23rd ANNUAL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CELEBRATION IN
BOXING'S HOMETOWN - CANASTOTA, NEW YORK
CANASTOTA, NY - JUNE 10, 2012 - An enthusiastic crowd of thousands boxing fans from around the globe assembled at the Hall of Fame's Events Pavilion to see the Class of 2012 join boxing immortals when they were enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the Official Induction Ceremony on Sunday, June 10th.
The ceremony capped four days of activities in “Boxing’s Hometown” celebrating the new class of inductees. The weekend featured many exciting events including a golf tournament, cocktail party, banquet and boxing autograph card show. Also, there were a variety of activities on the Museum Grounds including the popular "ringside lecture" question and answer sessions, raffles and a silent auction.
This year's living inductees were multi-division champion Thomas "Hitman" Hearns, two-division world champion Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” ring announcer Michael Buffer, trainer Freddie Roach, SHOWTIME broadcaster Al Bernstein and writer Michael Katz. Living honorees received the official Hall of Fame Induction Certificate and gold Hall of Fame ring symbolizing their status as Hall of Famers.
Veteran journalist Katz displayed his noted wit as he congratulated his fellow inductees, “even poor Freddie,” referencing Roach trained Manny Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Timothy Bradley the evening before. “It’ll happen again and again and again. But that doesn’t change the very nature of boxing, which is two men competing at their utmost for supremacy in the squared circle. It’s a beautiful, beautiful game.”
SHOWTIME broadcaster Bernstein, who has been at ringside for over 30 years, was next to accept his Hall of Fame ring. “This Hall of Fame is essentially for the great boxers who you see on this stage. It is built for them. It is their house. However, this Hall of Fame is very generous in the way it welcomes those of us who fulfill another function for boxing. I take this as a supreme honor that I’m allowed to be a part of this place that is so special. It is a singular honor.”
Ring announcer Buffer made his way to the microphone to join boxing’s immortals. “In the sport of boxing, I’m the only person in history of this sport to have ever been in the ring with Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and none of them were ever able to land a hand on me!” He concluded with his famous refrain, “For the thousands in attendance and the millions around the world who wish they could be here, ladies and gentlemen, ‘Let’s get ready to rumble!’”
Trainer of over 20 world champions Roach, who along with Michael Buffer, traveled from Las Vegas the evening before to be in Canastota, thanked his family and credited his mentor, Hall of Fame trainer Eddie Futch, as he accepted his gold ring. “Thank you to my family for coming, especially my mother, Barbara. I love you. I’d like to thank all the fighters I’ve worked with who got me to this point. It’s a great honor, the best day of my life. Big, big thanks to my idol, my mentor, Mr. Eddie Futch. Thank you.”
“Too Sharp” Johnson, the first African American flyweight and super flyweight champion in history, was next. “Where else do you get fighters of this magnitude on one stage without someone hitting somebody?” As he concluded his remarks, he raised his hands overhead, looked up towards the sky and emotionally stated, “I made it! This is truly, truly, truly a dream come true for me.”
Detroit’s legendary “Hitman,” Hearns was the final member of the Class of 2012 to accept his honors. “I prayed that I’d be able to go out and give you guys what you paid to see each and every time I’d fight. And now to see all you folks here today to witness myself and everybody else make it, this is beautiful. I thank you for being here to witness this. May God bless everybody.”
Posthumous inductees of the Class of 2012 honored were Cocoa Kid in the modern category; Newsboy Brown, Leo Houck and Jake Kilrain in the old-timer category; James Wharton in the pioneer category; promoters Hugh D. MacIntosh and Rip Valenti in the Non-Participant category.
Houck’s son Edward and Valenti’s grandson Anthony accepted Hall of Fame honors for their loved ones. Hall of Famer Carlos Ortiz accepted for Kid.
Among the boxing stars on hand for the weekend were Hall of Fame Alumni Carmen Basilio, Carlos Ortiz, Ruben Olivares, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, Terry Norris, Don Chargin, Joe Cortez and Wilfried Sauerland.
Other boxing celebrities in attendance included Marlon Starling, Leon Spinks, Micky Ward, Dicky Eklund, Sugar Ray Seales, Billy Backus, Dickie DiVeronica, George Chuvalo, Gerry Cooney, Michael Moorer, Ray Mercer, Chuck Wepner, John “The Beast” Mugabi, Buddy McGirt, Antonio Tarver, “Jesse” James Leija, Kevin Kelley, Sharmba Mitchell, Hilario Zapata, Donny LaLonde, Lamon Brewster, Joe Mesi, Yoan Pablo Hernandez, Cecilia Braekhus, Robert Helenius, Gasper Ortega, Reggie Johnson and John Scully.
The Grand Marshal of the 2012 Parade of Champions was Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl XXXI MVP Desmond Howard.
Heavyweight Bash – The Hall of Fame celebrated the heavyweight division with an evening featuring video highlights and speeches from such heavy hitters as Lamon Brewster, Gerry Cooney, George Chuvalo, Ray Mercer, Chuck Wepner, Michael Moorer and Leon Spinks. The Hall also paid tribute to late Hall of Famer Bert Sugar who covered so many heavyweight title bouts. A note from Sugar’s family was read and a pair of his famous madras patchwork pants were donated to the Hall. Legendary trainer of Muhammad Ali, Angelo Dundee, who passed away in February at age 90, was also acknowledged. His son, Jimmy presented Hall director Ed Brophy with the white corner man’s jacket his father wore throughout his Hall of Fame career for Museum display.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE for the 23rd Hall of Fame Weekend festivities were SHOBOX broadcaster Steve Farhood, WBA president Gilberto Mendoza, WBA VP Gilberto Mendoza, Jr., referee Steve Smoger, trainer Russ Anber, referee Randy Newman, former New York State Athletic Commission Chairman and current Sirius/ XM radio host Randy Gordon, former Las Vegas Review Journal boxing writer Royce Feour and 5th Street Gym trainer Matt Baiamonte.