CLASS OF 2004 HONORED IN "BOXING'S HOMETOWN"
Thousands of boxing fans from around the world congregated at the Hall of Fame's Events Pavilion to see the Class of 2004 join boxing immortals as they were enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the Official Induction Ceremony on Sunday, June 13th. This year marked the 15th Class of Inductees honored in Canastota.
The Induction Ceremony capped a fun-filled 4-day Hall of Fame Weekend that featured over 20 exciting events including a golf tournament, cocktail party, banquet, boxing autograph card show, and professional boxing show. Also, a host of activities were held on the Museum Grounds, including the very popular "ringside lecture" question and answer sessions and workout exhibitions by three of today's reigning champions.
This year's living inductees were super featherweight Azumah Nelson, welterweight Carlos Palomino, light heavyweight Dwight Muhammad Qawi, super bantamweight Daniel Zaragoza, referee Stanley Christodoulou, promoter J Russell Peltz and writer W.C Heinz. Living honorees received the official Hall of Fame Induction certificate and gold Hall of Fame ring symbolizing their status as Hall of Famers.
The 89-year old Heinz, who wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Professional, was unable to attend. However, his daughter, Gayl, accepted Hall of Fame honors for her father.
"My dad sends his greetings to everybody and he is thrilled with this incredible honor," she said. "...now at age 89, tucked away in an assisted living facility in Vermont, he is far from the cheers and excitement of Madison Square Garden, but how wonderful it is he will forever be surrounded by those he most admired in a place far beyond his wildest dreams here at the International Boxing Hall of Fame."
Philadelphia promoter Peltz said, "There was a Broadway show that I can't tell you too much about that played in the early 1960s called 'Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.' That's what I did Thursday when I got here. I stopped the world and I got off in Canastota and frankly, I don't want to go back..."
Zaragoza, who traveled from his native Mexico for the ceremony, commented, "During my career in the Olympic Games and as a professional, I had a lot of great victories, but also great defeats. But this victory (raising his Hall of Fame ring), is an amazing victory. For certain this victory, not even death can take it away. Being in that Museum, there is no defeat at all."
Upon receiving his Hall of Fame ring, Qawi said, "It's closure for me... I've been in transition for awhile. I really need this in my life. I need this physical presentation to tell me that it's over, that you did your best and now it's time to move on."
South Africa's Christodoulou accepted his ring and said, "This is a great honor both for me in a personal capacity and for the Sport of Boxing in South Africa, which sees the first South African now inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame."
An emotional Palomino accepted Hall of Fame honors. " I want to thank the two people who inspired me the most in my life, the two heroes in my life. They're not here with my anymore, but I know they're here in spirit, my father and mother, Pablo and Maria. My dad was my strength and my mother was my heart..This (Hall of Fame induction) was totally unexpected for me in my career and I'll cherish this for the rest of my life."
Nelson, the Hall's first Ghanaian inductee, commented, "To my fans out there, I want to say a big thank you for the times you stood up to watch and pray for me. God bless. I want to thank the Hall of Fame and all those involved that I should be considered for induction. To you all, I say, thank you."
Posthumous inductees of the Class of 2004 were also honored. Baby Arizmendi, Young Corbett III, Jackie Fields and Willie Ritchie in the old-timer category, Billy Edwards in the pioneer category, Umberto Branchini and Lou Viscusi as non-participants and Barney Nagler in the observer category. Viscusi's son Richard accepted Hall of Fame honors for his father.
Among the boxing stars on hand for the weekend were Hall of Fame Alumni: Carmen Basilio, Carlos Ortiz, Aaron Pryor, Jose Torres, Emile Griffith, Ruben Olivares, Gene Fullmer, Ken Norton, Ken Buchanan, Alexis Arguello, Lou Duva, Pipino Cuevas, Mickey Duff, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Angelo Dundee, Gil Clancy, Don Chargin, Arthur Mercante, Jake LaMotta, Jeff Fenech, and Budd Schulberg.
Other boxers and boxing personalities in attendance included Billy Backus, Christy Martin, Tony DeMarco, Jimmy Ellis, Terry Norris, Leon Spinks, Buddy McGirt, Danny "Little Red" Lopez, Johnny Tapia, John H. Stracey, Iran Barkley, Juan LaPorte, George Chuvalo, Tommy "The Duke" Morrison, Micky Ward, Bert Sugar, HBO's Harold Lederman, SHOWTIME'S Steve Farhood, ESPN 2's Brian Kenny and Canastota's Dickie DiVeronica.
Three current world champions also attended the festivities. Light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, undisputed welterweight champion Cory Spinks and junior middleweight champion Winky Wright conducted public workout sessions for their many fans.
This year's Hall of Fame Parade of Champions Grand Marshal was award-winning singer and entertainer Tony Orlando. The parade route was awash in yellow ribbons in honor of Orlando's classic "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree."
Also, top-selling Christian music artist Carman attended weekend festivities. An avid boxing fan, Carman donned boxing gloves to portray a prizefighter in the motion picture "The Champion" and wrote the song "The Heart of a Champion."
Nigel Collins, editor in chief of The Ring magazine, presented Winky Wright with The Ring championship belt he won by defeating Sugar Shane Mosley for the junior middleweight title in March 2004
The Friday Night Boxing Show at Turning Stone Resort and Casino featured a full card of professional boxing with fan-favorite Victoriano Sosa scoring a hard-fought unanimous decision over Marteze Logan in the main event. Following the bout, Sosa graciously donated his robe, trunks, shoes, hand-wraps and gloves to the Hall of Fame.
Also at the fights, ESPN 2's Friday Night Fights set up their studio at the Turning Stone where host Brian Kenny interviewed boxing legends, including Palomino, Basilio, Fullmer, Dundee, Qawi, Fenech and Hagler, during the live telecast.
Parade Grand Marshal Tony Orlando surprised fans and boxing celebrities with an impromptu set of classic tunes at Graziano's Casa Mia after the Banquet of Champions on Saturday evening. Orlando thrilled the crowd with such hits as "Knock Three Times," "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)," Candida" and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree."