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Digital Subscriptions > Boxing News > 25-Jun > CANASTOTA DIARY

CANASTOTA DIARY

Jack Hirsch, now a veteran of 27 Hall of Fame weekends, reports from this year’s event
CLASS OF 2019: [l-r] Atlas, Elbaum, Samuels, Jackson, Curry, DeMarco, Jutras, McGirt

IT all started in 1990 with the first group of honourees enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, a tiny village in upstate New York. On this, the 30th anniversary, the full impact of how fragile life is was evident in the fact that Jose Napoles is the only surviving member of that original class. But the memories never die. A tour of the museum and a look at all the plaques on the wall guarantee the greats of yesteryear will live on for eternity. Hall of Fame weekend is far more than just honouring the newest class of inductees and acknowledging the past ones. It is a celebration of boxing, a four-day party so to speak. It belongs at the top of everyone’s bucket list of places to be. If you’ve never been, make it a priority to go next year.

Obviously, the first HOF class, led by the likes of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, was exceptional. In the succeeding years the strength of the classes varied. Some felt this year’s group was not particularly strong, but that is only in comparison to who has gotten in before. All were in attendance except journalist Mario Rivera Martino, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 93.

The other non-fighters were broadcaster/ trainer Teddy Atlas, promoter/matchmaker Don Elbaum, judge/referee Guy Jutras and publicist Lee Samuels. The boxers were former welterweight/super-welterweight champion Donald Curry, former welterweight champion Tony DeMarco, former super-welterweight/ middleweight champion Julian Jackson and former super-lightweight/welterweight champion Buddy McGirt.

THURSDAY JUNE 6

My six-hour drive to Canastota was a time to reflect on the previous 26 induction weekends I had been to. Upon checking into my room at the Fairfield Inn in Verona, New York – a 10-minute car ride from Canastota – the receptionist spoke well of the late Bert Cooper who had stayed at the establishment the year before. I dropped my bags off and drove to the museum grounds.

The ringside lectures were in full swing when I arrived. Antonio Tarver spoke about Andy Ruiz Jnr’s upset of Anthony Joshua. He attributed Joshua’s shock defeat to being surprised by the level of intensity Ruiz displayed. Tarver, now retired, spoke about his wealth of knowledge and what he could contribute by training other fighters. Jackson, meanwhile, constantly invoked religion as the reason for his success. He told stories of how his faith got him through rough patches in fights.

Elbaum is the ultimate storyteller. He told of the time he babysat for Ali’s kids and of having promoted Robinson’s last fight. Elbaum is fondly remembered for claiming he had located the gloves from Robinson’s pro debut. When photographers wanted to take a picture of Robinson wearing them, he panicked. Robinson could not figure out why Elbaum put a stop to it, that was until he noticed that both of the gloves were right-handed.

I attended the weigh-in for the Zab Judah- Cletus Seldin fight, due to take place at the nearby Turning Stone Resort & Casino the next night. I had picked Judah to win beforehand, but changed that prediction when the fighters got on the scales. Seldin looked solid, Judah weight-drained.

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