CANASTOTA — Boxing demonstrations, ringside lectures and celebrity fist castings kept hundreds of spectators on the edge of their seats Friday at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
The 30th anniversary edition of the Boxing Hall of Fame Weekend began on Thursday and continues on through Sunday’s induction ceremony.
The 2019 Hall of Fame inductee class includes boxers Donald “Lone Star Cobra” Curry, Julian “The Hawk” Jackson, James “Buddy” McGirt and Tony DeMarco along with matchmaker and promoter Don Elbaum, referee and judge Guy Jutras, publicist Lee Samuels and broadcaster Teddy Atlas.
Also among the inductees is journalist Mario Rivera Martino, who will be honored posthumously in the “Observer” category.
“We’re extremely excited about the Class of 2019 and are very much looking forward to honoring the newest class of inductees,” said Hall of Fame executive director Edward Brophy. Inductees were voted in by members of the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international boxing historians.
Greg Stafford, of Dover, N.J., has been coming to “The Showplace of Boxing” since 2003. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Stafford said. “It’s exciting for the fans to see the boxers interact with people. It’s a good time.”
The 56-year-old said he arrived in Canastota on Thursday and plans to stay through Sunday’s induction ceremony.
“It’s going to get hectic tomorrow (Saturday),” he added.
The highlight on Friday was when former World Boxing Council super middleweight champion and top-ranked contender David “El Bandera Roja” Benavidez began training for his next fight at the Hall of Fame museum grounds.
Benavidez, who held the WBC super middleweight title from Sept. 8, 2017 to Oct. 3, 2018, is slated to fight 168-pound champion Anthony Dirrell in a mandated bout by the WBC that will likely take place in August or September. The undefeated Benavidez has a record of 21-0 with 18 knockouts, while Dirrell is 33-1-1 with 24 KOs.
“I’m excited to kick off training camp in Canastota in my quest to regain the WBC championship belt,” said Benavidez, who was making his first trip to the Hall of Fame.
The 22-year-old Benavidez, who is from Phoenix, Ariz., sparred against three different partners on Friday including Utica’s Michael Rycraft. The 25-year-old Rycraft, who is 2-0, used to train in Rome. Benavidez also sparred against Syracuse’s Lawrence Gabriel.
“David Benavidez has tremendous potential to become a superstar in the sport of boxing and already has his name in the history books as the youngest super middleweight champion ever,” Brophy said. “We are so happy that he will begin training in Canastota on his mission to regain the championship belt.”
Benavidez turned pro in 2013 after an undefeated (15-0) amateur career. In his 19th pro bout, Benavidez won a 12-round split decision over Ronald Gavril on Sept. 8, 2017 to become, at age 20, the youngest 168-pound champion in history.
After successfully defending against Gavril in a return bout, he was stripped of the title due to a failed drug test. Benavidez returned to the ring in March to score an impressive second round knockout over J’Leon Love on the Errol Spence–Mikey Garcia undercard.
Benavidez was scheduled to have another public workout session at the Hall of Fame this afternoon.
Tonight there will be a VIP cocktail reception at Greystone Castle, from 5:30-6:30, and the Banquet of Champions will be held at Turning Stone Resort Casino, starting at 8 p.m.
There will be a U.S. Postal Service tribute on Sunday from 9-10 a.m. on the museum grounds, followed by the Parade of Champions in the downtown district beginning at 1 p.m. and then the induction ceremony on the museum grounds at 2:30 p.m.
Movie and TV actor Holt McCallany, currently featured in the Netflix series “Mindhunter,” will be the grand marshal of the Parade of Champions.