Every professional boxer’s path to the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, NY has its own unique shape. But they’re all paved with courage, skill, risk, and an unyielding will to win – a will which separates these boxers from everyone else.
This June, some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Floyd Mayweather Jr., Roy Jones Jr., Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Bernard Hopkins, Andre Ward, Wladimir Klitschko, Laila Ali, Lucia Rijker, Juan Manuel Marquez, James Toney, and Christy Martin, will receive their gold rings, and take their place among their sport’s most accomplished, most celebrated athletes at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
After the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 induction weekends due to Covid, this year’s “Once in a Lifetime” Hall of Fame Weekend Induction Trilogy, June 9th through 12th, promises to be an extraordinarily special four days in Canastota, NY.
So what is it about induction weekend in Canastota that is so special? We boxing fans are often met with looks of surprise, and sometimes disapproval, when we tell people we are fans of boxing. After all, most people see boxing as a brutal, even barbaric sport, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
However, boxing also is, at its best, filled with more heart, respect, compassion, and dare I say love than any other sport. When you see two fighters with genuine animosity, pushing and shoving each other at their weigh in the day before their fight, and then see them give everything they have in the ring to outland, outpoint, and out-punish each other, and in doing so earn each other’s respect in the most genuine way, there’s nothing “sweeter” in the sweet science of boxing than that.
This was on full display when Mike Tyson infamously threatened to eat Lennox Lewis’ children leading up to their 2002 fight. Then in the immediate aftermath of their fight, after being knocked out by Lewis, Tyson can be seen gently wiping his opponent’s cheek and talking about how much he respects Lewis. There’s also the incredible story of Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward ending up next to each other at the hospital after their brutal first fight, and the first thing Gatti says to Ward is “Hey Mick, you alright?”
As a fan, you can’t help but appreciate the extraordinary duality of the sport – which can be inhumane and at the same time the most human of all sports.
Nowhere is this humanity more apparent that at the annual induction weekend at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Fighters from different eras, different weight classes, and different levels of achievement, come together to celebrate the new inductees, each other, and the sport itself. It’s a thrill as a fan to see all these different fighters and other boxing personalities (managers, promoters, refs, judges, trainers, on-air talent, behind-the-scenes production people) and their families get together and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. It’s surprising to see that somehow, so many of the fighters know each other.
Maybe they trained in the same gym, or fought each other in the amateurs, or shared a trainer for a while. It almost feels like an annual family reunion. It’s impossible not to notice and appreciate the respect and love that permeates every aspect of hall of fame induction weekend. The respect the fighters have for each other, the respect the fans have for the fighters, and the respect the fighters in turn have for the fans are all on display in full force. The smiles, handshakes, hugs, autographs and photos with fans – everything about induction weekend is so genuine, so real, and that’s what makes it so special.
We fans cheer as two combatants put their lives on the line, literally, and give everything they have to hurt each other, often to the point that one of them is left unconscious. So, it’s refreshing, and for some fans, the most gratifying aspect of the sport to see such respect and admiration among fighters, the respect and admiration that are products of grueling careers spent training, sparring, cutting weight, and of course – fighting.
The annual IBHOF induction weekend epitomizes this respect, and it’s a treat – even an honor, to experience it and be part of this special weekend. A trip to Canastota, especially during induction weekend, should be on every boxing fan’s bucket list. Click here for more info on attending the 2022 gala.