CANASTOTA, New York – Ed Brophy surveyed all before him. He sat on the stage, looking out over the International Boxing Hall of Fame grounds and watching people arrive for this weekend’s induction. He had the new class of 2024 on his right and was getting information about scheduled plans from his left.

Brophy took a moment to reflect, and over the next few days those moments will be few and far between, fractured by an organized carnage as the International Boxing Hall of Fame executive director hosts the event for its 35th year.

“This is the 35th anniversary but, actually, 40 years ago in 1984 was when we had the press conference,” he said, recalling the start of the journey. “We had that in February of 1984, and from that point it was raising funds, acquiring land, creating the organization of volunteers and getting to the point where we were able to purchase a piece of property.”

They were there by 1988, and the museum opened in June 1989. Brophy and his team had to learn how to run a museum, daily and year-round. Lessons were learned, some easier than others, but Brophy’s vision and ambition did not shift.

“We were winging it, but we were winging it with a lot of love and devotion,” he said with a smile. “It was all brand new to us, but we kept moving forwards.”

The first induction class was in 1990. Muhammad Ali was there. So were Ike Williams, Sandy Saddler, Archie Moore, Willie Pep, Beau Jack and countless others. Their presence was a huge stamp of approval, a validation that this was the place where the legends could come for the respect they had earned. They received their Hall of Fame rings and delivered their induction speeches, and that set the tone for the countless greats who followed over the next three decades.

In 2003, the IBHOF built the amphitheater. That was the year that George Foreman went in. Recently, five more acres have been acquired and plans include more growth and a new sign facing the thruway, and there’s hope for a library to document the incredible paper collection of archive material, which dates back to the 17th century. 

So much of what Brophy has tried to do is salvage the past for the sake of the future, while paying homage to the best to ever lace on gloves or be involved in the Noble Art.

“Boxing’s the greatest sport,” Brophy said. “It has the longest history of all sports, and to preserve that history is important to the sport, and to recognize those who’ve excelled is very important. And to be open as a museum seven days a week is so important, and it creates that feeling that every sport should have a home. Baseball has their home in Cooperstown [New York], football has their home in Canton, Ohio, and so on down the list. For the boxing world, they feel their sense of home that’s important for the sport, and Canastota has created that home.”

This year, the likes of Ricky Hatton and Michael Moorer are being inducted, and despite having seen all of the greats come through the doors and take in their surroundings in the past, for Brophy the novelty has yet to wear off, watching the latest class enjoy their days in the sun in upstate New York. 

“It’s always an enjoyment knowing that a new inductee is receiving that honor that they were always hoping for,” Brophy said. “To see their expression of knowing they’re going to be on the Hall of Fame wall, in the Hall of Fame, for many generations and when they’re gone, others will learn of their career, and knowing the importance for them of the induction weekend, it’s so rewarding to see that.”

There is the IBHOF museum on one part of the grounds and the amphitheater on another. The IBHOF has a vast collection of authentic robes, fight-worn garments, gloves, tickets – you name it – but it’s in the amphitheater where Brophy’s favorite piece sits. 

“You would have to say the ring from Madison Square Garden is the most prestigious piece in the world, in the history of boxing,” Brophy continued. “That’s the battlefield of the greatest fights, especially from the ‘20s to the ‘70s. The dream of boxers was, around the world, to fight in the United States, fight in Madison Square Garden. If you fought in that ring in Madison Square Garden, [even if] you made it on the undercard, if you fought for the championship or won your title at the Garden, that was everybody’s dream.

“That historic ring is the battlefield of boxing and the most important, most famous ring. And to have that ring come our way after 82 years [of use in the Garden] … that ring was in there from the 1920s. That’s the charm of all the pieces. That would be like the Baseball Hall of Fame having Yankee Stadium. They can’t get that, it’s too big. Boxing is a ring. We’ve got the whole field.”

The International Boxing Hall of Fame weekend is a special event. It always has been. As Brophy said, it’s for the fighters. But it is now also the home to annual reunions of old friends – those who work in the trade, follow the sport or just want to meet like-minded fans.

For Brophy, the first seed was planted at the initial press conference 40 years ago, and now he has given boxing a hometown.

Through the years, fighters, trainers and other personalities, who are no longer alive, were staples of induction weekend.

Aaron Pryor could light up the place with one cry of “Hawk Time.” Leon Spinks’ gaping smile would draw crowds for selfies. Angelo Dundee would tell stories. Old rivals would share the stage and reflect on their fights – although this still happens, and Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales are due to do just that on Saturday.

Asked to think of the lost legends Brophy has hosted and built relationships with, he thought about what they had done to earn their spots and discussed how they felt having the opportunity to walk on these hallowed grounds, where boxing history proudly billows from every corner.

“You know, you’re talking about fighters from way back and those legends Willie Pep, Archie Moore, Alexis Arguello, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, back to Sammy Sadler, and everyone has walked the grounds of the museum and they’ve all had that feeling that it’s a place where others like them have walked, and it’s great that it happened,” Brophy explained.

“It’s sad that life only gives you so many years, but it’s great that other champions are sensing that great feeling, and that kind of fills that gap of sadness from the losses of the last five, 10, 15 years, where the new inductees are all enjoying what those legends did all those years ago.

“There’s no doubt that it’s sad to think that all those legends have passed, but they have the opportunity to be inducted, celebrated, honored and respected by the International Boxing Hall of Fame and by the village of Canastota.”