The promotion poster touting Saturdays fourth annual Carmen Basilio Quest for Champions includes an image of the champion boxer on the cover of The Ring magazine, circa the mid-1950s.
By tapping into the rich history of the sport known as the sweet science, the program held by the Watertown Area Boxing Club at the Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall is once again being held in honor of Basilio, a Hall of Fame great from Canastota who trained in Alexandria Bay for part of his career.
Hes been a good friend to our club and he came to our first event which sparked a lot of interest, event organizer John Pepe said of the 85-year-old Basilio, a former World Welterweight and World Middleweight champion. I actually got to see him at a picnic on Sunday his health is good, but he just doesnt get around like he used to. Hes really done a lot for us and he inspires our club.
Pepe has worked to promote interest and participation in the sport in the area, where legendary boxer Sugar Ray Robinson heralded as the greatest boxer of all time allegedly received his nickname after an amateur fight in Watertown in 1939 by then Watertown Daily Times sports editor Jack Case, who described Robinson as sweet as sugar.
I love the history of it, said Pepe, who runs the club. Im nostalgic about it and I want to keep events like these alive. I want to make these shows fun for the fans.
There will be approximately 10 fights on the sanctioned amateur card, which begins at 6 p.m. The program will be again be conducted in a USA versus Canada format and includes several area competitors.
Xavier Ewing of Fort Drum, who won by knockout at last years event, is scheduled to fight in the 175-pound weight class, as will Dorian Porter of Watertown. Tyler Gamage (155) and Anthony Morrison (165), both of Watertown, are slated to compete, with the 15-year-old Morrison making his boxing debut as a junior. Tariq McDonald (155) of Fort Drum will represent the Black River Boxing Academy.
We think weve put together a good boxing show with some nice entertainment, Pepe said.
Some 10 to 12 boxing clubs from Massena, Utica, Niagara Falls and Albany will take part, as well as from Ontario, Quebec and Ottawa. Last years event included 17 fights, according to Pepe.
Activities will also include live music from the local band Promising Coraline, Pepe said, as well as an appearance from a roller derby team.
Proceeds of the event will again benefit the Watertown Area Boxing Club, a not-for-profit organization.
Boxing has a lot of heritage in Watertown and I try to keep boxing alive here, Pepe said. Its nice to get kids interested in boxing and keep that heritage alive.
Event tickets, priced at $15 for ringside seats and $10 general admission, are on sale at the club as well as several area locations, with tickets also available at the door on Saturday. For more information, call 783-4980 or visit www.watertownareaboxingclub.com.