James McGirt played little league football when he was a kid growing up on Long Island and it didnât take him long to realize that wasnât his sport.
âWhen I was 11 years old, I was maybe 65 pounds soaking wet,â McGirt recalled Wednesday. âOne day I was standing outside and it was cold as hell. I said, âThis ainât for me,â told coach and I brought my uniform in the next day.â
The kid nicknamed âBuddyâ quickly found his niche after watching professional boxers such as former middleweight champion Vito Antuofermo train in the local recreation center. When he came of age, McGirt stepped into the ring for his first fight on his 12th birthday and that was it.
âI fell in love with it. I was hooked,â McGirt said. âIt was like a drug. My mom told me, âYou can box, but youâve got to have good grades in school.â So, I got my grades up because I wanted to box.
âMy mom used to always tell me, âI hope you make it as a boxer because youâre not going to make it doing anything else,â â he said with a chuckle.
Suffice to say he succeeded â in a big way.
The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that McGirt, who went on to become a two-division champion, is one of nine people selected for induction. Also to be enshrined next June 9 in Canastota, New York are two-division champions Donald Curry and Julian Jackson; Tony DeMarco in the old-timer category; promoter Don Elbaum; referee/judge Guy Jutras; publicist Lee Samuels; and broadcaster Teddy Atlas. Puerto Rican journalist Mario Rivera Martino was selected posthumously.
Inductees were voted in by members of the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international boxing historians.
For McGirt, the news was like a right hook to the jaw â it caught him off-guard.
âThis is the greatest day of my life. Iâm overwhelmed. You canât really explain it,â he said.
âYour dream is to be a world champion. Your ultimate dream is to be in the Hall of Fame.â
McGirt turned pro in 1982 as an 18-year old high school senior and three years later won the WBC Continentals Americas light welterweight title from Sugar Boy Nando with a fifth-round knockout. He captured the vacant IBF light welterweight title in 1988 with a 12th-round knockout over Frankie Warren, whom he called his toughest foe.
Curry, 57, of Fort Worth, Texas was dubbed the âLone Star Cobraâ for his lightning-quick reflexes and hand speed. He captured the vacant WBA welterweight in a 15-round decision over Jun-Suk Hwang in Fort Worth in 1983. The next year he became the inaugural IBF champion and unified the 147-pound titles with a second-round knockout over WBC champ Milton McCrory.
Curryâs induction will come 22 years after he retired with a pro record of 34-6 with 25 KOs.