Art Hafey is being inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame this weekend. ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS
TRENTON – Art Hafey is not a braggart.
"I'm a laid back guy," he says. "Sometimes I'll walk by somebody and don't speak because I'm not outgoing."
Perhaps that's why for the last 34 years so many people didn't know about his accomplishments as a boxer.
A documentary that shares his ring name "Toy Tiger" has helped change all that.
It told Hafey's story to people in California where it premiered and throughout Canada, relating how a Pictou County man went from training in small gyms with his brother to battling the best in the world.
Locals packed studios at the Empire Theatres in New Glasgow for a chance to see the film. For many it was a reminder of just how much the Pictou County native had accomplished; for others a fascinating story they'd never heard.
Another laurel is coming this Saturday as Hafey will be inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame.
"It's quite an honour," Hafey says. "There's a lot of world champions in the California Boxing Hall of Fame."
Considering that Hafey had more than two thirds of his 64 pro fights there, it's appropriate that he should be inducted in that state and his record shows he deserves to be every honour they give.
Hafey went to Los Angeles because that's where the best in his weight division competed. While in Los Angeles he fought 43 times in 48 months in what became known as the "Featherweight Wars." He won 38 of those fights, lost four and had one draw. Both Ruben Olivares and Alexis Arguello called him the "hardest puncher" they ever faced in their careers, the documentary's website boasts. Hafey knocked out Olivares in 1973 and by the end of 1975 was recognized as the undisputed no. 1 contender in the world to the featherweight title and was awarded a "Fighter of the Year" trophy.
He never did receive his title shot, however, and retired in 1976 because of an injury.
Until recently, not even Hafey acknowledged his record much. Even after being inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, he kept for the most part silent about it all, considering it a part of the past. But his own attitude is changing a bit.
"I'm starting to really appreciate what I did and what I achieved," he says. "I was always laid back and I didn't really boast about it. I'm not really boasting, but from now on I'm going to speak a bit more."
The movie, the recognition and now the California induction all bring back a time of Hafey's life he had left in the past.
While in California for the premier of the film, he was welcomed with open arms by former sparring partners and fans who still remember his powerful punches.
"It kind of refreshes my memories in a good way, but it's frustrating to contemplate back about my career and how it ended so abruptly," Hafey says. "I crammed a career into four years in California. I had 43 fights in four years."
Hafey was also on the ballot for the World Boxing Hall of Fame this year. He lost to some guy named Mike Tyson, but will be on again next year
"Maybe if I bite someone's ear I'll get in," Hafey jokes.
But the California induction will do for now.
"I'm just hoping that people who haven't had knowledge of what I achieved that they will realize what I did now," he says.