A Gala Boxing Weekend
THE EIGHTH ANNUAL induction weekend was the biggest and brightest event in the museum’s short history. More than 5,000 fans witnessed the ceremonies in Canastota, New York during which living inductees, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jose Torres and Don King were enshrined.
Leonard, elected in his first year of eligibility, became the first boxer in history to win world titles in five weight classes. He and Torres, a former light heavyweight champion, were elected in the modern category. King, the controversial, shock-haired promoter, was elected as a non-participant. He has promoted some of the biggest fights in boxing. Among them are the third Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight, the Ali-George Foreman fight and both Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson fights.
Ten inductees were enshrined posthumously. They were, from the modern-era category -- former welterweight champion Luis Rodriguez and former featherweight champion Chalky Wright. Selected from the old-timers era were Pete Herman, Freddie Miller, Freddie Welsh and Joe Jeannette. From the pioneer category was Dutch Sam and Tom Molineaux. Elected with King in the non-participants category were journalist Richard K. Fox and ring announcer-manager Joe Humphreys. The International Boxing Hall of Fame now has 178 members.
Leonard and Torres participated in the fist-casting ceremony outside the museum and current IBF junior bantamweight champ Danny Romero conducted a public workout in a ring set up on the museum grounds. Leonard, Torres, King and most of the Hall of Fame alumni participated in Sunday morning's parade as the entire town of Canastota paid tribute to these boxing champions.
Leonard won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics and revitalized the sport of boxing with his flamboyant style. He won world titles at welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight and engaged in some of the most memorable fights of the 1980s. His battles against Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler are classics.
"What you people don't understand or realize is that all the former champions, including myself, you don't know how much love we feel because know we have a second home here," said Leonard. "That's what it's all about. This is the prestigious award in my entire life."
The election of King was met with some cynicism because he has been the central figure in several boxing controversies and because he has been sued by numerous fighters. Yet the criteria for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame is based solely on achievements.
"My life in boxing has been a pleasure," said King. "From the outside you can say it's been a controversial whirlwind, so to speak. None of that has to do with your ability or your achievements."
Including Leonard and Torres, 52 past and present world champions attended the weekend festivities. The Hall of Fame alumni present included Carmen Basilio, Willie Pep, Bob Foster, Sandy Saddler, Archie Moore, Kid Gavilan, Carlos Ortiz, Gene Fullmer, Ken Norton, Floyd Patterson, Alexis Arguello, Aaron Pryor, Wilfred Benitez and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Other champions on hand were Billy Backus, Buddy McGirt, Tony DeMarco and Harold Gomes as well as current IBF junior bantamweight champion Romero.
King extended invitations to the numerous champions he's promoted over the years and 30 responded by traveling to Canastota from as far away as Italy, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama and Venezuela. Showing him their support were: Muhammad Ali, Michael Dokes, Michael Moorer, Larry Holmes, Pinklon Thomas, Greg Page, Tony Tubbs, Ossie Ocascio, Frankie Liles, Quincy Taylor, Lonnie Bradley, Vincent Pettway, Gianfranco Rosi, Victor Callejas, Maurice Blocker, Meldrick Taylor, Julio Cesar Chavez, Frankie Randall, Lonnie Smith, Saoul Mamby, Edwin Rosario, Freddie Pendleton, Antonio Cermeno, Tom "Boom Boom" Johnson, Eloy Rojas, Carlos Murillo, Wilfredo Vasquez, Melchor Cob Castro, Rosendo Alvarez, Ricardo Lopez and Christy Martin.