IBHOF Class of 2017: How I voted and why
Since becoming an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001, I’ve experienced years when I thought it proper to conduct exhaustive research before I committed to a candidate and others when the checkmarks flowed like Niagara Falls. While this year’s deliberations weren’t nearly as arduous as those for the last two ballots, I still invested several hours in the process.
For the third consecutive year, I received all available ballots: The Moderns (last bout no earlier than 1989), the “Late-Era” Old-Timers (last bout no earlier than 1943 and no later than 1988), the Observers (print and media journalists, publishers, writers, historians, photographers, artists and screenwriters) and the Non-Participants (those who have made contributions to the sport apart from roles as boxers and observers, which include timekeepers, publicists, promoters, administrators, booking agents, managers, ring announcers, trainers, judges, matchmakers and commissioners). The Pioneers, which honor all those who were in the sport up until 1892, is voted upon every five years.
Barring ties, three will be elected from the list of the 30 Moderns and the 35 Non-Participants; two will be elevated from the 30 Observers and one will be chosen from the 40 Old-Timers. A high bar indeed.
Since the IBHOF adopted its new protocol three years ago, this will mark the second time I will be voting on the “Late-Era” Old-Timers while, next year, I’ll consider the “Early-Era” Old-Timers whose careers spanned from 1893 to 1942. This new procedure also exerts more demands on its voters in that the maximum number of checkmarks for the Moderns was reduced from 10 to five, the same limit as for the other three available categories this year. So which five did I choose in each category? To find out, read on:
Moderns: As is often the case with me, I didn’t have enough checkmarks to fully express who I felt deserved my vote. In fact, had I done so I would have gone over my limit by at least nine. Therefore, instead of applying my usual whittling-down process that focuses on finding reasons why not to elect certain fighters, I chose to affix checkmarks on the five candidates whose cases about which I felt most strongly:
* Marco Antonio Barrera – To me, a Hall-of-Famer is one who demonstrates sustained excellence at the top of his chosen profession while also exhibiting extraordinary skill and intangibles. Barrera personified all those traits during a 22-year career that began at the tender age of 15.
Barrera’s 43 straight wins to start a career is among the longest compiled in the last three decades. While Barrera scored a significant victory over future two-division titlist Carlos Salazar during his time at 115, his tenure at 122 really set the foundation for his candidacy. There, he defeated former bantamweight champ Eddie Cook (TKO 8), then-WBO titlist Daniel Jimenez (UD 12), future featherweight titlist Frankie Toledo (TKO 2), onetime 122-pound beltholder Jesse Benavides (KO 3) and former super bantamweight king Kennedy McKinney (TKO 12) in an all-time classic during the debut broadcast of HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” series in February 1996, which led to a second appearance against Junior Jones. Barrera’s fifth round disqualification loss was considered a surprise at the time and when Jones won a unanimous decision in the rematch five months later, some pundits believed Barrera, still just 23, was an eroding force. As it turned out, “The Baby-Faced Assassin” was just getting started.
Barrera recaptured the WBO super bantamweight title twice more and registered 12 defenses in his three reigns, which trails only Wilfredo Gomez’s 17 and Vuyani Bungu’s 13 in division annals. He lost a disputed decision to WBC counterpart Erik Morales in what was deemed THE RING’s “Fight of the Year” in 2000 and, after victories over Luiz Claudio Freitas (the older brother of Acelino), Jose Luis Valbuena and former titlist Jesus Salud, Barrera signed to fight Naseem Hamed.
“The Prince” was 35-0 (31) and was a solid 3-to-1 favorite to beat Barrera but Hamed’s trainer Emanuel Steward, a Hall-of-Famer himself, sensed major danger. While analyzing Barrera’s win over Salud for HBO, Steward was stunned by Barrera’s transformation from wade-in slugger to cerebral boxer-puncher and declared the Barrera fight would be a tough one for his man. Given Hamed’s otherworldly power and awkwardness, many thought Steward was just hyping the fight but, inside the ring, Barrera turned Steward’s worst fears into reality as he thoroughly exploited Hamed’s amateurish wildness with his stiletto-sharp counters. Barrera’s unanimous decision win not only was a triumph of textbook boxing over confounding unorthodoxy, it also caused a profound shift in self-esteem for Hamed, who felt he was pre-ordained to retire as an undefeated, unconquered legend. Shattered, Hamed fought just once more and retired after an uninspired win over Manuel Calvo. On the other hand, Barrera, who now was on his third fistic life and proved his versatility beyond doubt, continued to build his resume.
