WHAT BEGAN with statues to honor local champions has evolved into the “Showplace of Boxing.”
In the early 1980s, the residents of Canastota decided to honor its two hometown champions, Carmen Basilio (welterweight and middleweight) and his nephew, Billy Backus (welterweight). The “Basilio – Backus Boxing” showcase was erected and featured life size statues of the champions along with memorabilia from their careers.
The enthusiasm generated by this endeavor sparked the idea for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. By the mid-80s a steering committee was formed and boxing's first true hall of fame opened on June 10, 1989. Since then, thousands of boxing fans have congregated at boxing's only existing shrine to the sport.
The International Boxing Hall of Fame is no longer a curiosity. It is recognized throughout the industry as boxing's shrine.
The mission of the Hall of Fame is to honor and preserve boxing’s rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of those who excelled, and provide an educational experience for our many visitors.
The Hall of Fame accomplishes its mission with unique and exciting exhibits of important boxing memorabilia. On display are the gloves used in the 1901 featherweight world title fight between George Dixon and Terry McGovern. And visitors marvel at the exhibit of life-size fist castings, comparing their fist size to that of such legendary figures as Jack Dempsey, Jack Johnson, Benny Leonard, Barney Ross and the massive hand of Primo Carnera, among countless others.
There are audio-visual stations featuring classic fight films provided by Cayton Sports. If that doesn't catch your eye, maybe the photo exhibit donated by Allsport, the leading international sports photography company, will.
The Hall of Fame Wall features plaques with the biography and photograph of each inductee.
The crown jewels of boxing's royalty are also on display. World championship belts, as well as trunks, shoes and robes from dozens of legends including Joe Louis, Kid Gavilan, Michael Spinks, Emile Griffith, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Rocky Graziano and Fighting Harada appear throughout the museum.
The Hall's event pavilion houses the most famous ring in boxing history, the Madison Square Garden ring, where the "Fight of the Century" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier took place on March 8, 1971.
But perhaps the most overlooked feature of the Hall of Fame is its extensive library. The library is utilized by researchers all over the country, who make the trek to Canastota to research legendary fighters or by visitors whose relatives once donned trunks and gloves. The Hall owns a complete set of "The Bible of Boxing," The Ring magazine dating from 1922 to the present. In addition to other boxing magazines, there are countless photos, over 500 boxing books and clip files on fighters ranging from four-rounders to world champions.