Opening Bell at International Boxing Hall of Fame Weekend

Opening Bell Rings For International Boxing Hall Of Fame Weekend In Canastota
By DAVID M. JOHNSON
MILTZ BOXING NEWS
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CANASTOTA — Boxing fans made their way to the International Boxing Hall of Fame museum grounds Thursday as the opening bell rang for 23rd Induction Weekend.

The day began with ringside lectures from boxing greats and ended with an opening ceremony that featured words from members of this year’s class of inductees.

Multi-division champion Thomas “Hitman” Hearns received the loudest cheer of the afternoon and a standing ovation as the final speaker.

“To me this is the greatest thing that could happen to me in my career,” the Class of 2012 member said. “I’m going to cry for y’all on Sunday.”

The event started with lectures from two-time champion Marlon Starling, 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist Sugar Ray Seales, 1991 hall of fame inductee Ruben Olivares and referee Joe Cortez.

Cortez got a chance to return for the one-year anniversary of his induction before flying to Las Vegas to ref a match. He took time to answer questions from the audience about ways to avoid matches that end in draws and why judges should be seated higher.

“To me it’s an honor to be here again with my colleagues, my family members,” said Cortez of his return to Canastota. “That was one of the greatest classes of inductees in 2011. For me, it was like a dream come true.”

After the lectures, the opening ceremony began with students from Canastota High School singing the national anthem. Singer Joey Fiato followed with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” in remembrance of the boxing greats who have died in the past year including hall-of-famers Joe Frazier, Angelo Dundee and Bert Sugar. Fedoras and vibrant pants could be seen throughout the crowd in honor of Sugar who would have turned 76 on Thursday.

Before the boxing champions took the stage, IBHOF executive director Ed Brophy said a few words about the tradition of the sport in Canastota.

“Boxing history goes back over 100 years here, back to the bare-knuckle days,” Brophy said. “It was something that every family talked about. In 1989 when we built the museum it was out of the love of the sport of boxing. The Village of Canastota feels more than any place in the whole world that we understand the boxer, the trainer, the promoter, the cut man, the referee. We realize what they go through to achieve what they have.”

The crowd also heard from the past and present Canastota mayors. Todd Rouse thanked the fans for continuing to show up each year before Mayor Carla DeShaw welcomed everyone and gave some food advice.

“If anybody wants a good doughnut, it’s my favorite, Dunn’s bakery is uptown,” DeShaw said.

Finally, the boxing greats who showed up for the first day got a chance to be introduced and say a few words. The crowd heard from Ray Mercer, Leon Spinks, Canastota native Billy Backus, “Irish” Micky Ward, Dicky Eklund, Panamanian Hilario Zapata, John Mugabi, Chuck Wepner and Michael Moorer.

Finally, broadcaster Al Bernstein and fellow Class of 2012 inductees Mark Johnson and Hearns got their chance with to speak.

“This weekend is a little bit different than previous visits to the hall of fame,” Bernstein said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to experience this and share it with everybody.”

Boxing fan Bob Rowe drove more than two hours to make it to opening ceremonies. The Watervliet resident went to his first induction weekend in 1993 and has made it back to Canastota every summer since.

“It’s always exciting here,” Rowe said. “There’s always unexpected things. I know a little bit about boxing, I’ve been following it from the early ‘60s. I just love to get the different perspectives of it.”
Dispatch Sports Staff//http://oneidadispatch.com/2012/06/07/news// doc4fd149f92278f848694951.txt?utm_content=Boxing/News&utm_medium=twitter//