The Travelin’ Man returns to Canastota (with a pit cease in NYC) – Half IV


Class of 2023 IBHOF inductees Tim Bradley and Rafael Marquez pose with 2006 inductee Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez. Our “Travelin’ Man” Lee Groves was available for this 12 months’s induction festivities. Photograph / @BoxingHall

Click on right here for elements one, two and three.


Sunday, June 11: It took some time for the adrenaline from the occasions of Saturday that stretched into the early-morning hours of Sunday to put on off, however I nonetheless managed to get four-and-a-half hours of strong slumber. Following the completion of morning routines, I spent an hour-and-half sharpening Half III and writing the opening bars of this, the ultimate installment of my 2023 IBHOF Induction Weekend travelog. 

One of many causes I actually get pleasure from this annual pilgrimage are the numerous conversations I’ve with my fellow boxing followers, however as I woke up this morning, I used to be made conscious of a possible drawback: A considerably froggy voice. On reflection, it was no surprise as a result of I’ve most likely completed extra speaking within the final three days than I’ve within the final two weeks. Nevertheless, by resting my voice – and by taking one of many throat lozenges Smitty gave me yesterday earlier than my first solo “Trivia with the Travelin’ Man” session – the vocal cords felt significantly better by the point I reached an excellent stopping level within the writing and commenced making ready for the culminating occasion of every 12 months’s celebration — Induction Sunday. 

Though the official schedule learn that the Parade of Champions was to start at midday, my behavior has lengthy been to hold across the museum grounds and interact in gab classes, a course of that finally led to the “Basilio Sausage Sandwich Summit” after I met future Corridor of Fame author Bernard Fernandez underneath one of many umbrella-shaded tables one 12 months. For some purpose, I’ve by no means been a fan of watching parades due to its passivity; I’d moderately be doing one thing extra productive like swapping tales over a sandwich and soda or studying a brand new perspective a few well-known occasion. 

Whereas chatting with 5 followers beneath the pavilion, host James “Smitty” Smith, resplendent in a blue go well with with matching pointy-toed gown sneakers, spoke my identify into the microphone. As I approached the stage I puzzled if he was going to have me have interaction in one other impromptu exercise as a result of he likes to throw curveballs at me to see how I might react. Certain sufficient, he motioned me onto the stage and requested me to take a seat in one of many chairs in entrance of the microphones, however because the minutes ticked by nothing had modified. Forty-five minutes handed earlier than I requested, “uh, Smitty, why am I up right here?”

“Simply to be my good friend,” he replied. 

Ok for me.

After he left the grounds to organize for the induction ceremony contained in the Turning Stone Resort On line casino’s Showroom (which additionally served as the positioning for Friday’s fist casting), I continued to drift from group to group till somewhat after 1:30 p.m. The drive to the on line casino was uneventful however the preliminary seconds standing in line to enter the Showroom introduced forth two surprises. The primary was reuniting with Brian McDonald, with whom I labored in the course of the days when HBO traveled us CompuBox operators, whereas the second concerned the soda I had bought at one of many on line casino’s comfort shops.

“It is advisable to take away the cap and pour the liquid into this plastic cup,” I used to be informed. I chugged sufficient of my sugar-free Pepsi Zero in order that I might fully fill the cup, an act that obtained the hoped-for nod of approval. “When close to Rome (New York), do because the near-Romans do,” I believed. 

The Showroom’s configuration was markedly completely different than was the case for final 12 months’s ceremony on the sprawling Occasions Middle. The seats reserved for media was a lot nearer to the stage (my seat was on the aisle of the third and last row of the part), and the structure inhibited the autograph seekers’ trademark rush towards the stage in the course of the last group pose by the newly-minted inductees, one other constructive growth provided that I’ve been in the midst of the crush on a number of events, certainly one of which threatened the security of Carmen Basilio’s spouse Josie. 

