Frank Erne, Buffalo’s first boxing world champion, has been selected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota in the old-timer category.
He will be inducted June 14.
"Buffalo’s boxing history is rich and long. Frank Erne was Buffalo’s first of six world champions. We are so happy the IBHOF has finally recognized one of the best boxers of his era," Bob Caico, president of the Buffalo Veteran Boxers Association Ring 44, said.
Erne, who was known as the “Buffalo Boy” during his career, won the lightweight championship in July 1898 in a 25-round decision against George “Kid” Lavigne. The bout was held at the Hawthorne Club Arena in Cheektowaga, where Fork’s Motel was located on Broadway and Union.
"Erne used both hands so hard in his effort to reduce Lavigne to a pulp that he injured both members," The Buffalo Evening News reported at the time.
It was a rematch of a 20-round draw between the two in September 1897 after Erne had moved up from featherweight. To set up the rematch, Erne earned a 25-round win over George “Elbows” McFadden.
The title might have been Erne’s second world title, depending on various boxing historians. He won a 20-round decision against featherweight champion George Dixon in New York in November 1896, but Dixon refused to relinquish the title, according to some accounts. Dixon won a 25-round decision in the rematch five months later. Others say Erne won the title and Dixon won it back in the rematch.
He unsuccessfully challenged Rube Ferns in 1901 for the world welterweight title, losing via ninth-round knockout and then returned to lightweight.
Erne lost the title in 1902 to Joe Gans in a first-round knockout in Fort Erie, though the bout was just two months after Erne injured his ribs in a successful title defense against Gus Gardner. Erne had previously beaten Gans.
After losing the title, Erne fought only three more times, posting a 2-1 record. He retired in 1903 and worked as a boxer instructor at Yale, but returned five years later and beat Curley Watson in Paris in a bout billed as being for the French welterweight championship. Erne won by decision and retired again.
He finished with a record of 31-6-16 with 15 knockouts and one no contest in a career that spanned from 1892 to 1908.
Erne was born in Zurich, but his family moved to Buffalo when he was 6 and settled on Rose Street. His first job was setting pins at the Buffalo Athletic Club, which became his home base and where he trained.
He turned pro at 17 and was unbeaten in his first 28 bouts with a record of 17-0-11. His pro debut was Oct. 27, 1892, when he scored a fourth-round knockout of John Roy at the Buffalo Athletic Club. That bout was for the featherweight championship of Western New York, according to the Courier.
Erne moved to New York City after his boxing career, but was a frequent visitor to Buffalo. He died in New York City in September 1954 at age 79.
Erne is part of a historic class that includes women fighters for the first time, featuring Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker and Barbara Buttrick. Women boxers were on the ballot for the first time this year, with Martin and Rijker in the modern category and Buttrick in the trailblazer category.
Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez and “Sugar” Shane Mosley were selected in their first year of eligibility. Promoters Lou DiBella, Kathy Duva and Dan Goossen and journalists Bernard Fernandez and Thomas Hauser will be inducted along with Paddy Ryan in the Pioneer category.
Martin, known as the Coal Miner’s Daughter, was the first female boxer to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated when she was featured in 1996.
“I just wanted to be a fighter and fit into the world of boxing and this is a dream come true," Martin said in quotes distributed by the Hall of Fame. "I’m always excited to come back to Canastota but to come back this year will be very special.”
News wire services contributed to this report.