Over the next six years, he beat future titlists Enrique Sanchez (TKO 6) and Mzonke Fana (KO 2), decorated contemporaries Johnny Tapia (UD 12), Kevin Kelley (TKO 4), Paulie Ayala (TKO 10) and Robbie Peden (UD 12 in a 130-pound title unification) and perennial contender Rocky Juarez on points in back-to-back fights. He also avenged his questionable loss to Morales twice over, winning an equally debatable decision to capture Morales’ WBC featherweight title and winning the trilogy by decision nearly two-and-a-half years later in a thrilling slugfest that was THE RING’s 2004 Fight of the Year and enabled Barrera to win his third divisional belt, the WBC super featherweight title. The only loss in this 11-fight stretch was a stunning 11th round TKO loss to a rising star from the Pacific Rim – Manny Pacquiao.
The Peden victory allowed Barrera to briefly add the IBF portion of the 130-pound title but losses to Juan Manuel Marquez (UD 12), Pacquiao again (UD 12) and Amir Khan (TL 5) proved that Father Time had seized on his immense boxer-puncher skills. Barrera finished his career with two wins over Adailton De Jesus (UD 10) and Jose Arias (TKO 2), raising his record to 67-7 (44). Barrera’s resume includes a 16-7 (10) record against champions, titlists and Hall-of-Famers and an enviable 21-4 (12) record in title fights.
Skillful, resilient, powerful, intelligent and versatile. These are words that describe Barrera as a fighter and I believe three more should be added – Hall-of-Famer.
* Johnny Tapia – Like Barrera, Tapia was known as “The Baby-Faced Assassin” but, while Barrera was thoughtful, controlled, stone-faced and clinical, Tapia was the personification of his nickname “Mi Vida Loca”: Fiery, flashy, mercurial and highly emotive yet immensely skilled and, when he chose to be, intensely disciplined. They may have been different in every way athletically and emotionally but he and Barrera also achieved long-term excellence that I feel is worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.
The kidnapping, rape, stabbing and ultimate murder of his mother that occurred when Tapia was just eight years old sparked the instability that reigned for the rest of his truncated life. Only the intensity of boxing, which he began at age nine, offered him the necessary (albeit temporary) sanctuary from the demons that swirled inside his head and consumed his sensitive heart.
Those demons led to substance abuse problems so chronic that his burgeoning boxing career was derailed for nearly three-and-a-half years due to suspension. At the time he was 21-0-1 (12) and was on course for a title shot at 115 but all seemed lost for the 23-year-old once the administrative hammer was brought down. When Tapia was allowed to return in March 1994, there was ample reason for skepticism. He was a 27-year-old with a history of drug abuse, campaigning in a weight class in which speed, timing, agility and especially youth are musts. It didn’t take long for Tapia to show everyone – especially opponent Jaime Olvera – that he not only was back but he was better than ever.
The four-round KO of Olvera was followed by four more wins – three by stoppage – that led to a crack at the WBO super flyweight title vacated by Johnny Bredahl. The opponent was the 16-1-1 Henry Martinez and the site was The Pit in Albuquerque, the home court of the University of New Mexico Lobos basketball team. Tapia fed off his supercharged hometown crowd and delivered an electric performance that resulted in an 11th round TKO and his first major championship.
After scoring a two-round knockout over former titlist Rolando Bohol, Tapia recorded 13 successful defenses over the next three-and-a-half years, a total that trails only Hall-of-Famer Khaosai Galaxy’s 19. His victims included U.S. Olympian Arthur Johnson (MD 12), live underdog Willy Salazar (TKO 9), future flyweight champ Hugo Soto (UD 12) and former 112-pound titlist Rodolfo Blanco (UD 12) but the signature victory of his 115-pound title run was a stunningly dominant points victory over crosstown rival and IBF counterpart Danny Romero.
