Madison Square Garden's ring was a special place
After 82 years of service to some of the most memorable fights in history, the Madison Square Garden ring was recently retired and is headed to the Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. Kieran Mulvaney discusses what made that ring such a special place.
When the smoke had cleared and Miguel Cotto had emerged victorious from his welterweight title defense against Zab Judah on June 9, the postfight buzz was of Cotto's emergence onto center stage, of his place on the pound-for-pound lists, and of Judah's bravery in the face of the unstoppable force of the relentless champion.The one thing about which there was no talk was the ring in which the fight had taken place.
If you had to pick a time when boxing perhaps was at its highest point, it would be when Madison Square Garden was the Mecca of Boxing.
Ed Brophy, director of the International Boxing Hall of Fame
To this day, people stop me wherever I go all over the world and ask, 'What was it like?' There'll never be another night like Ali-Frazier.
Arthur Mercante, referee of the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight
"It's certainly not built like the rings are built today," agreed Fisher. "Our building guys are the best in the world, so they had learned and got used to putting it together. But it took them four hours to assemble it, and they had noticed it was becoming more and more difficult."Size was another factor. The ring measured 18½-by-18½ feet inside the ropes, small by modern standards. When Oleg Maskaev's promoters inserted a clause in the contract for Maskaev's scheduled (and, ironically, subsequently postponed) Oct. 6 WBC heavyweight defense against Sam Peter, that the ring be 20 square feet inside the ropes, Fisher and colleagues reluctantly brought down the curtain on more than 80 years of loyal service. On Sept. 19 the Garden officially retired the ring at a ceremony attended by several of those who had graced its canvas over the years: Frazier, Vito Antuofermo, Hopkins, Griffith, Jose Torres, Iran Barkley, Buddy McGirt, Joey Giardello, all of whom had stepped through the ring's ropes and spilled blood -- theirs and their opponents' -- on its canvas, as the crowds' roars echoed in their ears. "I went to the festivities, and I said, 'I've really come to interview the ring itself. It's got some tales,'" Sugar said. "It's part and parcel of boxing. It's not just a relic, it's a treasure." The ceremony was covered by news outlets worldwide; a degree of interest that Fisher confessed caught him and his colleagues a little off guard. "The extent of the coverage of this, the interest in it -- worldwide, not just in the United States -- I think it's caught us all a little by surprise," he admitted. "And it's made us all very proud." Later this month, the ring will be transported north to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., (located, appropriately enough, in Madison County). There it will spend the rest of its days, a silent witness to battles won and lost, hopes and dreams fulfilled and shattered, and careers, lives, and times long gone, existing now only in memory. Click here for 10 of the greatest nights/fights in MSG history. Kieran Mulvaney covers boxing for ESPN.com and Reuters. He lives in Northern Virginia.
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