The International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) has been honouring figures from our sport since 1990. Started by the residents of the town of Canastota, New York to acknowledge the achievements of hometown heroes Carmen Basilio and Billy Backus in the early 1980s, that event was a success and from it grew what we all recognise today – the place which celebrates the history of boxing, culminating in the annual early June induction ceremony for the latest inductees.
For this piece I was able to check-in with the Executive Director of The Hall, Ed Brophy to find out some more about the Hall of Fame, its place in the fabric of Canastota and what goes into planning the induction weekend.
This year's induction weekend is June 7-10. More information on this and everything IBHOF related can be found at www.ibhof.com and the official Twitter account @BoxingHall.
CM: Hi Ed. Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself, your background in boxing and how you became the Executive Director of the IBHOF?
EB: I was born and raised in the village of Canastota and developed a love for the sport of boxing at a young age. Canastota's Carmen Basilio was the talk of the boxing world and everywhere you went in town – bowling alleys, restaurants, barber shops, etc – he was the talk of the village as well and remained a hero until his death in 2012.
When I was around 12-years-old, Basilio's nephew, Billy Backus was climbing the welterweight ranks and would defeat Jose Napoles in 1970 to win the championship. I saw many aspects of boxing as a youngster – from watching boxers train at the local boxing gym to attending press conferences and fights, as well as stepping into the ring for a handful of amateur bouts. Boxing was always on my mind. It provided me with a full appreciation for the sport on many levels.
A group of boxing and community enthusiasts gathered to discuss establishing a way to show Canastota's appreciation to the sport of boxing. And what better way than to establish the Boxing Hall of Fame. I was named Executive Director of the Hall of Fame in 1984 and have served in that capacity since.
CM: You have already touched on this but can you underline just what it means to the community of Canastota having the IBHOF there?
EB: Canastota has always had a love affair with the sport. There was bare-knuckle boxing at the turn of the century, high school boxing teams, promoters, managers and two world champions calling Canastota home. The community has a respect for boxing that has been an integral part of the village's growth. The pride Canastota residents take in having two champions from our tiny village resonates as loudly today as it did when Carmen and Billy had championship belts around their waist.
CM: Can you speak about some of the prime items you have on display at the museum there?
EB: Each item in the museum's collection is special and unique. Championship robes and/or trunks worn by Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Emile Griffith, Bob Foster, Wilfred Benitez, Arturo Gatti and current pound-for-pound star Vasyl Lomachenko chronicle boxing legends throughout many eras. There are fist castings of legendary champions like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Roberto Duran and Mike Tyson. The most famous ring in boxing history – the Madison Square Garden ring – is on display in “Boxing's Hometown” having been donated to the Hall in 2007.
CM: Are you consistently busy throughout the year with boxing fans visiting?
EB: The Hall of Fame is busy throughout the year. Boxing fans from around the globe continue to make Canastota a destination point on their travels. Summer traffic is the busiest as families are travelling across New York State on vacation and looking forward to a walk down boxing's memory lane.
CM: How much time goes into planning the induction weekend? What kind of behind the scenes work goes on to ensure everything runs smoothly when the event arrives?
EB: Planning for induction weekend begins soon after the previous year's ends. We have an incredible team of volunteers that work throughout the year on Hall of Fame weekend details. Monthly meetings start in the fall to work on event logistics and coordinate volunteers to work each event. Behind the scenes there are plenty of details that need to be kept on top of constantly to ensure that each aspect of the weekend is planned to run as smoothly as possible for the boxers, fans and the media.
CM: As well as the hard work that has gone into it, what from your point of view makes the Hall of Fame weekend so special?
EB: The weekend is special because it is truly a community event. Both the Canastota community, with over 300 volunteers, including youth groups, church groups and more, along with the boxing community participating as sponsors or being in Canastota to participate directly make the weekend a unique fan experience. The boxers are very giving, taking time to sign autographs and pose for pictures. It's truly a magical weekend for the sport of boxing.
CM: Finally, I noticed from the Hall of Fame website that you have an expansion project on the go. What does this involve and how close to completion is it?
EB: Fundraising efforts are underway to expand the Hall of Fame museum. Expansion plans will be determined by the amount of dollars raised. We will keep fans posted on progress as new updates are available.