The emotions surrounding the Tapia-Romero rivalry ran so deep and proved so intense that the fight was staged in Las Vegas instead of Albuquerque, which was said to be experiencing thunderstorms on fight night. The contrasts in personality and ring style were profound; Tapia the lightning-quick boxer, who lived every day enveloped in chaos, and the well-adjusted Romero, a telegenic power-puncher on the cusp of crossover stardom. This observer felt the volatile Tapia’s overwhelming desire to beat Romero would overflow so dangerously that the cerebral Romero would catch him with a knockout drop but, on fight night, Tapia channeled his emotions in such a way that he produced the most disciplined 36 minutes of his boxing life. From time to time, his emotions bubbled up but he reined himself in just enough to maintain command and secure the signature victory.
Tapia vacated the two belts after two defenses against Andy Agosto (UD 12) and Blanco but, two fights later, he captured Nana Konadu’s WBA bantamweight belt by majority decision. A non-title victory over Alberto Martinez (KO 1) upped his record to 46-0-2 (25) and set the table for a mouth-watering match with former WBA titlist Paulie Ayala. Once again, Tapia’s emotions overflowed and a melee nearly broke out after Tapia shoved Ayala during the introductions but that burst of emotion didn’t prevent Tapia and Ayala from producing bristling two-way action so sustained that THE RING deemed it its 1999 Fight of the Year. When the scorecards were added up, however, Tapia was on the losing end of a close but unanimous decision, his first defeat as a professional.
Meanwhile, Tapia’s chaotic life continued apace as he attempted to kill himself with a drug overdose. A few months later, the revived Tapia won the WBO bantamweight title by out-pointing Jorge Eliecer Julio and defended it in the same manner against Pedro Javier Torres. That set up the rematch with Ayala, which was staged at a catchweight of 124 pounds. Once again, they produced extraordinary two-way action and many felt Tapia did enough to avenge his only loss. However, the judges differed as Keith MacDonald saw Ayala a 116-112 winner, while Chuck Giampa and Jerry Roth scored the bout 115-113. An enraged Tapia was ushered out of the ring by security.
Four fights later, Tapia won his third divisional championship by controversially out-pointing IBF featherweight titlist Manuel Medina, who out-threw (122.2 per round to Tapia’s 60.2) and out-landed Tapia by wide margins (273-193 overall, 128-40 jabs but trailed 153-145 power). A little more than six months later, Tapia met Barrera in the “Battle of the Baby-Faced Assassins,” but, by then, the two were on diametrically opposed career paths; Barrera was riding high while Tapia was on the downside. The 12-round fight was a battle of friends that saw Barrera win a lopsided decision.
From there, Tapia played out the string as he fought nine times in the next eight years, going 7-2 and retiring at age 44 following an eight-round decision win over Mauricio Pastrana. The chaos continued to reign in his personal life until he died of heart failure on May 27, 2012. He was just 45 years old.
But while his life was saturated with tragedy and tumult, Tapia produced consistent success inside the ropes and remained unbeaten for more than 11 years against his share of quality campaigners. His skill set was elite and his fighting heart was ferocious. He lived hard and died young but, in my eyes, his career deserves to be immortalized within the walls of the Hall of Fame museum. After all, it is already enshrined within the hearts and minds of those who watched him ply his trade.
* Evander Holyfield: Like Barrera and Tapia, Holyfield is appearing on the ballot for the first time and, like them, his list of accomplishments is formidable: An Olympic medal, undisputed championships at cruiserweight and heavyweight, the winner of two RING Fights of the Year, three “Fighter of the Year” awards from THE RING and the BWAA and a reputation as an indomitable warrior who overcame deficits in height, reach and strength to thrive during the first wave of super-sized heavyweights, which comprised a large part of what many say was the second greatest grouping of big men in division history, behind that of the 1970s. He is recognized by many as the greatest cruiserweight who has yet lived and his use of modern conditioning techniques revolutionized the way fighters prepare themselves for battle. Holyfield’s story only amplifies his case for Hall of Fame enshrinement.
His 160-14 amateur career culminated with a bronze medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles that many thought could have been gold. In the second round of his semi-final bout against New Zealand’s Kevin Barry, Holyfield floored Barry with a hook a split-second after Yugoslavian referee Gligorije Novicic called for a break. Novicic then awarded the bout to the all-but-knocked-out Barry, who was prohibited from advancing to the gold medal bout against Anton Josipovic, also of Yugoslavia. During the medal ceremony, the classy Josipovic invited Holyfield to join him on the top step.
