INTERNATIONAL CLASS OF INDUCTEES SHINE
BRIGHTLY IN "BOXING'S HOMETOWN"
Under clear blue skies, thousands of boxing fans from around the globe congregated at the Hall of Fame's Events Pavilion to see the Class of 2007 join boxing immortals when they were enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the Official Induction Ceremony on Sunday, June 10th. This year marked the 18th 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, and boxing autograph card show. Also, there were a host of activities on the Museum Grounds, including the very popular "ringside lecture" question and answer sessions and workout exhibitions by boxing stars of today and tomorrow.
This year's living inductees were four-division world champions Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran and Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker, two-division world champion Ricardo "Finito" Lopez, trainer Amilcar Brusa, administrator Jose Sulaiman and artist LeRoy Neiman. Living honorees received the official Hall of Fame Induction certificate and gold Hall of Fame ring symbolizing their status as Hall of Famers.
Neiman was unable to attend the Induction Ceremony due to health issues. Hall of Fame president Don Ackerman read a letter Neiman forwarded on his behalf.
"To be included among these great fight figures and to be accepted into their circle is very meaningful to me," said Neiman. "I've tried to measure up to the class, originality and style of the greats in my work...How lucky I am to be acknowledged along with proven heroes of boxing and to receive this recognition by the Boxing Hall of Fame. I am proud to be included as an honoree in this noble art."
Argentina's legendary trainer Amilcar Brusa, who guided Hall of Fame middleweight champion Carlos Monzon, was first to accept his Hall of Fame ring and take his place in the Hall of Fame.
WBC president Jose Sulaiman was next to the podium. "I'm deeply touched. There are people who say I do not deserve this honor in boxing. I have only tried to be of service to the sport I love. I began in boxing since the age of 10, and 66 years later I'm receiving, perhaps undeservedly, the highest honor," said Sulaiman.
Pernell (Sweet Pea) Whitaker offered a heartfelt acceptance speech. After thanking his parents, trainers, promoters and his legion of fans, he summed up his thoughts on being elected as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. "I may not be a resident of Canastota physically, but I will always be a resident of Canastota spiritually, for eternity."
Mexico's Ricardo (Finito) Lopez surprised many by addressing the throng of fans in English. "I give thanks to God for being able to receive this great honor of being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. It is a great privilege for me to be here."
Draped in a Panamanian flag, Roberto (Hands of Stone) Duran accepted Hall of Fame honors for himself and his native country. "I want to thank America. You opened your heart so I could enter. Thank you everybody who lives in the United States, who saw me grow into becoming a world champion. My country is being inducted as well. The country where I was born, where I live, and where I will die. I'm happy, proud," said Duran.
Posthumous inductees of the Class of 2007 honored were George Godfrey, Pedro Montanez and Kid Norfolk in the old-timer category; Young Barney Aaron and Dick Curtis in the pioneer category; manager Cuco Conde in the non-participant category and artist Tad Dorgan in the observer category. Montanez's son Raul Montanez and granddaughter Leslie Montanez; Norfolk's daughter Minerva Garcia; and Aaron's great, great, great grandson Harry Aaron and great, great granddaughter Cheryl Aaron all accepted Hall of Fame honors for their loved ones.
Among the boxing stars on hand for the Weekend were Hall of Fame Alumni: Carmen Basilio, Carlos Ortiz, Masahiko (Fighting) Harada, Jose Torres, Emile Griffith, Gene Fullmer, Ruben Olivares, Ken Norton, Alexis Arguello, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Ken Buchanan, Lou Duva, Terry Norris, Gil Clancy, Don Chargin, Stanley Christodoulou, J Russell Peltz, Hank Kaplan, Arthur Mercante, Bert Sugar, Pipino Cuevas and Bob Arum.
Other boxers in attendance included Lupe Pintor, Raul (Raton) Macias, Christy Martin, Vito Antuofermo, James (Buster) Douglas, George Chuvalo, Livingstone Bramble, Vinny Paz, Alan Minter, Marlon Starling, Iran Barkley, John H. Stracey, "Baby" Joe Mesi, James (Bonecrusher) Smith, Oscar Diaz, Billy Backus, Dickie DiVeronica and current WBA heavyweight champion Ruslan (White Tyson) Chagaev.
Also during Hall of Fame Weekend, the Hall commemorated the 50th anniversary of Canastota's Carmen Basilio winning the world middleweight championship from Sugar Ray Robinson in 1957's "Fight of the Year" at a special "Night of the Middleweights." Hall of Famer Gene Fullmer was also celebrated for his 50th anniversary win over Sugar Ray Robinson in January 1957. Other middleweights highlighted were Hagler, Duran, Barkley, Antuofermo, Griffith and Minter.
This year's Hall of Fame Parade of Champions Grand Marshal was world famous ring announcer Michael Buffer.
Hall of Fame trainer Lou Duva was accompanied by his fighter Oscar Diaz, who conducted a public workout for the fans. The former NABF welterweight champion Diaz and trainer Tommy Brooks put on an exciting display that included mitt work and shadow boxing.
Many members of the boxing community also attended the Hall of Fame Weekend. Promoters Kathy Duva (Main Events), Dino Duva (Duva Boxing), Bob Arum (Top Rank), and representatives from Sycuan Ringside Promotions; world organizations representatives Gilberto Mendoza Sr. (WBA president), Gilberto Mendoza Jr. (WBA executive vice president), Mario Rivera Martino (WBO) and many international members of the WBC were among the boxing fraternity in Canastota. The world-wide media from Mexico, Panama, Canada, South Africa and Japan was also in attendance to cover the festivities.