20th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION IN
BOXING'S HOMETOWN - CANASTOTA, NEW YORK
CANASTOTA, NY - JUNE 14, 2009 - Under a picture perfect summer day, thousands of boxing fans from around the world assembled at the Hall of Fame's Events Pavilion to see the Class of 2009 join boxing immortals when they were enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the Official Induction Ceremony on Sunday, June 14th.
The Induction Ceremony capped four days of activities in “Boxing’s Hometown” celebrating the new class of inductees as well as the Hall’s 20th Anniversary. The weekend 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 popular "ringside lecture" question and answer sessions and many workout sessions by boxing stars of today and tomorrow.
This year's living inductees were bantamweight champion Orlando Canizales, heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, junior lightweight champion Brian Mitchell, promoter / matchmaker / publicist Bob Goodman, promoter Akihiko Honda, journalist Hugh McIlvanney and broadcaster Larry Merchant. Living honorees received the official Hall of Fame Induction certificate and gold Hall of Fame ring symbolizing their status as Hall of Famers.
Japan’s Honda was unable to attend. Hall of Fame promoter Don Chargin accepted on his behalf. “I received a phone call from Mr. Honda last night and he wanted me to tell everyone here that of all the honors that he has received in the last 45 years, this, by far, tops everything. Thank you.”
Award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney eloquently accepted his Hall of Fame ring. “Boxing has provided so many of the unforgettable experiences in my life. Clearly it’s a huge privilege for me to be inducted in the same year as Lennox (Lewis), but it would be a great honor at any time. That people come back here year after year is a testament to the validity of the (IBHOF). The enthusiasm, the warmth and the welcome that the local people bring to this event is truly incredible.”
Promoter / matchmaker / publicist Bob Goodman, who has been in boxing for over fifty years, was next. “This is such a unique and wonderful experience. It’s something for those of us who have spent many years in boxing dream of. I was born in the sport, so my whole life has been boxing. It’s all that I ever wanted to do. It’s very special for me to join my father, Murray Goodman, in the Hall of Fame. I just cherish this moment, cherish this town. As Marvin (Hagler) said last night, 'This is our home.' Thank you"
HBO Sport’s legendary broadcaster Larry Merchant entertained the crowd as he accepted Hall of Fame honors. “I’ve asked myself lately, how did this happen? Is it because my father, at the age of sixteen, took a job at MSG as an usher so that he could watch the fights and later allowed me to stay up late to listen to the rematch between Louis and Schmeling?…Or was it my first big fight, Basilio – Robinson, in Yankee Stadium and seated not 20 feet away were two of my heroes, Hemingway and DiMaggio? In truth, the writers were every bit as important to me as the fighters...Heinz and Parker, Smith and Cannon, Liebling and Lardner, most of whom were enshrined here. They, we, are the storytellers, the mythmakers, the muck rackers, the truth tellers. Before television, their words were worth a thousand pictures. It’s wonderful to receive the recognition of one’s peers. But as Ruth Gordon said when she received her Academy Award at the age of 82, ‘Thank you for your encouragement!’ I have a fight on July 18th.”
With his parents watching, an emotional Orlando Canizales approached the podium and delivered a heartfelt speech. “"Boxing has taught me a lot in life -- that dedication, discipline and determination will pay off in the long run and not to be easily swayed by obstacles and bumps in the road."
The first South African boxer elected into the Hall, Brian Mitchell was next to the podium. “I was an amateur boxer for 10 years and professional boxer for 13 years and I think all the blood, the sweat, the tears, all those years on the road, this is what it's all about,” said Mitchell as he proudly slipped on his Hall of Fame ring and displayed it for the crowd. “It doesn't matter what the title is, or who you beat. It's not until you get this recognition from your peers that you know you have made it in boxing."
Former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Lennox Lewis was the final member of the Class of 2009 to officially join boxing's all-time greats. “Our sport is usually looked at as a brutal, savage sport. I see it as a sweet science, a magical dance…One wouldn't think a 14-year-old boy who did shadow boxing in front of the mirror imitating the Muhammad Ali shuffle would actually be on this stage. I am really humble ... this is a great honor."
Posthumous inductees of the Class of 2009 honored were William “Gorilla” Jones, Mysterious Billy Smith and Billy Soose in the old-timer category; Tom Hyer in the pioneer category; manager Billy Gibson and commissioner Abe J. Greene in the non-participant category; journalist Paul Gallico in the observer category. Greene’s granddaughter Hana Schiavo and Soose’s brother Gene Sebastian 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, Emile Griffith, Ruben Olivares, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Aaron Pryor, Michael Carbajal, Carlos Palomino, Don Chargin, J Russell Peltz, Stanley Christodoulou, Bert Sugar, Angelo Dundee and Emanuel Steward.
Other boxers in attendance included Christy Martin, Livingstone Bramble, Marlon Starling, Leon Spinks, Greg Haugen, Mark Breland, Junior Jones, John H. Stracey, Meldrick Taylor, Billy Backus, Dickie DiVeronica, Gaby Canizales, Don Fullmer and Juan LaPorte.
Also during Weekend activities, the Hall celebrated many of the up and coming stars in the sport with “A Night of Rising Stars.” Those highlighted included top ten heavyweight contender Kevin “The Kingpin” Johnson, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Deontay Wilder, IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute, two-time welterweight champion Kermit “The Killer” Cintron, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and WBO interim junior middleweight champion Paul “The Punisher” Williams. Hall of Fame trainer / manager and HBO World Championship Boxing expert commentator Emanuel Steward hosted the evening.
This year's Hall of Fame Parade of Champions Grand Marshals were legendary actor Burt Young (Paulie from ROCKY) and The Sopranos star Federico Castelluccio.
Young spoke fondly of his love for the sport of boxing. “I feel a little bit like a fraud up here with all these tough guys! It’s a privilege to meet all of you and to meet heroes of mine.”
Castelluccio said, “I have to say that this has been an incredible experience. The town of Canastota is an absolutely beautiful place and the people are wonderful…We are here for one reason and that is to congratulate the Class of 2009 to the International Boxing Hall of Fame – Lennnox Lewis, Orlando Canizales, Brian Mitchell, Bob Goodman, Akihiko Honda, Hugh McIlvanney and Larry Merchant. Congratulations. Thank you very much and God bless."
Fireworks – The Hall of Fame kicked off its landmark 20th anniversary with a fireworks show on Friday evening, June 12th. Boxing fans and community residents gathered at Canastota High School to enjoy the show.
Workouts - The Hall of Fame Grounds was transformed into training headquarters for some of today's stars. For two days 2008 Olympian and undefeated professional heavyweight Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder, along with his train Mark Breland, put on exciting workout sessions that included mitt work, shadow boxing, speed bag and heavy bag. Also, former lightweight champion Livingstone Bramble hosted a boxing aerobics class and up and coming junior middleweight fighter Willie Monroe Jr. worked out for the fans.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE for the festivities were former HBO Sports president Seth Abraham, referee Kenny Bayless, Four Kings author George Kimball and the family of Hall of Famer Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.