Different modifications included a diminished position for IBHOF president Don Ackerman (handing out rings upon completion of the speeches) and Smitty, who launched everybody who can be seated onstage (Bob Arum, Tim Ryan, Ron Borges, Bernard Fernandez, Michael Nunn, Zhilei Zhang, Zab Judah, Ann Wolfe, Junior Jones, Sebastian and Gabriela Fundora, Ronald “Winky” Wright, Ray Mercer, Michael Spinks, Riddick Bowe, James “Buddy” McGirt, Robert Garcia, Michael Carbajal, Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, Roberto Duran, Bruce Trampler, Lucia Rijker, Seth Abraham, Joe Goossen, Brad Jacobs, Brad Goodman, Alicia Ashley, Rafael Marquez, Timothy Bradley and Carl Froch, in that order) earlier than handing the baton to Corridor of Famer Jimmy Lennon Jr..

The method started with a ceremonial 10-count for the Corridor of Famers who had handed away since final 12 months’s ceremony – Bobby Goodman, Jerry Roth, Steve Smoger, Mills Lane, Mogens Palle, Eder Jofre, Carlos Ortiz, Ken Buchanan, and the somber temper was lifted by the well-produced video showcasing the members of the Class of 2023 in addition to Bradley’s ebullient response after Ackerman confirmed him the Corridor of Fame ring he was going to obtain later (a giant smile and an prolonged “yeeeeaaaaaahhhhh!”). 

The induction ceremony started at 2:46 p.m. and ended at 4:57, and the next is a few moments that grabbed my consideration:

*Fernandez and Rijker had been unable to attend final 12 months’s Trilogy celebration, the previous as a result of he selected to stay house along with his spouse Anne after she obtained a Stage 4 pancreatic most cancers prognosis (she was current at this 12 months’s occasion and is doing nicely, although she informed me she might want to bear chemotherapy for the remainder of her life) and Rijker due to COVID-19 journey restrictions imposed by the federal government in her native Netherlands. For the primary time in my reminiscence, the 2 IBHOF alumni had been in a position to ship their induction speeches and expertise the one-of-a-kind second that was denied them for causes past their management. It was a pleasant contact, and a observe I consider the Corridor ought to proceed, as a result of whereas the plaque will likely be contained in the museum forever and whereas the inductees can have their rings and certificates, the act of standing on stage delivering a speech earlier than followers, household and buddies is a novel expertise that may’t be replicated. 

*Probably the most electrifying second was offered by matchmaker Brad Goodman, who used this defining skilled second as a catalyst for what he hoped can be a defining private second.

“When individuals ask me what was the perfect match that I ever made, she’s sitting me with me right now, and for the remainder of my life,” he stated with a quiver in his voice. “Vivian Fierro-Rojas, will you marry me?” 

Rojas, who was busy recording the speech on her cellphone, was seated two rows up and throughout the aisle from my location, and based mostly on her response she had no earthly concept she was about to be issued a public marriage proposal. However, her reply was robustly communicated with out saying a single phrase as she and Brad sealed their engagement with not only one kiss, however three. She spent the subsequent a number of minutes fanning herself and chatting excitedly together with her seatmates, the very image of a future blushing bride. 

Though Goodman was the primary to suggest marriage throughout his induction speech, it was not the Induction Weekend’s first wedding-related occasion. On June 5, 2003, Corridor of Famer Aaron Pryor married Frankie Lynn Wagner underneath the newly erected pavilion on the museum grounds in a ceremony officiated by Todd Rouse, who was Canastota’s mayor on the time. I do know this as a result of I used to be among the many a whole lot who witnessed the occasion, however, not like most of these a whole lot, I saved the marriage program that was distributed on that day.

Brad Goodman’s marriage proposal wasn’t the primary wedding-oriented occasion in the course of the Worldwide Boxing Corridor of Fame’s
Induction Weekend. In 2003, Corridor of Famer Aaron Pryor married Frankie Lynn Wagner underneath the newly erected pavilion on the museum grounds. “Travelin’ Man” Lee Groves determined to maintain his copy of the marriage program, the entrance web page of which is offered right here.

