By Boxing Bob Newman
With the 2010 edition of the International Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend well underway, fans flocked to boxing’s hallowed grounds in Canastoa, New York to take in the festivities on Friday. After several ringside lectures, fans were treated to a workout by current WBC middleweight king Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez with trainer Gabriel Sarmiento. Immediately afterward, the annul fist casting ceremony got underway. 2010 inductees Jung Koo “The Koeran Hawk” Chang, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Ed Schuyler, Larry Hazzard all took part in the annual rendering if a likeness of their fists, which will remain on display in the museum.
The evening event was a tribute to “The Mecca of Boxing,” Madison Square Garden. The event commemorated the rich history of boxing in all four incarnations of the Garden, and the eighty-four year old ring which saw countless wars held on it’s canvas and now sits on display at the Hall’s grounds. Several boxing luminaries reflected on their memories of taking part in the Garden’s historic past. Opening the talks was boxing commentator Al Bernstein, whose own personal memories detailed the savage 1984 beating handed down to New Yorker Davey Moore by Panamanian legend Roberto Duran. Despite Moore being the home town boy, practically everyone in the house was rooting for Duran, who did not disappoint in winning his third crown, the WBA Jr. Middleweight title.
Gerry Cooney, a Long Island native, reflected on his twelve fights at the Garden, including his two New York Golden Gloves victories at middleweight and heavyweight.
George Chuvalo felt that fighting at the Garden meant more than Vegas, or anywhere else. His most memorable fight in the Garden was his 1965 Ring Magazine fight of the year against Floyd Patterson.
Utah’s Fighting Fullmer brothers, Jay, Don and world middleweight champion Gene, took the stage next, each recollecting their Garden memories. Jay, the youngest fighting Fullmer actually made his pro debut at the Garden, while brother Don battled Garden legend Emile Griffith there, among others. Champion Gene won his middleweight belt by defeating the inimitable Sugar Ray Robinson over fifteen rounds, in the first of their four go-rounds.
Carlos Ortiz, a transplanted Puerto Rican who made is career fighting out of New York and in the Garden, remembered his Jr. Welterweight title win in his first fight with Kenny Lane
Vito Antuofermo, former middleweight king in 1979-80, told tales of how he was only afraid of one thing- the dark! During his golden gloves days at MSG, Vito remembered that walking into the ring during the finals, the lights would go dark and when in the ring, only a spot light would shine down upon the two fighters during introductions. By fight time, the lights would come back on, and only then was the future middleweight champ fearless and ready to fight.
Hall of Fame trainer Lou Duva remembered the infamous night when his charge Andrew Golota was disqualified in a fight he was winning against Riddick Bowe and a riot ensued. Duva was knocked to the ground in the ensuring melee, but was later medically cleared and bought 10 pizzas for the nursing staff at St. Vincent’s hospital!
Angelo Dundee remembered his role in the fight of the decade- the 1971 battle between his undefeated Muhammad Ali and heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. The throng outside the Garden was so strong and in a frenzy to see Ali after the same-day weigh-in, that the Ali contingent remained inside the Garden until fight time, eating, resting and preparing the the epic bout.
Long Island’s former two-time champ and current in-demand trainer James “Buddy” McGirt talked about his slew of fights at the Garden and it’s “little sister,” the Felt Forum.
Bringing the memorable night to a close was the middleweight champion tandem of Nino Benvenuti and Garden immortal Emile Griffith. The site of Benvenuti leading the frail Griifth to the stage, holding his hand brought raucous applause of praise for the two former foes who waged two of their three epic battles at MSG. Benvenuti plead that his English was poor, but he practically gave his entire talk without the need of an interpreter. Lauding his three-time adversary Griffith, “Emile was the big fight for me!” On fighting in MSG- “Fighting at Madison Square Garden- it was incredible,” holding his hands out in amazement. Griffith was assisted by his adopted son Luis, as the Hall of Famer is suffering from several health conditions. Luis told of his father’s record holding number of bouts at the old and new MSG, whereupon Griffith himself softly expressed that, “Fighting at the Garden meant everything to me.”