Interview: The Hall Of Fame's Ed Brophy

By Kirk Lang


Interview: The Hall Of Fame's Ed Brophy

His name is Ed Brophy. He is known in boxing circles as the executive director of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. However, that title doesn’t do him justice. Brophy is the face of the Hall of Fame. He’s boxing’s equivalent of Walt Disney and the International Boxing Hall of Fame is the fistic version of  DisneyWorld. The property on which the modest hall of fame building sits is located in upstate New York in a town called Canastota. It is the hometown of former welterweight and middleweight champion Carmen Basilio and his nephew Billy Backus, who briefly held the welterweight title in the early 1970s.  The Hall of Fame is where the magic happens for four days in June leading up to the induction ceremonies.

Brophy oversaw the development of the museum when the sport of boxing didn’t have one. Although there was a World Boxing Hall of Fame on the west coast, it existed in name only.  There were no acres of land. There was no physical structure. When the International Boxing Hall of Fame opened in 1989, boxing fans and ex-fighters alike had a place they could call their own. In fact, countless champions and legends have made it a point to make a visit to the Hall of Fame part of their summer itinerary. Fighters such as Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Emile Griffith, Alexis Arguello, Aaron Pryor, Terry Norris, Christy Martin, Jose Torres, Gene Fullmer and Ruben Olivares are just some of the regulars. In addition, former heavyweight champions Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman have also graced the annual affair with their presence. The first induction ceremonies were held in 1990 and fighter inductees included Ali, Griffith, Basilio, Billy Conn, Willie Pep, Bob Foster, Jake LaMotta, Kid Gavilan, Jose Napoles and Archie Moore. As the years have gone by the Hall of Fame has grown in popularity. Opening ceremonies on Thursday, which used to attract a few dozen people or so in the early 1990s, now attract hundreds. On June 8th, the Hall will hold its 19th induction ceremony.

Boxingtalk’s Kirk Lang recently had the opportunity to interview Brophy about, among other things, the upcoming Hall of Fame weekend [June 5-8], the induction process and the death of boxing historian Hank Kaplan, who was part of the Hall of Fame screening committee.

BT: Who will be inducted into the International Hall of Fame this year?

Ed Brophy: The Class of 2008 includes living inductees Larry Holmes (heavyweight champion), Eddie Perkins (junior welterweight champion), promoter Mogens Palle (Denmark), promoter Frank Warren (England), Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dave Anderson and journalist Joe Koizumi (Japan). Posthumous inductees will also be honored.

BT: How excited are you to have one of the all-time heavyweight greats, Larry Holmes, as an inductee? Does his planned presence alone make this one of your better years?

EB: Larry was in Canastota in 1989 when the Hall of Fame Museum opened and again in 1997. His outstanding career speaks for itself. He’s always been great with the fans and it will be another great Induction Weekend.

BT: Can you explain to boxing fans how these inductees were decided upon?

EB: Members of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and boxing historians from around the world vote on the election committee. A boxer must be retired from the ring for five years before being considered for election.

BT: You have a three-person screening committee that ultimately decides who will be inducted. I know one of those members - Hank Kaplan - died a few months back. What are some of your fond memories of Hank and what is going to be done as far as filling Kaplan's position on the board?

EB: Hank Kaplan was a wonderful person. I knew Hank for over 25 years and as much as I admired him for his knowledge and passion for the sport of boxing, I treasured his friendship above all else. Some of my favorite times with him were the long walks we took when he was in Canastota. He’d be smoking his pipe and telling stories about any number of boxing figures. Regarding the screening committee, their responsibility includes amassing information on possible candidates, fielding nominations that are suggested by the public, sports writers and historians of the sport, and formulating the ballot which is mailed out to the election committee (BWAA members and boxing historians).

BT: Will there be anything different from the norm this year for regular attendees of the annual International Boxing Hall of Fame weekend? If so, what do you have on the agenda?

EB: The four-day Hall of Fame Weekend will follow the same schedule as in years past. A new event for this year includes a “Night of Rising Stars” highlighting some of boxing’s up and coming stars. It will be a great night for fans to meet the superstars of tomorrow, today! Some of the highlight events include the Banquet of Champions and the Parade of Champions. There is something for everyone in “Boxing’s Hometown.”

BT: The Hall of Fame used to have professional boxing at the nearby Turning Stone Casino but I think it was dissolved a year or two ago. The pro boxing was part of the Hall of Fame festivities. Why did that disappear? I heard different rumors but I'd like to get the truth from you.

EB: While pro boxing at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino has been on hold it appears that a return to live boxing is forthcoming. I believe it adds a nice element to the weekend.

BT: The Hall of Fame has a modest building that cannot showcase all that has been donated to the hall. Will there ever be an expansion of the main building to show off more of boxing's history? If so, when?

EB: Operating a sports museum is challenging, however we are always actively thinking about future phase developments. Plans include a research library and additional gallery space for our growing collection of boxing memorabilia. Until funding can be secured to make the plans reality, we will continue to rotate exhibits in the existing Museum to keep showing fans the depth of our collection and also use the Event Pavilion to house the MSG boxing ring and exciting photos of boxing’s superstars. I would like to see funding secured and the new development in place within the next five years. I believe it can happen.

BT: I know back in 2003 - tell me if I'm wrong - you debuted a pavilion but in every summer since 2003, that has been used more as a structure to sell Hall of Fame merchandise rather than an exhibit space. What does the future hold for the pavilion?

EB: The Event Pavilion was built to help the Hall of Fame host special events on site in a professional and comfortable setting. Prior to its existence any function on site required renting tents and maintaining them during inclement weather, etc. The Induction Ceremony, which was previously held on a temporary stage, is now held under the pavilion. Also, the pavilion allows the Hall to offer gift shop items and auction items that fans enjoy taking home as a unique souvenir. New this year, the pavilion is now the home of the most famous boxing ring in history, the Madison Square Garden boxing ring. We’re working on displays to help tell the incredible story of this amazing piece of boxing history. In addition to the ring, the pavilion walls are decorated with large photos of great moments in boxing history, as well as classic boxing matches shown on a large screen in the pavilion.
Boxing fans in Canastota for the Hall of Fame Weekend have a unique opportunity to visit the Hall of Fame Museum to see all of the memorabilia and then continue their tour in the event pavilion for even more boxing history. A great experience for any boxing fan.

BT:  Last question. This might be a tough one. Who are the five nicest fighters you have ever met? Don't worry about leaving anybody off the list. If they're not nice enough to make the top five, then numbers six and lower have no right to get mad at you.

EB: I can honestly say that all of the hundreds of boxing stars that have been kind enough to visit “Boxing’s Hometown” have been fantastic. They take time to interact with fans and provide an experience you don’t get anywhere else in the world. The hundreds of volunteers and community organizations who work so hard and put so much care into welcoming the boxing community to Canastota creates a warm feeling for everyone.


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