Brad Jacobs, who was set to talk after Goodman, produced the right transition by remarking, “Brad, that’s somewhat arduous to observe.”

* One class member who might have stood on stage however selected to not was Laura Serrano, who defined through video that she felt that accepting this honor amidst the pomp and circumstance of an induction ceremony would current an irreconcilable battle inside her.  

“I humbly and respectfully settle for this induction,” she stated. “I’m sorry I’m not there. The explanation why is due to my non secular beliefs. I’ve at all times been very in step with my convictions, first as a fighter, now as a Jehovah’s Witness. In order that’s why I’m not there celebrating with you. However, from the underside of my coronary heart, I wish to say to everybody liable for my induction thanks, thanks, thanks.”

*Emcee Jimmy Lennon Jr. honored the posthumous Class of 2023 inductees (Jo Ann Hagen, Tiger Jack Fox and Pone Kingpetch) by reciting their resumes, and this a part of the ceremony concluded with Thailand’s secretary common congratulating Kingpetch through video. 

*Joe Goossen has at all times been famend for his coolness underneath hearth and such was the case right here as he labored with out notes and spent a lot of his speech paying tribute to his older brother Dan, who was a part of the IBHOF Class of 2020, in addition to fellow inductee Seth Abraham, who employed him for TVKO, his first broadcasting job. Of Dan, he stated he “was the person who made it occur, and I used to be alongside for the experience,” whereas mentioning that Evander Holyfield-George Foreman was the primary most important occasion he ever known as. 

*Talking of Abraham, he remarked that Bob Arum’s identify, to that time, had been talked about 16 instances, making him one of many stars of this 12 months’s ceremony though he didn’t should utter one phrase. The irony of it wasn’t misplaced on Abraham as he acknowledged that he by no means thought that he would start his Corridor of Fame induction speech by stating that Arum was “the patriarch of boxing” and “probably the most essential figures within the historical past {of professional} boxing.” The truth that Abraham, who additionally famous that he was the 13th inductee related to HBO, can be protecting rely of such an esoteric side of the ceremony would possibly clarify why he rolled the cube on hiring Bob Canobbio, Logan Hobson, and their creation, CompuBox, nearly on the spot in 1985. 

*Regardless of turning 84 final month, Tim Ryan’s crisp talking voice stays a pleasure to take heed to, and he used the chance to precise his appreciation for fellow inductee Gil Clancy in addition to give voice to 2 long-held wishes of writers, historians and followers – one world champion in every weight class, and extra oversight by an overarching administrative entity. 

Class of 2023 IBHOF inductees Tim Ryan, Joe Goossen and Lucia Rijker. Photograph / @BoxingHall

*It’s worthy to notice that Alicia Ashley, who fought professionally in 13 nations, is now dwelling in Shanghai, China. Her unorthodox path in life was additional illustrated by her boxing profession, which didn’t start till age 28, however what wasn’t typical for the period was her battle to ascertain herself.

“I skilled to be a professional dancer like my father, and within the midst of attaining my dream I had a devastating harm that curtailed my future. It took me some time to pivot; I began boxing at 28 and turned professional at 32. Nobody would take an opportunity on me. I by no means anticipated my profession to final two years, a lot much less almost 20. I traveled the world, and I used to be the underdog in most of my fights, even once I was a champion. I fought virtually everyplace earlier than I used to be in a position to battle in my hometown of New York. Lots of people have a look at my document on paper with out context and surprise why I acquired right here, however in doing that, they’re lacking the larger image. The highway that I took to get right here was akin to climbing Mount Everest; there are twists and turns resembling ageism and the hostilities with restricted help. I needed to work tougher, persevering by means of accidents, an absence of economic help, working full time, going to highschool half time to earn a bachelor’s diploma, however, finally, I used to be in a position to get this professional profession that began late going. I can’t think about what the highway would have been like if I began with a promoter or supervisor. I assume that path was what introduced me right here.” By doing so, she joins Mike McCallum as Jamaicans who’ve been elected to the Corridor. 