Holyfield was included in the “Night of Gold” at Madison Square Garden that was televised on ABC in prime-time, joining teammates Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor, Mark Breland and Tyrell Biggs in making their pro debuts. From the start, Holyfield was placed on the fast track toward a title shot. After out-pointing the rugged Joe Louis look-a-like Lionel Byarm in six rounds, Holyfield zoomed up the ranks by beating Eric Winbush (UD 6, fresh off a points loss to two-time middleweight title challenger Fulgencio Obelmejias) in his second bout, future cruiserweight titlist Tyrone Booze (UD 8) in his fifth outing and Chisanda Mutti (who lost to then-IBF titlist Lee Roy Murphy less than four months earlier) in fight nine (TKO 3). In just his 12th bout, Holyfield faced WBA cruiserweight champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi, also a former light heavyweight titlist, in a scheduled 15-rounder. Despite having never gone more than eight rounds, Holyfield won a 15-round split decision in a pitched war that many still call the greatest cruiserweight title fight ever waged. Improbably, Holyfield was the stronger man down the stretch, despite reportedly suffering kidney failure and losing 15 pounds.
Holyfield was the first 1984 U.S. Olympian to win a major title built on his feat by stopping Olympic teammate Henry Tillman in his first defense, adding Rickey Parkey’s IBF belt via third round TKO, stopping former WBA titlist Ossie Ocasio in 11, scoring a one-punch, fourth-round KO over Qawi in the rematch and halting WBC counterpart Carlos DeLeon in eight to unite all three major cruiserweight titles.
With no more worlds to conquer at 190, Holyfield rebuilt his body and campaigned as a heavyweight. The goal was to eventually meet undisputed champion Mike Tyson and Holyfield did his part by beating James “Quick” Tillis (TKO 5), ex-titlists Pinklon Thomas (TKO 7) and Michael Dokes (TKO 10 in a Fight-of-the-Year-quality scrap), Adilson Rodrigues (KO 2) and Alex Stewart (TKO 8). Holyfield was ringside in Tokyo when Tyson met James “Buster” Douglas in a bout so unheralded that “Iron Mike” was installed as a 42-to-1 favorite at one of the few betting parlors willing to post odds at all. With a contract already signed to meet Tyson in the summer, Holyfield witnessed what arguably remains the biggest upset in boxing history, as Douglas scored an off-the-floor 10th round KO.
After polishing off Seamus McDonagh in four, Holyfield captured the undisputed heavyweight title from Douglas with a beautifully delivered counter right to the jaw. He defended the belts against 42-year-old George Foreman, Bert Cooper (a late sub for Francesco Damiani) and 42-year-old Larry Holmes before losing the belts to Riddick Bowe in one of 1992’s most memorable wars. Round 10 of that bout was a microcosm of Holyfield’s outstanding competitive drive, for, after being stunned by a right uppercut and pounded mercilessly in the round’s first half, Holyfield produced an astounding rally that had the arm-weary “Big Daddy” teetering.
Holyfield outpointed Stewart over 12 in their rematch, then did the same in his rematch against a portly Bowe that was best known for the “Fan Man” incident that caused a 20-plus-minute delay in round seven. From this point on, Holyfield’s career ping-ponged between successes and setbacks. Five months after beating Bowe, he lost a majority decision to Michael Moorer in a loss that was blamed, ironically enough, on a heart condition. Thirteen months later, Holyfield returned with a rugged 10-round points win over Ray Mercer, then lost by eighth-round TKO to Bowe in a match that saw Holyfield floor and nearly stop Bowe in the sixth. Six months later, he scored a fifth round TKO over Bobby Czyz, who said someone in Holyfield’s corner had sprayed a substance on the fighter’s gloves that blinded him.
This streak of inconsistency served as the backdrop for his next fight, one many thought should have happened six years earlier. Holyfield vs. Tyson was 1991’s dream match but, in most minds, it was 1996’s slaughter of the year. Like the first fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston and the “Rumble in the Jungle” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, Holyfield vs. Tyson wasn’t discussed, in terms of whether Holyfield would win or lose. It was whether he would live or die, especially when one added the heart issue, which Holyfield said was misdiagnosed. The bout was perceived as such a mismatch that one cable system unsuccessfully proposed a “pay-per-round” concept in which patrons would be charged $5 for every round the main event lasted.
