Story and photos by Boxing Bob Newman
As was the case at last year’s IBHOF induction Sunday, the rains came early. But unlike last year, the heat came late, drying up the rain, and drenching fans and inductees alike in perspiration. Just as in waiting on a decision at the end of a boxing match, one never knows what the weather will be like on induction day in the Central New York town of Canastota. There have been torrential downpours, temperatures dipping low enough to require the purchase of IBHOF sweatshirts and jackets and sweltering heat in the 90s. Today was the latter, with loads of water being downed and souvenir programs used as fans.
After the traditional parade of champions through the village, champions old and new took to the stage and fans to their seats or the grass, to honor the posthumous as well as six living inductees for their contribution to the Sweet Science.
Boxing historian Herb Goldman read down the list of deceased inductees and their accomplishments:
Cocoa Kid: Born Herbert Lewis Hardwick in 1914 in Puerto Rico, the “Kid” amassed an incredible 240+ fight ring career. With a win over Chalky Wright and a draw with Charlie Burley, Kid also met Hall of Famers Battling Battalino, Lou Ambers and Archie Moore. Despite being ranked by Ring Magazine in the top 10 at lightweight, welterweight and middleweight, he never fought for a world title.
Newsboy Brown: Born David Montrose in 1905 in Russia, Brown won the California version of the “world” flyweight title in 1928 with a win over Johnny McCoy. Brown scored wins of Chalky Wright, Midget Wolgast, “Panama” Al Brown and Baby Arizmendi.
Leo Houck: Leonard Florian Houck was born in Lancaster, PA in 1888. Houck competed in every division from flyweight to heavyweight. Houck took on 12 world champions including Gene Tunney, Harry Greb, Billy Papke and Jack Britton. Despite his tenacity and ruggedness, Houck never received a world title shot.
Jake Kilrain: John Joseph Killian was born in 1859 in Greenpoint, NY. In the last bare knuckle championship battle, Kilrain took on John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight championship. After 2 hours and 16 minutes in 104 degree heat, Kilrain’s corner stopped the bout at the start of the 76th round.
Hugh D. McIntosh: Aussie McIntosh brought big time boxing Down Under. “Big Deal” McIntosh brought heavyweight champion Tommy Burns to Australia for two successful defense against Billy Squires and Bill Lang. McIntosh’s legendary promotion of Burns vs. Jack Johnson changed boxing history as Johnson became the first black man to win the heavyweight championship of the world.
Rip Valenti: Anthony Valenti began promoting boxing shows in 1932 in Boston. Valenti managed welterweight king Tony DeMarco and promoted many of Marevlous Marvin Hagler’s early bouts. Valenti also secured the rights to 22 closed circuit locations for Hagler-Hearns and grossed $1.8 million on that deal alone.
James Wharton (Young Molineaux): born in 1813 in Morocco, Wharton scored his most famous victory over Hammer Lane a KO in the 52nd round! Wharton remained unbeaten during his career.
IBHOF president Don Ackerman then presented the rings and certificates to the six living inductees:
Michael Katz: After covering sports in Europe in the late sixties until 1972, Katz returned to New York and and the New York Times. Katz began covering boxing full time for the New York Daily News in 1985. With stints with several online boxing sites including Showtime.com and msgnetwork.com. Katz won the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism by the BWAA in 1981.
Al Bernstein: After starting his professional career as a journalist, Bernstein joined ESPN in 1980 and for the next 18 years was the voice of the network’s Top Rank Boxing series. Bernstein has covered the Olympics for NBC in 1992 and 1996 and has been with Showtime Championship Boxing since 2003.
Michael Buffer: At the urging of his son who was watching a boxing match with Buffer in television, the former model and car salesman took to the microphone in 1982 and has never looked back since. Trademarking the phrase “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble,” Buffer is synonymous with big time boxing around the world.
Freddie Roach: After an 8 year career in the ring as a fighter, Roach began learning the craft from a trainer’s perspective from his own legendary trainer Eddie Futch. Guiding over 20 world champions in the ring, Roach has been named “Trainer of the Year” five times by the BWAA.
Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson: After a distinguished amateur career, and early pro fights in his native Washington, D.C., Johnson began campaigning out West under Forum Boxing. Winning the vacant IBF Flyweight title in 1996, and the IBF Super Flyweight tielin 1999, Johnson became the first African American to win those weight class championships.
Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns: Also known as the “Motor City Cobra,” Hearns began his boxing career with Detroit’s famed Kronk Gym under the tutelage of Hall of Famtrainer Emmanuel Steward. Starting with his devastating WBA welterweight title win via TKO2 over Pipino Cuevas in 1980, Hearns went on a tear through five consecutive divisions over a 29 year professional career becoming the first man to win titles in that many different divisions. His epic battles with fellow IBHOF alums Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler rank among the most exciting in ring history.