*Rafael Marquez’s speech, which was delivered by means of an interpreter, was notable for 2 issues: It’s brevity, and the truth that whereas he thanked his mother and father, spouse and kids, all of whom had been within the viewers, he failed to say his older brother Juan Manuel Marquez, who was elected as a part of the Class of 2020 and who didn’t attend this 12 months’s celebration. 

“It’s a sacrifice of 30 years to be right here right now, which may be very tough, however very lovely,” he stated.

* Froch initially deliberate to “wing” his acceptance speech, however thought higher of it when he noticed Bradley, who he known as “the consummate skilled,” diligently typing away on his cellphone and going by means of an intensive pre-speech ritual that persuaded “The Cobra” to up his recreation and deal with the occasion like the intense second it’s.

A robust argument will be made that Froch produced the perfect swan track in boxing historical past: A one-punch KO victory over an arch rival in George Groves, and doing so contained in the cavernous Wembley Stadium. As he had earlier within the week, he famous that the attendance for his first world title battle in opposition to Jean Pascal for the vacant WBC tremendous middleweight title was 8,000, and that his last title contest was witnessed by 80,000. 

“It was the largest grudge match in ages, and after that, I made a decision that was it for me,” he stated. “It was the crest of the wave that I used to be going to be retiring on.”

He additionally famous that he and Bradley received their first world titles in Nottingham (Froch in opposition to Pascal in December 2008 and Bradley in opposition to Junior Witter in Could 2008) and that they every ended their careers with 33 wins and two defeats (Bradley did have the draw in opposition to Diego Chaves and had 13 KOs in comparison with Froch’s 24, which Bradley classily identified). 

“I’m going to fly again to England tomorrow; I wish to step foot on U.Okay. soil (and once I achieve this) I would be the proudest man within the West due to this,” he concluded.

*Bradley, the ceremony’s last speaker, recalled the extraordinary stress he felt earlier than his battle with Witter, which not solely included the standard have to succeed, but in addition the need of profitable with a view to stabilize his household’s fragile monetary state.

“Each trustworthy man is aware of the stress of offering for his household, and his spouse taking a look at him like ‘what are we going to do?’” he stated. “You both turn into suffocated by all of it otherwise you battle arduous to get again onto your ft. That very same stress got here heavy on Could 10, 2008 in England. Throughout the early morning earlier than the battle with Junior Witter, later that night, I keep in mind my spouse attending to the lodge round 4 a.m. At first look, I heard, “Tim…Tim…” This “Tim” had ache and fear; concern. It wasn’t like a “hiya, Tim,” I knew one thing was up and he or she stated ‘we solely have $11 in our checking account. I spent our final $300 to get right here. You will need to win. You bought to win.’ I checked out her and I stated, ‘I’m going to win’ and that day, I vowed that my household was by no means going to be broke once more. And each battle after that, these hardships stayed in my coronary heart and in my thoughts, fueling me, and giving me an edge as a result of I wasn’t probably the most proficient on the market. Nonetheless, I used to be the hungriest.” 

It was that grit that drove Bradley to finish 35,900 push-ups and sit-ups in a 12 months and it was that dedication that pulled Bradley by means of his 2013 Struggle of the Yr conflict with Ruslan Provodnikov, a battle wherein he was almost knocked out in rounds one and two, dropped within the last spherical and left with a concussion that induced him to slur his phrases and stroll with an unsteady gait (the signs reportedly vanished two months later). He was motivated by those that thought he ought to have misplaced his first battle with Manny Pacquiao and others who stated he didn’t have an thrilling model. He addressed each in opposition to Provodnikov, and that battle, mixed along with his subsequent victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, established the muse for his eventual Corridor of Fame elevation. He’s the primary one to inform you that he wasn’t the quickest or strongest, however he made up for it with world-class intangibles that helped him earn the last word skilled affirmation. 

