25th ANNUAL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CELEBRATION IN
BOXING'S HOMETOWN - CANASTOTA, NEW YORK
CANASTOTA, NY - JUNE 8, 2014 - Over the course of four sun-filled days (June 5-8th) the boxing world celebrated the Hall of Fame’s landmark 25th Anniversary and honored the Class of 2014 as they joined boxing immortals. Thousands of boxing fans from throughout the United States and across the globe, along with members of the worldwide boxing community, assembled at the Hall of Fame's Events Pavilion to see the new inductees enshrined at the Official Induction Ceremony on Sunday, June 8th.
The ceremony capped a fun-filled weekend in “Boxing’s Hometown” celebrating the new inductees and the sport of boxing. The weekend featured many exciting and memorable events including a golf tournament, cocktail party, banquet, a Night of Puerto Rican Pride and boxing autograph card show. There were also a variety of activities on the Museum Grounds including the popular "ringside lecture" question and answer sessions, celebrity fist casting, celebrity boxing demonstrations, raffles and a silent auction.
This year's living inductees were two division champion “The Pride of Wales” Joe Calzaghe, six division champion “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya, three division champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad, promoter Barry Hearn, referee Richard Steele, journalist Graham Houston and photographer Neil Leifer. Living honorees received the official Hall of Fame Induction Certificate and gold Hall of Fame ring symbolizing their status as Hall of Famers.
Posthumous inductees of the Class of 2014 honored were George “K.O.”Chaney, Charles Ledoux and Mike O’Dowd in the old-timer category; Tom Allen in the pioneer category; and referee Eugene Corri in the Non-Participant category.
Chaney’s grandson, Craig Kirchner, accepted for his family and made a special donation to the Hall of Fame, a 100-year old "K.O." Chaney sweatshirt that his grandfather wore.
Joseph Hillstrom, great nephew of O’Dowd, accepted Hall of Fame honors on behalf of his great uncle.
Veteran journalist Houston was the first living member of the Class of 2014 to accept his Hall of Fame ring. “…Sometimes you write articles and you write thousands of words and you wonder do people really enjoy what I write. Sometimes you have little doubts and then you get inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame and you think , you know what, people out there do like what I ‘ve done over the years. I can’t ask for more than that. And I can’t ask for more than to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I’m so grateful, humbled and honored.”
British promoter Hearn proudly accepted boxing’s highest honor next. “…We are so lucky to be involved in this quite unique sport and we’re surrounded by quite unique people. They should have our respect, they should have our admiration and they should have our support. All we have to do is play straight with them and we know they will play straight with us. To the people of Canastota, to Ed Brophy, his organizing committee, these wonderful helpers who are everywhere, thank you for giving me a day I never dreamed in my lifetime I would experience. Thank you to all you guys for your support.”
Next was Leifer, the first photographer elected into the Hall of Fame. “To be the first photographer (in the Hall) is just a real, real honor. It’s an honor for me and, it’s an honor, I think, for all the photographers that have worked so hard…There are two questions I’m asked all the time. What is your favorite sport to photograph and I always answer boxing. The answer is so easy and these four days have really just convinced me how right I’ve been all these years…So the second question I’m asked all the time, usually on a college campus where I lecture occasionally to photojournalism students and young students come up to me and they say, ‘Neil, how can we have a career like the one you’ve had?’ And my answer is so simple. I look at them and of course they immediately think I’m full of it when I say to them, ‘It’s easy. You can definitely have a career as good as mine. Just go out and find yourself a subject like Muhammad Ali. Hitch your wagon to it and stick around for forty years and you’ll be a superstar.' So I want to dedicate my being inducted today to the great Muhammad Ali, one of the great human beings of all time. There is no way I would be standing here had Ali not taken me on the greatest ride of my life.”
An emotional Steele was next to join boxing’s immortals. “Wow. 58 years I have been working trying to get where I’m at today, not even knowing where I was going. Not even knowing what I was going to do or who I was going to be surrounded by. You guys have really showed me what love is. I love boxing and what you guys have put together to show me that you appreciated what I have done, I love you all for this. This memory will be with me for the rest of my days….The fans, oh wow, you guys are great. If I had enough rings I’d give you all one! …Boxing is my life. Boxing has been good to me. And I want to take this time to thank you all the fans, all the people in charge of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Thank you so much. This is an honor. I am so happy…”
Undefeated two-division champion Calzaghe was next to the podium to accept his gold ring. “Thank you so much. Wow. I will never forget this for the rest of my life. To see these great champions, referees and promoters and to be nominated on the 25th Anniversary against two absolutely special fighters in Oscar De La Hoya and Tito Trinidad, wow. That’s all I can say is wow. I’m just so humbled to be in their presence…I wanted to be a footballer and I remember being freezing cold in the winter left on the subs' bench shivering, not scoring any goals. Then I went to the boxing gym and started beating people up and I thought, you know what, I like this boxing, this feels good. My hands were a lot faster than my feet…I thank God, all my fans, my family who has always been there for me. Thank you so much and thank you for being here and giving me one of the best weekends. I will never ever forget this moment and I’ll cherish it the rest of my life.”
The fighting pride of Puerto Rico Trinidad walked to the podium to chants of “Tito, Tito, Tito” from his adoring fans. “…and today I am very proud to be recognized for my career, which has basically been my whole life. I want to let you know my family has always supported me, been there for me throughout my entire career…But today in front of all of you, this person, without him, more than likely, I’m completely sure I would not be here. Besides being my father, he has been the best father, the best manager, the best trainer - with all respect to managers and trainers here – he fought with me every day to accomplish being here standing in the Hall of Fame. I’m very proud of you dad, extremely proud. I owe you a lot…Truthfully this award, this ring, which is very beautiful, also belongs to you. From my heart, I love you…I love this Museum, I love my people. Puerto Rico! Thank you.”