But Holyfield, who opened as a 25-to-1 underdog, had a surprise for everyone as he executed a brilliantly conceived blueprint that thoroughly negated Tyson’s strengths. The sixth round knockdown was stunning enough but the assault late in the 10th and the stoppage in round 11 strained the limits of credulity. The massive upset was THE RING’s Fight of the Year and brought Holyfield Fighter of the Year honors from THE RING and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Holyfield won both awards the following year with his third round disqualification win over Tyson in the rematch (which will forever be known as “The Bite Fight”) and his eighth-round TKO over Moorer, who he floored five times in avenging that loss. After out-pointing Vaughn Bean over 12 in his only 1998 appearance, the 36-year-old Holyfield showed signs of irreversible decline in the first of his two fights with WBC king Lennox Lewis. Despite being out-landed by more than 200 punches overall (348-130) and tasting an alarmingly high percentage of Lewis’ punches (57% overall, 51% jabs, 65% power), Holyfield escaped with a scandalous draw that inflicted untold damage to the sport in the eyes of the mainstream media and the general sporting public. The rematch eight months later was somewhat closer but, unlike the first fight, the unanimous decision in Lewis’ favor was reflective of the action inside the ring.
But nine months later, Holyfield became the first man ever to win a piece of the heavyweight title for a fourth time as he out-pointed John Ruiz for the vacant WBA belt. Two more bouts with Ruiz followed, a decision loss and a draw, and, over the final nine years of his career, Holyfield went 6-5 with one no-contest before his final fight, a 10th round TKO over Brian Nielsen at age 48. But one could make a strong case that Holyfield should have won a fifth title at age 45 against the then-undefeated WBA titlist Nikolay Valuev, who outweighed Holyfield by an astounding 96 pounds. Valuev won a majority decision, but most viewers thought otherwise.
Although Holyfield’s decline was slow and excruciating, his skill set and success during his peak years merit induction in the Hall. That said, however, I thought long and hard before finally affixing my check mark because, for the first time as a voter, I was confronted by the specter of potential PED use. Was “The Real Deal” indeed the real deal?
The whispers about potential steroid use date back to Holyfield’s first fight with Qawi. In a 2007 interview conducted by BoxingScene’s Dave Sholler, the 2004 IBHOF inductee said his trainer Wesley Mouzon spotted Holyfield drinking a mysterious liquid between rounds four and five that caused a stunning revival and a cream rubbed on the challenger’s body that caused a burning sensation in Qawi’s eyes after their heads bumped. Holmes brought up the issue a couple of weeks before their 1992 fight and a 2007 Sports Illustrated article alleged that, in June 2004, Holyfield, using the pseudonym “Evan Fields,” acquired three vials of testosterone and related injection supplies. The birth date of the patient coincided with Holyfield’s and when SI called the number, Holyfield himself answered.
I reached out to several people, whose opinions I respect, to discuss the issue and those who replied expressed my original leaning: While there is considerable circumstantial evidence, Holyfield never failed a drug test (though the testing technology then isn’t what it is now) and one can’t know for sure how deep in his career the alleged use began. Thus, they either would vote for him if they could or had affixed their checks for him. Feeling better about my initial thought process, I voted for him.
One can argue Holyfield was a Hall-of-Famer on the day he scored the knockout against Douglas to win his second divisional championship (and his second undisputed lineal title) and he certainly reached that status when he scored the monumental upset over Tyson in their first fight. Without an admission that pinpoints when the alleged use began, I can only go by what I can confirm, which was his resume inside the ring. In my eyes, that resume, especially that part achieved during his best years, is enough.
With two checks remaining to be affixed, I went with the two fighters about whose candidacies I felt strongest: Dariusz Michalczewski and Gilberto Roman. Those seeking more detailed reasons for my support can consult my past “How I Voted and Why” pieces but here’s a synopsis:
Dariusz Michalczewski: Many believe Roy Jones Jr. is a Hall-of-Famer in waiting but Michalczewski – the lineal champion during most of Jones’ 175-pound reign – defeated several of the same fighters Jones did and sometimes did so more emphatically. His nine year, one-month reign is the longest continuous tenure in light heavyweight history and his 23 defenses is second only to Joe Louis’ 25. Moreover, 19 of the 23 defenses – including 14 straight – ended inside the distance and the four that went the route were achieved with room to spare. The one big hole in his case is the absence of a unification match with Jones but if ever a fighter exhibited long-term dominance over his era, “The Tiger” did it. Michalczewski has been on the ballot for seven years now and, given the three new names on the Modern ballot, it likely will be extended to an eighth year. But Michalczewski has the resume to get in and I hope voters will soon give him the immortality he deserves.
