Canastota and the IBHOF Induction Weekend
By Alex Pierpaoli
Follow the New York State thruway up through rural landscapes, past grazing dairy cows and numerous towns with Native American names, and you’ll reach Canastota, New York, the hometown of boxing’s Onion Farmer the great Carmen Basilio and the International Boxing Hall of fame. Each year hundreds of fight fans make the pilgrimage from all over the world to the small upstate New York town to rub elbows with their heroes, snap photos and get lots and lots of autographs. The Boxing Hall of fame induction weekend never disappoints as even a veteran of many weekends past who thinks they’ve seen it all before will bump into that old friend they hadn’t seen in years or hear a tale of a ring classic that makes them fall in love with the sport all over again.
James Earl Jones’ character in Field Of Dreams described the feeling fans would get if they visited Kevin Costner’s field of ghost baseball players with a mystical appeal that can be felt here. “It will be as if they were dipped in magic waters and the memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.” Such can be said about a trip here to Canastota.
This year’s class of inductees includes boxers: Bobby Chacon, Terry Norris, Barry McGuigan, Duilio Loi, matchmaker Don Fraser and writer Bert Randolph Sugar.
On Thursday, Barry McGuigan and Bert Randolph Sugar addressed the assembled fans from the stage at the museum pavilion with stories of moments in the ring and about the ring. Bert Sugar talked about Max Baer and Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man and how Hollywood distorted and vilified Baer to serve the story.
“Baer could take down buildings,” said Sugar. “He had to be the second or third hardest puncher. Right-handed puncher,” Sugar clarified, before listing a few great left-handers as well. Sugar went on to tell several humorous anecdotes about Max Baer convincing the crowd that Russell Crowe’s nemesis in the movie wasn’t as brutish as how he was depicted.
Sugar went on to describe his fellow inductees with reverence. “This is a sterling group of people. I bring it down.”
Later Ireland’s Barry McGuigan spoke to the crowd about his career and how hard it is for a fighter to leave the sport.
“It’s a very personal and very subjective decision and only the fighter himself can make it.” McGuigan went on to mention the old adage about how the fighter is always the last one to know it’s time to quit.
“They’re the first one to know,” said McGuigan. “But the last one to admit it.”
McGuigan went on to describe his grueling fight with Stevie Cruz and the one hundred twenty degree heat in which they fought. “Vegas was a mistake. I could hardly hold myself together.”
Moments later when Mickey Ward approached the stage McGuigan acknowledged him and their Irish kinship. Still in good physical shape, McGuigan joked with the crowd about the weekend’s events.
“I’m going to give the five kilometer run a try. Mickey Ward said he’s going to kick my ass.”
The IBHOF induction weekend runs through Sunday’s parade and ceremony at the museum grounds in Canastota. Friday and Saturday will feature celebrity workouts, ringside lectures, a boxing memorabilia show on Saturday, live fights tomorrow night broadcast on ESPN2, a golf tournament, a silent auction, raffles, a 5K road race, fist casting and of course lots and lots more autographs.
Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at: KOFantasyBoxing@gmail.com