Smitty labored his approach off stage and since I opted to observe him, we spent a lot of the night at a non-public after-party wherein he and I blended with a variety of the individuals who hours earlier sat on the Showroom stage in addition to different boxing notables and their households. The environment was free, simple and enjoyable, and I’m blissful to say new friendships had been shaped. As I drove again to the Days Inn on Interstate 90 West, the ideas and contemporary recollections induced my thoughts to buzz with pleasure and surprise, a combination that might solely be produced by experiencing the best 4 consecutive days of my lifetime. 

Monday, June 12: The occasions of final night had no impact on my circadian rhythm as I arose at my regular time of seven:30 a.m., and after ending the morning routines, I deliberate to cease by the museum, go to with Ed and Jeff Brophy and start the eight-and-a-half-hour drive house. That plan modified once I obtained a textual content from Smitty, who requested me to choose him (and his baggage) up on the Turning Stone Resort On line casino and have breakfast with him on the Dunkin’ Donuts outlet after we dropped off his belongings on the Days Inn. I’m not usually a breakfast individual, however I in some way labored up sufficient of an urge for food to have a breakfast sandwich and a small bottle of orange juice. 

My conventional day-after visits with Ed and Jeff had been nice and productive, and at 11 a.m. I started the lengthy drive house towards Pleasant. With each passing mile, I used to be transitioning from the fantasy world related to Corridor of Fame Weekend – fixed boxing speak, brushes with celebrities and Corridor of Famers, and, this 12 months, receiving a significant award from the Boxing Writers Affiliation of America within the coronary heart of New York Metropolis – to my day-to-day life that includes my work as a full-time researcher with CompuBox, a podcaster, a boxing historian, and the proprietor of one of many largest sports activities video collections on the planet. 

In truth, I obtained a textual content from CompuBox president Bob Canobbio relating to an evaluation for a battle that was to happen in six days’ time. It wanted to be e-mailed so he might full the work required to ship our analysis to Showtime, and although he stated it might wait till I acquired house, I opted to nip it within the bud by stopping on the subsequent relaxation cease with WiFi functionality and finishing the duty in order that my thoughts can be absolutely invested within the drive house. Sure, it was raining, and sure, the temperature was within the higher 50s, however as soon as I obtained affirmation from Bob that each one was nicely, I used to be glad I went the additional mile. 

Talking of miles, I arrived house at 7:20 p.m. – 10 minutes forward of schedule – and this journey noticed me add 1,152 miles to my automotive’s odometer. After unpacking my belongings, I did my greatest to inform the oldsters at house as many tales as I might keep in mind. However my off-the-top-of-my-head recollections had been inadequate by way of telling the entire story, and that’s why I’ve spent the final twenty years writing “The Travelin’ Man Chronicles.” 

Now that this 12 months’s pilgrimage to Canastota is now historical past, I’ll now return to my usually scheduled life. And, since I referenced a sure legendary Christmas film in Half II, that usually scheduled life has been a most fantastic one. 


Lee Groves is a boxing author and historian based mostly in Pleasant, West Virginia. He’s a full member of the BWAA, from which he has received 22 writing awards, together with two first-place awards, since 2006. He has been an elector for the Worldwide Boxing Corridor of Fame since 2001 and can also be a author, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. in addition to a panelist on “In This Nook: The Podcast” on FITE.TV. He’s the writer of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (accessible on Amazon) and the co-author of  “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (additionally accessible on Amazon) in addition to the 2022 winner of the BWAA’s Marvin Kohn “Good Man Award.” To contact Groves, use the e-mail [email protected] or ship him a message through Fb and Twitter (@leegrovesboxing).



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