June 11, 2001 – SecondsOut correspondent Larry Tornambe reports from the International Boxing Hall of Fame weekend in Canastota and gives an invaluable insight into the most famous boxing weekend of the year.
By Larry Tornambe: On Sunday at the International Boxing Hall of Fame, surprised fans were still buzzing about the exciting Ali vs Frazier bout during Saturday's Hall of Fame activities. It's unanimous that the fight lived up to the hype.
Don Lenza, a promoter from Chicago, Illinois, claimed it was "the best Ali-Frazier fight in 25 years." The Hall of Fame designed Saturday's events to be mostly indoor, however outdoor talk sessions were scheduled for the Hall of Fame grounds and a golf tournament starts today at 7am. The annual autograph/card show sets up in Canastota High School from 10am to 5pm. The items for sale in the show will blow your mind.
It's really amazing how some of the memorabilia is kept in such good condition, but the volume of the collectors and their wares will keep you looking and buying for hours. Top collectors such as Don Scott, Russell Peltz and Glass Jaw Antiques, just to name a few, open up their tables to display signed photos, posters and items that haven't been seen in 30 years.
Fighters will rotate at the autograph table throughout the day, depending when their golf game finishes, and the talk sessions in the Hall's grounds.
Don Chargin is a veteran promoter of 50 years and is currently working with Johnny Tapia and Willie Jorrin. Chargin finally got inducted to the Hall on Sunday and told Secondsout, "I'm thrilled to death, It's a lifelong dream."
Saad Muhammad said " I really enjoy being with the people" and Earnie Shavers put lots of time behind the autograph tables and clowning for photos during the show and at the Hall of Fame tent.
Angelo Dundee enjoyed his tour of the Hall of Fame and the stop at the gift shop. Dundee was gracious enough to stop for a photo and chat with a former boxer of his and a former trainer of mine, Ronnie Branch. Boxing revolves in a small world, huh?
The early evening hours moved into the Greystone reception hall for the classy VIP Gala Cocktail party, which precedes the Banquet of Champions at a nearby restaurant. The late night hours continue at Graziano's Restaurant located across the street from the Hall of Fame. Many of the celebrities gather at the bar and dance floor and show their personal side.
This time is mostly for chatting, instead of autograph chasing. Some boxers will sign, but many just want to be a regular guy for a while. Michael Spinks walked in with his championship smile, he recognized me and came over to shake hands, Saad Muhammad urged me to find a dance partner, because he wanted to see me "dance and have good time". Michael quickly filled a space on the floor not far from Ken Norton.
Bob Foster and Saad Muhammad, two light-heavyweight champs from different eras, compared reaches and height and Bob looked at me and said "he's too small." Foster, who seems taller than his listed 6ft 3inches, with his booming voice said to Saad Muhammad, "look at that reach, you would've never got to me." Saad laughed, hugged Foster and moved onto the dance floor. It was a priceless moment that you just don't get anywhere else!
The breakfast of champions revives the partying crowd on Sunday morning. It is another nice opportunity for fans to gather in a smaller venue, however one must wait until the celebrities are finished eating and they are not obligated to sign at this time. Jimmy Ellis, the former WBA heavyweight champion, showed off his clear singing voice earlier in the week.
2000 Inductee, Jeff Chandler arrived in town late Friday, so we used this time to 'catch up' and talked to one another for the first time in several months. Jeff's face really livened up when the younger fans greeted him.
When the breakfast shut down all the fighters prepared for the parade, which travels down the main district of Canastota. Soon after the actual induction ceremony concludes the weekend and everyone goes home with a smile and new memories.
Congratulations must go to Ed Brophy, the Executive Director of the Hall of Fame, who deserves every bit of praise he receives. Jeff and Mike Brophy take good care of the press, and the staff of hundreds keeps the grounds clean, the shelves stocked with souvenirs, and all the events running smoothly. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Hall of Fame, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, but if you go for the induction weekend, the whole scene will absolutely amaze you.