International Boxing Hall of Fame

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International Boxing Hall of Fame

Titletown U.S.A.

Canastota has a rich boxing heritage which makes it an ideal home for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. This small central New York town (population: 5,000) is located about twenty miles east of Syracuse on the New York State Thruway.

In 1895, the first projection of a motion picture film, with a device known as the Biograph, took place in Canastota. Appropriately, the film showed boxers sparring. In the twentieth century, boxing gyms and clubs flourished in Canastota, and an active amateur program continues there today. In addition to its own boxing tradition, Canastota is close to Syracuse, a major boxing venue for many years.

Canastota is most proud, however, of the two champions its boxing environment eventually produced: native sons Carmen Basilio, welterweight and middleweight champion in the late 1950s, and Basilio's nephew, Billy Backus, welterweight champ in 1970 and '71.

In August 1982 a movement was started to raise $30,000 in donations from local businesses to construct a showcase featuring memorabilia from the careers of Basilio and Backus. The showcase, a brick structure with tall picture windows and overhanging roof, was built directly across the street from the future site of the Hall of Fame. It was dedicated in August 1984.

Basilio and Backus Showcase

This success gave impetus to the group that had already established itself as the Boxing Hall of Fame, Inc. to plan and build a shrine for the sport and its stars from around the world. The Ring had at one time inducted members into a Hall of Fame located in its offices. However, that hall never established an existence independent of the magazine and did not survive changes in the publication's ownership and offices.

Many Canastota residents put their energies behind the effort to establish a new Hall of Fame, and local boxing enthusiast Edward Brophy became the Hall's executive director. The Hall's founders secured two state grant's for $50,000 for a feasibility study and other preliminary work. Twenty-five area residents pledged $1,000 each, and the village and township councils approved small annual appropriations. A location near the Thruway, and agreements from collectors to donate boxing memorabilia to the museum were lined up, and four years later, the 2,000 square-foot facility opened its doors to the public. The Hall has seen two major expansions since its opening, and further plans, including a new library facility, are in the works. The village continues to actively support the Hall, and many residents have contributed a decade or more of service.

Inside the Hall

Wall of Fame

Exhibits include the "Wall of Fame", where each inductee is represented with a plaque including a photo and brief biography. Championship belts, plaster casts of famous fists, and the robes, trunks, and gloves of storied fighters are prominently displayed. The unique collection of fist casts grows each year as living honorees join in fistcasting on the induction weekends.

Other displays in the Hall include tickets and programs from famous fights, and historic copies of The Ring. In addition, a collection of equipment used in training shows the different gloves and protective devices used in preparing for a fight. An exhibit of the tools used by cut men gives the boxing fan a rare opportunity to see firsthand what a cornerman uses to control cuts. In addition to these and other exhibits, videotapes of great fights and fighters are shown on monitors located throughout the museum.

Fist cast impressions

The Hall of Fame also boasts an extensive boxing library, available for use by the general public by appointment. The library's holdings include annual editions of the Ring Record Book, biographies and autobiographies of boxing figures, and many other books dealing with the sport. Of special interest to the boxing enthusiast is the collection of boxing magazines and programs, most notably the complete bound volumes of The Ring. The museum also has a gift shop, replete with boxing collectibles.

The Vote

Members of the Hall of Fame fall into five categories: Modern, Old-Timer, Pioneer, Non-Participant, and Observer, and are chosen by a vote of 150 boxing experts, historians, and writers. The voters hail from all parts of the globe. In order to be placed on the ballot, individuals must first clear a pre-screening committee of boxing historians. Modern fighters are additionally required to have been retired for five years. Non-participants can be elected to the Hall of Fame even if they are still active, assuming they have achieved enough in their careers to merit selection.

The board of directors of the Hall of Fame determines how many people are to be inducted each year. The candidates who accrue the most votes are those who become inductees. Ballots are mailed out on November 1 each year with the announcement of the new class of inductees coming in mid-January.

Induction Weekend

The high point of the year at the International Boxing Hall of Fame is induction weekend in June, when new members are inducted. Famous boxers, past and present, pour into town. The atmosphere is casual, and members of the public are quite likely to be able to talk with and get autographs from some of the sport's heroes.

Besides the induction ceremony, the weekend features many other boxing related activities, such as a golf tournament where fans can play golf with the boxing greats, a cocktail party, a banquet, and a parade of champions through the town. In addition the public can attend ringside lectures, given by fighters and other prominent figures in the sport, and workout sessions from todays top stars. For those interested in boxing memorabilia, a large boxing collectibles show is held in the Canastota High School gym.

As an added attraction, a celebrity serves as Grand Marshal of the parade. Celebrities from the entertainment world who have been the Parade Grand Marshal are Mr. T, Sherman Hemsley, Bo Derek, Al Lewis, Tony Sirico, Tony Orlando, Ryan O'Neal and Mario Lopez.

Though it is still relatively new, the International Boxing Hall of Fame is rapidly living up to its nickname: "The Showplace of Boxing".

Text is from The Boxing Register - International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book

Hall of Fame Tidbits

Mailing Address:
International Boxing Hall of Fame
1 Hall of Fame Drive
Canastota, NY 13032
Phone: (315) 697-7095; Fax: (315) 697-5356