International Boxing Hall-of-Fame diary: Day Two

It’s not been the same this year, but the International Boxing Hall of Fame spirit has carried itself to the Turning Stone Casino about seven miles away.

But tomorrow everything returns ‘normal’ as it’s considered that the air quality is now clear enough for outdoor events to take place. The Canadian wildfires wreaked havoc with the schedule, but organisers have thought on their feet. They’ve had to.

A scheduled ringside lecture with Joe Goossen saw Robert Garcia replace him at short notice, and then Garcia joined ProBox TV News’s Kieran Mulvaney for an exclusive interview.

Carl Froch – and his trainer Robert McCracken is here with him – came to town, too. The International Boxing Hall of Famer has been signing countless autographs but, like fellow inductee Timothy Bradley, he has still not been to the Hall of Fame grounds to take everything in. They haven’t seen their plaques or their names alongside the legends they will be immortalised alongside after Sunday’s ceremony.

Bradley, actually, who said he set out on his boxing journey to become a Hall of Famer – and you can trace that back in old interviews – said he’d declined offers from Canastota to visit before because he wanted his first time to be magical, when he was inducted. And he’s lapping it up.

With regards to Froch, let’s not forget he faced the possibility of travel disruption owing to the billowing plumes of smoke from Montreal, when it was the infamous ash cloud that delayed his preparations and travel for the first Mikkel Kessler fight! 

Anyway, you obviously can’t criticise the Hall of Fame for the Canadian fires, but you could be excused for thinking the Turning Stone has a comparatively sterile atmosphere by comparison to the nostalgia and charm on offer at the museum grounds. In some ways, it’s been like a fight week in Vegas, where reporters – and there aren’t many here – are entrenched in the bowels of a casino for ridiculously long hours to be on hand if anything happens or if there is a chance to talk to interview someone.

One thing you can spot here is boxing people. In one person’s words, some fans look like they might have stumbled in from a Star Trek convention. I’m not entirely disagreeable to that, but I have two brackets of what I see, those who don’t give a f*** how they look and those who care too much. They are either just out of bed, or they think they have 5m fans to please on Instagram. There’s not a great deal in between. What they have in common is they are here because of a passion for the sport and a respect for the fighters and the history of boxing. And before anyone can say anything, I’d be accused of falling into the former category of the two.

The fist casting is always a popular part of the weekend. Fighters and Hall of Famers have their fist covered in some kind of dental, menthol substance to shape it and it will later be covered in copper and then painted with gold.

Anyway, aside from Andrew Golota reluctantly shaking my hand while looking like he would rather be putting his hand through my face, I didn’t catch up with many fighters today, certainly not socially, but Mulvaney and I bagged some quality interviews with Lucia Rijker, Bradley, Froch and Michael Nunn.

Rijker was fascinating and talked about he she needed to fight to release her inner-beast, something she trains people to do today. Rijker was inducted last year but could not make it because of the fallout of the pandemic and she was nursing some injuries. She’s incredibly softly-spoken, charming and engaging.

Bradley was great. He and Mulvaney went at it for more than 20 minutes, and Bradley talked about his top five opponents (surprisingly, Juan Manuel Marquez did not make the list), his induction and what motivated him when the going got tough in hard fights.

Froch, who among other things discussed how Andre Ward fights would force a glass eye to sleep, was in sparkling form and explained why he felt the first fight with George Groves, which saw him climb off the deck to earn a controversial win, meant more to him than his historic one punch kayo of the same opponent in their rematch. 

Nunn was satisfied with his career, despite not landing the superfights he craved with Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns (not Hagler, because they were friends) and Brits Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn. I pressed him for details about life in prison, where he spent more than two decades, but he talked only about how it served to stiffen his resolve in life and how it’s made him stronger. 

After the interview, Nunn made some off-the-record comments about prison that I said he should have made on camera and he sized me up and threatened to knock my head off, in jest! We laughed. Maybe Netflix will come calling for him to tell his story in living colour, one day.

Tomorrow we are back over at the Hall of Fame grounds and I can’t wait. I’ve been coming here for induction weekends since 2001 (not all of them since) and there’s still nowhere else like it for anyone in boxing to be.

I’m excited for Froch and Bradley to see it all and take it in. I’m excited to soak in the nostalgia. I have friends here who came here when Harold Johnson, Archie Moore and Sandy Saddler would visit. In my first year, Leon Spinks, Jose Torres, Rubin Carter, Jake LaMotta, Ken Buchanan, Angelo Dundee and Eddie Futch were all here. I subsequently became friends, and proudly so, with inductees like Gene and Don Fullmer and Aaron Pryor and Matthew Saad Muhammad. They have all gone. 

There is always a sadness attached to that, but tomorrow should be a fun day and we will remember the legends, past and present, and pay them the respect they have earned.