MADISON SQUARE GARDEN RETIRES HISTORIC BOXING RING &
DONATES TO INTERNATIONAL BOXING HALL OF FAME
CANASTOTA, NY - SEPTEMBER 19, 2007 - Madison Square Garden announced today that the historic boxing ring that has hosted thousands of fights since 1925 has officially been retired. The celebrated life of the legendary boxing ring, which spans 82 years, has hosted more championship bouts than any other ring in existence and throughout the years has become the place where champions became legends.
After its official retirement on September 20, boxing fans will have the opportunity to see the ring up-close, as it will be donated to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, where it will be preserved under the watchful eye of International Boxing Hall of Fame Executive Director, Edward Brophy. The ring will be displayed in the Amphitheater where boxing fans from around the world will have the opportunity to learn of its legendary past.
“This is a bittersweet day for Madison Square Garden and the sport of boxing,” said Joel Fisher, senior vice president, Madison Square Garden Sports Properties. “As we retire the legendary ring we must celebrate the epic battles it has hosted and all of the great memories it has provided. But the ring will live on 270 miles north of The Garden at the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the perfect setting for its retirement."
“Madison Square Garden is the most famous arena in the world and regarded as the 'Mecca of Boxing,'" said Brophy. "The ring at the Garden that so many gladiators fought in is truly one of the most significant artifacts in sports history,” said Brophy. “The ring's history is incredible, from the champions who fought in it, to the corner men, referees, ring announcers, and reporters who covered the action at ringside. It's wonderful that boxing fans from around the world who visit the Hall of Fame for a walk down boxing's memory lane will now be able to sit in a first row, ringside seat next to the most famous ring ever. What an awesome experience.”
The 82-year old 20x20-foot ring is certainly unique in every aspect and includes four distinctive brass cornerposts, plywood flooring and a one-ton iron infrastructure which hooks together without the use of nuts and bolts. The strong frame, which consists of 28 iron beams, 10-feet in length, and nine posts creates a four-foot-high platform that supports the floor. Over the years, the aesthetics of the ring have changed including the corner pads, the floors cushion padding, the bullropes and their respective velvet covers and, of course, the canvas.
Because of the rings unique position of the four cornerposts, which are inset to allow a one-foot apron on the outside of the ropes, the renowned boxing supplier, Everlast, has a special “MSG canvas” that only fits the Garden's ring.
One noticeable change to the ring since its inception was the addition of red lights atop the four cornerposts. Back in the late 1940's and early 1950's Madison Square Garden hosted Eugene “Silent” Hairston who happened to be hearing impaired and therefore could not hear the bell at the end of each round. In order to resolve the problem, one red light was installed on each cornerpost and were turned on at the sound of the bell, signaling the end of the round for Hairston. This creative measure stuck and has become a fixture to the ring ever since.
The bell that adorns the ring is of interest and has a certain mystical appeal to it. Many say that the solid-brass bell, which resembles a bell one might find on an old vessel, is original to the ring, while others say it was taken from a sunken ship and was installed in the late 1940's. Because of its status, legend has it that the bell was always locked up in a secret room within the Garden and was brought ringside just minutes prior to each fight. The bell is the one and only artifact of the legendary ring that will actually continue its service and will be adorned on the new ring which is set to be unveiled on October 6, 2007.
Boxing, for a long time, revolved around New York City and Madison Square Garden's famous ring. Many of today's boxing legends at one time or another made their way to New York and went fist-to-fist with the very best in the center of Madison Square Garden.
In 1925 Madison Square Garden II was officially torn down and the third Garden building on 49th street debuted with a light heavyweight title fight. The date was December 11th and the legendary ring was formally christened when Paul Berlenbach beat Jack Delaney in a 15 round bout. Since that historic night the ring has hosted a who's-who of boxers including; Muhammad Ali, Alexis Arguello, Henry Armstrong, Carmen Basilio, Nino Benvenuti, Tony Canzoneri, Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Arturo Gatti, Gene Fullmer, Kid Gavilan, Rocky Graziano, Emile Griffith, Evander Holyfield, Bernard Hopkins, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, Roy Jones Jr., Lennox Lewis, Jake LaMotta, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Shane Mosley, Floyd Patterson, Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson, Max Schmeling, Jermain Taylor, Tito Trinidad, Mike Tyson, Pernell Whitaker, Fritzie Zivic are just to name a few.
Madison Square Garden includes four Garden locations over a century of pugilistic history. On July 17, 1882, almost three years after the opening of the first building at Madison Avenue between 26th and 27th streets, John L. Sullivan became the first heavyweight champion to box at Madison Square Garden when he beat Joe Collins a.k.a. Joe “Tug” Wilson. Although this bout didn't take place in the legendary ring it certainly made New York and Madison Square Garden the center of boxing and set the precedent for all the historic bouts that have come to identify the ring.
There have been hundreds of championship bouts that have taken place in the ring as well as non-title fights. Several of the momentous bouts that were featured in the unique boxing ring include; Fritzie Zivic vs. Henry Armstrong in front of 23,306 fans in 1941; Joe Louis defended his title eight times, but the one bout many will remember is his unfortunate battle against Rocky Marciano in 1951; Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Gene Fullmer in 1957; the present Garden's boxing debut in 1968 when Nino Benvenuti beat Emile Griffith for the middleweight title and Joe Frazier knocked out Buster Mathis to win New York State recognition as heavyweight champion; of the course the 1971 epic battle between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali known now as “The Fight of the Century” and Ali-Frazier II in 1974; Ali's 15 round decision over Ernie Shavers in 1977; Roberto Duran's dismantling of Davey Moore in 1983; Sugar Ray Leonard ended his career with a loss against Terry Norris in 1991; the Garden's return to boxing in 1995 with Oscar De La Hoya taking on Jesse James Leija; Bernard Hopkins becoming the first undisputed middleweight champion since Marvelous Marvin Hagler when he beat Felix 'Tito' Trinidad in 2001; most recently Miguel Cotto staking his claim with a spectacular TKO of Zab Judah at a sold-out Garden in front of 20,658 fans. To date, the Evander Holyfield versus Lennox Lewis sold out heavyweight championship on March 13, 1999, which resulted in a controversial draw, remains the highest grossing event in Madison Square Garden history.
Hall of Fame boxing promoters, including Don King, Bob Arum, Mike Jacobs, and George “Tex” Rickard, all knew the importance of boxing at Madison Square Garden and often promoted championship fight cards in the legendary ring.
Due to its renowned status the ring became such an icon and was often sought after. However, it is safe to say that Madison Square Garden is the only place to have actually seen the ring, as it has never been loaned to any other venue and the late Garden publicist John Condon refused to allow any movie studios to rent the ring for any big screen productions, including denying a request for inclusion in an Anthony Quinn version of Requiem For A Heavyweight.
A not-for-profit organization, the International Boxing Hall of Fame opened to the public in 1989 in Canastota, New York and is located at Exit 34 of the New York State Thruway. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission is $9.50 for adults, $9.00 for senior citizens (age 65 and over), $6.50 for youth (ages 7-15) and ages 6 and younger are free.
For more information please call the International Boxing Hall of Fame at (315) 697-7095.