture, which featured the always inspirational Ann Wolf.

Wolf discussed how she found boxing when she was a homeless mother of two after her parents had died because no other sports would allow her to take her children to practise. The boxing gym welcomed them while she worked out and, able to dunk a basketball at the age of 15, she could allow her natural athleticism to get to work. After only three amateur fights, she was off to the races as a professional and future Hall of Famer.

“I had power,” she said. “It was different. I know one thing, I had man power. Some women have men power, some don’t.”

Wolf also talked about how hard it was for her to get respect or, more accurately, why it was not, in what was a male dominated sport. 

“I’ve never been disrespected in the sport, they all respected me, because I could kick half their asses.”

There were ringside talks with Chiquita Gonzalez and 2023 inductee Rafael Marquez. They were asked to list their top three Mexican fighters, and Marquez chose Salvador Sanchez, Julio Cesar Chavez and Juan Manuel Marquez while Gonzalez chose Carlos Zarate, Pipino Cuevas and Ruben Olivares.

Numerous fighters and guests have faced delays getting to the induction weekend because of the wildfires, but there were plenty on hand for the official opening ceremony and those on stage included Timothy Bradley, Ray Mercer, Junior Jones, Roberto Duran, Brad Goodman, Rijker, Alicia Ashley, Tim Ryan and, moments later Sebastian and Gabriela Fundora.  

Ryan congratulated Bradley on his skills as a broadcaster for ESPN, saying he was “almost” as good as the late Gil Clancy, Ryan’s old broadcast colleague, while former light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion Michael Spinks said blankly, “I’m glad to be amongst you all and I think that’s all I have to say.”

Inductees who passed away over the last 12 months were given an applause, including Bobby Goodman, Jerry Roth, Steve Smoger, Mills Lane, Eder Jofre and Ken Buchanan but, with Duran’s birthday only eight days away, Brophy led a premature rendition of Happy Birthday for one of the all-time greats.

Duran, obviously, lapped it up.