Gilberto Roman: Roman was one of the best 115-pound fighters who has yet lived and is one of boxing-rich Mexico’s most prolific and successful champions. His 11 defenses in two reigns ties him with Omar Narvaez and Jiro Watanabe and ranks only behind Tapia’s 13 and Galaxy’s 19. Another plus: He won his first belt from the long-reigning Watanabe (UD 12) before the champion’s home fans and, in addition to Japan, he also won title fights in France, Argentina, Thailand and the United States. Although he was officially 1-1-1 against Santos Laciar, a strong case can be made that he won all three, were he not stopped on cuts in their second go-round. He twice defeated Laciar’s conqueror Sugar Baby Rojas (both by UD 12) and other victims include lanky Panamanian southpaw Edgar Monserrat (SD 12), former flyweight titlists Antonio Avelar (TKO 7 in a rematch) and Frank Cedeno (UD 12), future 122-pound titlist Kiyoshi Hatanaka (UD 12) and Juan Carazo (UD 12), who beat Laciar to earn his chance against Roman. Other good wins include one-time bantamweight title challenger Paul Ferreri (UD 10) and flyweight contender Antoine Montero (TKO 9). Finally, Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain thought so much of Roman that the “Roman” portion of his Romanza Gym is named for him. Hopefully, one day soon, Roman’s name will also be part of the Hall of Fame roster.
Sadly, I had to leave off Laciar, Miguel Lora, Yuri Arbachakov, Henry Maske, Sung Kil Moon, Wilfredo Vazquez Sr., Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Genaro Hernandez, all of whom I would have affixed checks without hesitation. But doing so would have disqualified my ballot, so I reluctantly refrained.
As for the other categories, I voted for the following:
New Era Old-Timers: Eddie Booker (“Black Dynamite”) never had a chance to fight for a title but victories over Archie Moore (TKO 8 in their third bout), Holman Williams (PTS 10 in their third bout), Harry Matthews (TKO 5), Lloyd Marshall (PTS 10) and Shorty Hogue (PTS 10 in their second fight, TKO 8 in their fourth) – along with recommendations from several respected colleagues – persuaded me to give him the check); Jiro Watanabe (combined 11 defenses of the WBA and WBC super flyweight titles and wins over Rafael Pedroza (UD 15), Shoji Oguma (TKO 12), Gustavo Ballas (TKO 9), Soon-Chun Kwon (TD 11) and Payao Poontarat (SD 12, TKO 11) in a de facto unification fight before winning the rematch stamped him as a formidable force in his era) and Davey “Springfield Rifle” Moore (despite just four successful featherweight title defenses, Moore possessed outstanding long-range skills that defied his 5-foot-2 height as well as two-fisted power. Also, he had numerous road wins over top opposition, including numerous non-title engagements). I could have made two more choices but I refrained because I felt the remaining fighters didn’t reach the necessary threshold.
Observers: I affixed repeat checks on historian Mario Rivera as well as broadcasters Steve Albert and Antonio Andere but I joyously invested the other two marks on historian/writer/broadcaster Steve Farhood (one of the men who helped give me my start as a writer and the man who wrote the foreword of my book “Tales From the Vault”) and veteran blow-by-blow man Barry Tompkins, who took over at HBO for the legendary Don Dunphy and spent many years doing ESPN’s “Top Rank Boxing” series before shifting over to FOX Sports and now Showtime. Tompkins has an impressive resume in other sports but his accomplishments in boxing deserve the ultimate honor in boxing.
Non-Participants: I produced repeat checks for trainer Dai Dollings and promoters Klaus-Peter Kohl and Bill Mordey while including votes for two newcomers in judge Jerry Roth and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Sr., whose appearance on the ballot is way overdue.
As I sealed my ballots in the self-addressed stamped envelope graciously provided by the Hall, I thought that the Class of 2017 has the potential to be arguably the most impressive top-to-bottom roster in many years. I won’t know that for sure until the results are announced in early December but if enough of my colleagues vote wisely, the next trip to Induction Weekend – my 25th – could be one of the best yet.
Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 15 writing awards, including 12 in the last six years and two first-place awards since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com. To contact Groves, use the e-mail [email protected].