ShareThis Page
News

Caliguri's MMA history honored at Heinz

| Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lower Burrell's Frank Caliguri sometimes wonders what might have been if mixed martial arts hadn't become illegal in Pennsylvania soon after he helped organize what some consider to be the first such event in the United States more than three decades ago.

"The Battle of the Tough Guys," promoted by Caliguri and Bill Viola, was held at the Holiday Inn (now the Clarion Hotel) in New Kensington on March 19, 1980. Still, Caliguri is proud of his early association with the sport, which has experienced a huge increase in popularity in the past 10 years and was legalized again in this state in 2009.

At noon Thursday, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh will open an exhibit on the roots of mixed martial arts that features memorabilia from Caliguri, Viola and others.

"I feel, if they hadn't made it illegal back then, we would have been the main people," said Caliguri, 61, co-owner of the Academy of Martial Arts in Lower Burrell and a ninth-degree black belt. "We had big sponsorships coming in."

The exhibit will include photos, posters, programs, protective gear, tickets and uniforms. It will be displayed temporarily at the entrance to the sports museum before being added to the boxing and wrestling section.

"We're truly honored," Caliguri said. "It's an honor being in this region's sports museum."

Mike Murray, 59, of Colliers, W.Va., was in the first bout of the inaugural event and lost by technical knockout to Dave Jones. Caliguri, Viola, Murray and Jones plan to attend today's opening.

"Thirty-one years later, you don't expect this kind of honor," Murray said. "It's very humbling to be in there with those others."

Anne Madarasz, co-director of the sports museum, said the new display is a worthy addition.

"This exhibit adds a new chapter," she said, "as we trace the roots of mixed martial arts in the United States back to the Pittsburgh region."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me