International Class of Inductees Enshrined in Canastota, New York
WITH the temperatures in the mid 90s and the early summer sun shining brightly, thousands of boxing fans from around the globe assembled at the Hall of Fame's Events Pavilion to see the Class of 2008 join boxing immortals when they were enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the Official Induction Ceremony on Sunday, June 8th. This year marked the 19th Class of Inductees honored in Canastota.
The Induction Ceremony capped a fun-filled 4-day Hall of Fame Weekend that 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 very popular "ringside lecture" question and answer sessions and many workout sessions by boxing stars of today and tomorrow.
This year's living inductees were heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, junior welterweight champion Eddie Perkins, promoters Mogens Palle and Frank Warren and journalists Dave Anderson and Joe Koizumi. Living honorees received the official Hall of Fame Induction certificate and gold Hall of Fame ring symbolizing their status as Hall of Famers.
First to accept Hall of Fame honors was Japan's Joe Koizumi. “I am deeply honored to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Boxing has been my life for more than fifty years.”
Denmark's legendary promoter Mogens Palle, who has been in the promoting business for over fifty years, paid tribute to the boxers and fans. “Let us never forget that without all these great fighters around us here there is no boxing,” said Palle. “So I salute all fighters and all of you wonderful fans. Thank you.”
New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson was next to the podium. “Thank you very much. When I was a teenager growing up I used to read about boxing from writers like Jimmy Cannon and Bill Heinz. To be in the Hall of Fame with Jimmy Cannon and Bill Heinz among some of the other great writers I read as a youngster is really overwhelming…Thank you so much for having me and thank you so much for being in this great Hall of Fame. If anybody doesn't know Canastota, they will know it from now on, believe me.”
England's Frank Warren, who has been a promoter since 1980, graciously accepted his Hall of Fame honor. “Ladies and gentleman, it is a fantastic privilege to be here today in Carmen Basilio's hometown. I would like to thank the Hall of Fame, the volunteers, the supporters, all of the Hall of Famers and, of course, the people of Canastota for being so kind and generous and making us all feel welcome. As a promoter to be inducted into an exclusive club with other legendary promoters including the likes of Tex Rickard, Mike Jacobs, Don King and Bob Arum is a great honor. To be in 'Boxing's Hometown' and to be included in this gathering is humbling."
Larry Holmes by his plaque on HOF Wall.
Chicago's Eddie Perkins was accompanied by family friend Mike Joyce as he officially joined boxing's all-time greats. “Eddie is grateful and humbled by this honor. It's particularly special because it is the International Hall of Fame and Eddie fought internationally. Eddie was a champion in and out of the ring. Eddie and his family would like to thank the people of Canastota, the Hall of Fame, the boxing community and a special thank you to Carmen and Josie Basilio.”
Easton, PA's Larry Holmes enthralled the induction crowd with a highly emotional acceptance speech. After taking a moment to compose himself, Holmes said, “I'm sorry. I'm choked up a little bit. Why not? When you get to this point, when people come out to salute you like this…it makes you want to cry. So if I cry, cry with me because I feel good,” said Holmes. “I was determined to be the heavyweight champion of the world because I wanted to prove to those who said I couldn't do it, that I could do it.”
Posthumous inductees of the Class of 2008 honored were Holman Williams in the Modern Category; Harry Lewis, Len Harvey and Frank Klaus in the old-timer category; Dan Donnelly in the pioneer category; trainer Bill Gore in the non-participant category. Lewis' great nephew Gus Blumberg and Klaus' granddaughter Marilyn Klaus 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, Jose Torres, Emile Griffith, Gene Fullmer, Ruben Olivares, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Alexis Arguello, Aaron Pryor, Michael Carbajal, Pernell Whitaker, Lou Duva, Gil Clancy, Don Chargin, J Russell Peltz, Bert Sugar, Angelo Dundee, Emanuel Steward and Bob Arum.
Other boxers in attendance included Christy Martin, James (Buster) Douglas, Ron Lyle, George Chuvalo, Livingstone Bramble, Marlon Starling, Leon Spinks, Gerry Cooney, Cory Spinks, Billy Backus, Dickie DiVeronica, Lee Roy Murphy, Ernie Terrell, Hector (Macho) Camacho and Harry Arroyo.
Also during Weekend activities, the Hall celebrated many of the up and coming stars in the sport with a special “Night of the Rising Stars.” Those highlighted included IBF cruiserweight champion Steve (USS) Cunningham, IBF light welterweight champion Paulie (Magic Man) Malignaggi, heavyweight contender Chazz Witherspoon, WBO / WBA / IBF lightweight champion Nate (Galaxxy Warrior) Campbell, WBC light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson, The Contender star Peter Manfredo, Jr., and light heavyweight prospect Shaun George. Hall of Fame trainer / manager and HBO World Championship Boxing expert commentator Emanuel Steward hosted the evening. Also, SHOBOX commentator Steve Farhood provided insight into the careers of each featured boxer.
This year's Hall of Fame Parade of Champions Grand Marshals were legendary comedian Pat Cooper and Dallas Cowboys superstar and Super Bowl XII champion Ed (Too Tall) Jones.
Cooper spoke fondly of his love for the sport of boxing. “I got emotional today to see some of the greatest fighters I ever saw on the television or when I was a kid…You have something here of value and we come here to share your value. This is yours. I'm so happy and honored, and I mean that, to have been asked to be here with the champions of the sport I love and I care about and some of the great men and women that have made this sport thrilling. Thank you for having me.”
Jones, who boxed professionally from 1979-80, said, “I'm honored to be here. This is my first time here and I must say that you sure know how to welcome an old Cowboy from Texas with open arms. I know the importance of coming out to celebrate he Hall of Fame inductees and I just want to congratulate all of the inductees today.”
Training Camp - The Hall of Fame Grounds was transformed into training headquarters for many of today's stars. For two days world champions Steve (USS) Cunningham and Nate Campbell; former champions Hector “Macho” Camacho and Christy Martin; and heavyweight prospect “Gentleman” Chazz Witherspoon all put on an exciting workout sessions that included mitt work, shadow boxing, speed bag and sparring.
The Boxing Bookshelf - Boxing fans had the unique opportunity to get their copy of recently released boxing books autographed by both the subject and authors. Among the special book signings that took place throughout the weekend festivities included Carmen Basilio autographing copies of The Onion Picker: Carmen Basilio and Boxing in the 1950s, Angelo Dundee and Bert Sugar autographing My View From The Corner: A Life in Boxing, and Emile Griffith and Ron Ross autographing Nine, Ten and Out: The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE Joining the boxing stars in Canastota for the festivities were 1980 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star George Rogers and Easton, PA mayor Salvatore Panto.