Former professional boxing light heavyweight contender Tommy Hicks of Newfane will be inducted July 13-14 into the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame, it was announced by Hall coordinator Scott Burt.
The fifth annual Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Weekend will feature the 2013 honorary inductees, including the 1986 world heavyweight champion James “Bonecrusher” Smith; and three-time world junior welterweight and lightweight champion Carlos Ortiz.
Joining that pair and Hicks will be the grandsons of early 1900s boxers Hite Peckham and George “Elbows” McFadden.
“It’s been a lot of hard work to restore and save these historic barns and turn them into the World’s only Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame,” Burt said. “But the phone calls I’ve make to the inductees and in Hite and George’s situation, to their ancestors, makes it all worth it. The joy on the other end of the phone is wonderful to hear and makes all the work worthwhile. Saving a piece of history, promoting the town of Belfast, and honoring individuals for their accomplishments is unmatched in importance as far as I am concerned.”
Original Bare Knuckle Inductees this year are Mike Cleary who actually fought the Great John L. Sullivan in Belfast in 1889, and who died and was buried there; Bob Fitzsimmons, the first to win world titles in three different weight classes; and Australia’s Peter Jackson, who was the world heavyweight colored champion of the time. Historians widely believe that if there had not been racial prejudice as represented by separate titles back then, Jackson would have been world champion, Burt said.
In being named an honorary inductee into the Hall, Hicks joins names on the Hall’s “Wall of Honor” that include Baby Joe Mesi, Carmen Basilio, Billy Backus, Tony Graziano, Livingstone Bramble, Dick Wipperman, Jimmy Ralston, Johnny Sudac Jr., Michael Tome and Buffalo Sabres tough-guy Rob Ray.
Included in the weekend will be rare tour offerings of the building that houses the Hall of Fame. The building is actually a pair of 1800s Victorian barns built by Belfast’s favorite son William Muldoon who was a famous trainer and wrestler of the time and eventual Boxing Commissioner from 1921 to 1924. In 1889 Muldoon brought the sickly John L. Sullivan to his home in rural Belfast to train for the last-ever heavyweight bare knuckle world championship fight.
“Getting him away from the limelight and distractions of the big cities, Muldoon whipped him into shape in these same barns which resulted in Sullivan beating then champion Jake Kilrain in a two-hour, 15-minute, 75-round slugfest dubbed, ‘The Brawl That Started It All’ by Sports Illustrated,” Burt said. “These barns are a virtual time capsule and we’ve worked hard to keep them that way.”
Muldoon gave up ownership of them in the early 1900s and they have been locked up ever since, including the original equipment that Sullivan used 120 years ago. In 2009 Burt moved the barns two blocks to a location in Belfast more easily accessible to the public, spent an immense amount of time restoring them and has since erected life-size marble statues of both Sullivan and Muldoon.
“The boxing world has responded more than we could have ever imagined to our project. They just can’t believe these barns made it all these years. They have come from all over the world to view them” concluded Burt who was named Buffalo Ring 44’s 2012 Man of the Year for his efforts that have brought international attention to the small town of Belfast.