A worldwide buzz about Saturday''s showdown between Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao and unbeaten US star Floyd Mayweather has brought a special spark to a small rural upstate New York town.
CANASTOTA - A worldwide buzz about Saturday's showdown between Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao and unbeaten US star Floyd Mayweather has brought a special spark to a small rural upstate New York town.
Attendance has been on the rise at the International Boxing Hall of Fame since the long-awaited showdown was announced months ago, executive director Ed Brophy said.
"Everybody is talking about the fight, from boxing fans and sports fans and beyond that, to non-sports fans," said Brophy. "We've had more people and that is the number one subject."
(L-R) WBC/WBA welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao pose with a WBC championship belt as Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach looks on during a news conference at the KA Theatre at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on April 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two will face each other in a unification bout on May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP
While Pacquiao and Mayweather finally come together on the neon-lit Las Vegas Strip, they have been linked for a long time on a wall for "Great Champions" in the southeast corner of the Hall of Fame main building, in the shadow of a toll booth off a quiet New York State Thruway exit.
Black and white photos of Pacquiao and Mayweather are side by side in the display of nine top fighters, in some ways a preview of coming attractions list for the Hall of Fame inductee plaques on the opposite side of the building.
WBC/WBA welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) and WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao pose during a news conference at the KA Theatre at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on April 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two will face each other in a unification bout on May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP
"They have been like that for years," Brophy said, as if waiting for the day when they would finally be side-by-side in the ring after a failed 2010 effort for a Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown.
In the middle of three rows of three photos is Pacquiao, his arms folded in front of him, eyes glaring out the front of the photo, his right upper arm tattoo facing forward.
To the right is Mayweather, looking slightly to the right, both fists raised with a smile on his face.
Around the display room are artifacts, posters, tickets, souvenirs, gloves and trunks and robes and so much more from boxing history, as if waiting for what Mayweather and Pacquiao will contribute when the day arrives.
Boxing finds a way
The big May fight 40 years ago in Las Vegas was Muhammad Ali against Ron Lyle, described as "worthy contender - Denver" in a poster for the Don King production.
And there is a good reason Mayweather and Pacquiao will shatter boxing revenue records. The Ali-Lyle fight had $12 for its cheapest ticket price and $100 for ringside at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Plaster fist casts of such legends as Britain's Lennox Lewis and Jack Johnson are humbled by the huge hands of Primo Carnera, but the romantic heyday of the sport's glamorous past is celebrated, many of these legends formed when print media and radio were the main ways people learned about fights and boxers.
Some of the inductees resonate to the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. There's Bob Arum, the "Pac-Man" promoter inducted in 1999, 33 years after his first fight.
And there's Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, the 2012 Hall inductee who worked under Eddie Futch to learn the art, opened his own WildCard Gym in 1996 and has guided such fighters as Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones and Amir Khan.
And there's Rocky Marciano, who died on the eve of his 46th birthday after a 49-0 career with 43 knockouts, the 1950s era heavyweight champion whose old gloves are on display and whose record is a target for Mayweather, provided he can stay unbeaten by dispatching Pacquiao.
The first televised US fight was on June 1, 1959, and is honored at the sport shrine, as is a welterweight title fight 80 years ago, when Barney Ross decisioned Canada's Jimmy McLarnin.
Now boxing faces challenges from other sports and battles for attention against the global array of games, but the best of fights once again commands global attention like few sports can.
"Boxing," Brophy said, "always finds a way."
Pacquiao, Mayweather spark Hall of Fame buzz