Next to join boxing’s immortals was “The Golden Boy” De La Hoya. "Today marks an incredible personal achievement but it is only the latest milestone that never would have been possible without my family, my friends and most importantly, the fans. The gold medal in Barcelona, the world championships is six different weight classes, the founding of Golden Boy Promotions and my foundation, my entire journey from East Los Angeles to this moment has been a partnership between myself and the millions of people that have supported me first as an amateur and then as a champion and now as a promoter, businessman and philanthropist. I share this honor with each and every single person here, the fans. Thank you very much. I am particularly excited to see so many of my fellow fighters here today and I am astonished by the names that I am joining in this special fraternity. So many of these men were not only dominate inside the ring, but were and are larger than life outside the ropes. Alexis Arguello, may he rest in peace, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jack Dempsey, George Foreman, Julio Cesar Chavez, the list goes on and on and on. And of course Felix Trinidad – who I am most privileged to join today in this Induction Ceremony.”
Among the boxing stars on hand for the weekend were Hall of Fame Alumni Bob Arum, Al Bernstein, Don Chargin, Stanley Christodoulou, Joe Cortez, Pipino Cuevas, George Foreman, Wilfredo Gomez, Larry Hazzard, Don King, Ruben Olivares, Carlos Ortiz, Russell Peltz, Aaron Pryor, Dwight Qawi and Michael Spinks.
Other boxing celebrities in attendance included Vito Antuofermo, Billy Backus, Iran Barkley, Lucian Bute, Dickie DiVeronica, Ivan Calderon, George Chuvalo, Gerry Cooney, Carlos De Leon, Glen Johnson, Zab Judah, Juan LaPorte, John John Molina, Erik Morales, Diana Prazak, Lucia Rijker, John Ruiz, Zou Shiming, Leon Spinks, Marlon Starling, John H. Stracey, Frank Tate, Wilfredo Vazquez, Felix Verdejo, Andre Ward and Micky Ward. Also, actress Rosie Perez, who was the 2013 Parade of Champions grand marshal, returned to Canastota to participate in the festivities.
The Grand Marshal of the 2014 Parade of Champions was Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri.
A Night of Puerto Rican Pride – The Hall of Fame celebrated the proud boxing tradition of Puerto Rico with an evening featuring video highlights and speeches from such Puerto Rican standouts as Wilfredo Vazquez, Carlos De Leon, John John Molina, Ivan Calderon, Juan LaPorte, John Ruiz and Hall of Famers Carlos Ortiz, Wilfredo Gomez and Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein reflected on the great rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico, while Rosie Perez spoke of the pride Puerto Ricans take in their boxing heroes.
In This Corner – James “Smitty” Smith and his In This Corner television crew filmed a variety of interviews and “in-ring” segments to be aired on his program. The demonstrations – featuring Dwight Qawi, Joe Calzaghe and Lucia Rijker – saw the champions demonstrate the technique that led to their winning ways in the ring.
Hall of Fame Collection Grows – Boxing champions Frank Tate, Andre “S.O.G.” Ward and Zab “Super” Judah all donated fight worn robe and trunks to the Hall for Museum display. Also, on behalf of former lightweight champion Nate Campbell, journalist Lee Groves presented a boxing robe “The Galaxxy Warrior” wore for three bouts during his career. Groves also donated a cornerman’s jacket worn by a member of former featherweight champion Manuel Medina’s team.
Message From The Greatest – Three-time heavyweight champion and 1990 Hall of Famer Muhammad Ali sent a congratulatory note to be read during the festivities. It read: “Congratulations on the International Boxing Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary. Over the past twenty-five years, the IBHOF has honored and preserved the legacy of boxing and its legendary stars. I know as well as any, the road to this year’s Hall of Fame Weekend was paved with dedication, hard work and an unwavering passion for the sport. I am still honored to have been a member of the inaugural class of inductees in 1990, a day that made me proud and one I will never forget. Although I am not able to be with you during this special weekend, I’d like to congratulate this year’s inductees and encourage them to continue their participation and support of the IBHOF...All my best, Muhammad Ali.”
25 Years and Growing – With the State of New York in the Hall’s corner for expansion, the Hall of Fame received generous donations from prominent members of the boxing community to help realize growth in Canastota. Paco Valcarcel, president of the WBO and super middleweight king Andre Ward each pledged $50,000 to the expansion fund. Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya made a $50,000 pledge towards the Hall’s operational fund and offered to be on the Hall’s fund-raising committee to seek corporate sponsors.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE for the 25th Hall of Fame Weekend festivities were trainers Enzo Calzaghe and Felix Trinidad Sr., former champion Tracy Patterson, Boxcino tournament champion Willie Monroe, Jr., boxer Dewey Bozella, bantamweight contender Oscar “The Boxer” Muniz, referees Kenny Bayless, Tony Weeks, Vic Drakulich, Russell Mora and Steve Smoger, former New York State Athletic Commission Chairman and Sirius/ XM radio host Randy Gordon, Golden Boy VP of Operations Monica Sears, Golden Boy Promotions PR Director Ramiro Gonzalez, Golden Boy Promotions PR consultant Bill Caplan, Golden Boy Promotions matchmakers Eric Gomez and Roberto Diaz, The Ring magazine editor Michael Rosenthal, BWAA president Jack Hirsch and Top Rank VP-Boxing Operations Carl Moretti.