BELFAST – The town of Belfast isn’t used to large crowds, but on Saturday, the town’s Methodist Family Center was packed to capacity to welcome the Class of 2018 to the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame.
Opened in 2009 thanks in large part to the work of local retired teacher, Scott Burt, the hall is dedicated to a style of fighting that until recently hadn’t named a champion in nearly 130 years.
Among the inductees included 1888 Northwest American champion Mike Conley, and Champion of England from 1784-1791 Tom Johnson. The biggest guest of honor was Buffalo Sabres play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret, who joked to the crowd that he found Belfast “by the grace of God and Mapquest.”
“[Burt] said ‘I think you’ve called more bare knuckle boxing fights than anybody else has,'” said Jeanneret. “Hockey players don’t fight with gloves on, so he’s probably right.”
Jeanneret attended the ceremony along with broadcast partner and fellow BKB hall of famer, Rob Ray.
“I think it’s wonderful what [Burt] has done here, and he’s put Belfast on the map,” said Jenneret. “This is the type of town that I’m used to, the type of town that I grew up in, and the type of town that I grew to love.”
The hall is located inside the barns that legendary bare knuckle boxer John L. Sullivan trained in before his most famous fight in 1889. Sullivan’s trainer, William Muldoon, grew up in Belfast and owned the barns. Muldoon is also credited with inventing the modern medicine ball.
“When I pulled up this morning, [RJ] was at the post office and I saw a guy with suspenders on,” said Burt. “I went ‘Oh, my goodness. Rick Jeanneret. We must have made it.’ But you know, for these busy guys to take time out of their day to come down to Belfast, there must be something to it.”