Report and photos by Boxing Bob Newman
Saturday’s sessions of the 2012 edition of the IBHOF started out a tad dismal as the rains came down, but the skies cleared and the enthusiasm of the fans never waned. The celebrity golf outing, boxing collectors show, ringside lectures, V.I.P. Cocktail hour and gala banquet were all a success.
With several “rounds” going on at the same time, fans could choose which event they wanted to attend, or mill about between all of them. At the Canastota High School gymnasium, the collectors memorabilia show was its usual hit with fans looking for that treasure to add to their boxing collection. They could also stand in line for autographs as boxers came throughout the day to take their turns at the signing table.
Meanwhile, ringside lectures, given by assorted boxing luminaries, were taking place back at the Hall’s grounds, as well as amateur boxing exhibitions, conducted by Syracuse’s dean of boxing, Ray Rinaldi and his several young charges.
At 5:30, fans lined up outside the Greystone, an old converted church, for the chance to engage in a little “face time” with any one of their favorite boxers. Live musical entertainment and refreshments were on hand as current inductees Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, Tommy “the Hitman” Hearns, Al Bernstein and Michael Katz were all on hand to mingle with fans, sign autographs and just plain talk shop about the sport which brings them all together. Of course, past inductees and non inductees, as well as current stars like IBF cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez, former European heavyweight champion Robert “Nordic Nightmare” Helenius and IBO cruiserweight king Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver were welcomed by the zealous throng as well.
From there, boxers and fans made the 30 minute trek into Syracuse to the “On Center,” A sprawling venue suitable for events ranging from conventions to rock concerts held the 1000 or so guests for the gala banquet. Mixed in with the regular every day fan, were boxing insiders like referee Steve “Double S” Smoger, and Randy Neumann, agent Don Majeski, WBA president and vice president Gilberto Mendoza Sr. & Jr. There was also the man known simply at “The Cowboy,” who has become a bit of a legend at these banquets, due in large part to his large bag of money that enables him to virtually win every auction of boxing memorabilia held each year. He easily parts with $30,000 at the banquet auction alone, then flies his haul back to Chicago where he is building his own personal boxing museum.
Inductees and non took to the microphone, thanking the fans, waxing poetic about their careers, taking friend jabs at each other from time to time. Hearns reflected, “Just one more time Marvin, jut one more…” the “Hitman” begged the “Marvelous One,” hinting at unfinished business from their epic 1985 three round war that many boxing pundits deemed the most furious three round in boxing history.
Then for the fans, it was off to wherever one could find a showing of the Pacquiao-Bradley PPV. If only they knew what they were hurrying for…