Wednesday, October 18, 2017  |

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The IBHOF Class of 2018: How I voted and why

Photo credit: Alex Menendez
12
Oct

Just after noon on October 5, I walked down the steep driveway to my mailbox, opened the door and pulled out the day’s contents. One large white envelope immediately caught my eye and its markings enabled me to instantly identify its source, the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and its contents, the ballot to choose its Class of 2018.

Even though I’ve been an elector since 2001, I have never grown jaded or weary about executing this task. That’s because I, along with 200 or so others, get the privilege of determining which members of the boxing community receive the sport’s highest honor and, to me, that privilege carries a profound seriousness, as well as a deep desire to “get it right.” Another reason I look forward to the process is that, in recent years, I have made it my business to predict which names would appear on the ballot for the first time and whether those names would be instantly immortalized. While my record is nowhere near pristine, it’s good enough to qualify me as an authority of sorts. I began playing this game in the early 2000s when I correctly predicted that, in a few years’ time, the Class of 2007 would consist of Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitaker and Ricardo Lopez. Since then, I’ve had years in which I’ve gone three-for-three (2011, 2014, 2015, 2017), while, in others, I’ve correctly guessed only one honoree (2008 with Larry Holmes, 2016 with Hector Camacho Sr.) No matter; I derive most of my fun from the guessing and if I happen to guess correctly, all the better.

The Class of 2017 – Moderns Evander Holyfield, Marco Antonio Barrera and Johnny Tapia, “New Era” Old-Timer Eddie Booker, Non-Participants Jimmy Lennon Sr., Jerry Roth and Johnny Lewis and Observers Steve Farhood and Barry Tompkins – was among the strongest top-to-bottom classes ever elected and I believe the next decade may produce similarly formidable lineups. Last December and January, I wrote two articles detailing potential names for the Class of 2018 ballot, and in those pieces, I identified six fighters who could make the ballot in their first year of eligibility – Vitali Klitschko, Erik Morales, Ronald “Winky” Wright, Ricky Hatton, Ivan Calderon and Rosendo Alvarez – as well as other notables I hoped would make the ballot such as broadcaster Tim Ryan, promoter Lorraine Chargin, trainers Freddie Brown, Jimmy Montoya, Miguel Diaz and Al Gavin, ring announcer Chuck Hull, renowned trainer/hand-wrapper Rafael Garcia, broadcaster/administrator Randy Gordon, broadcaster/”In This Corner” host James “Smitty” Smith and CompuBox President Bob Canobbio.

Last month, I addressed the tidal wave of retirements involving high-profile fighters and how that may affect future IBHOF ballots, as well as suggested several tweaks to the voting protocol. Upon viewing this year’s ballot, I was pleasantly surprised to see, perhaps coincidentally, that one of the suggestions came to pass – expanding the number of names appearing on the Modern ballot from 30 to 32. That allowed five new names to appear on this year’s ballot instead of the usual three – Klitschko, Morales, Calderon, Wright and Hatton. While I went five-for-five in terms of the new names selected, my batting average on the other three ballots was far lower. Happily, however, Lorraine Chargin was added to the Non-Participant ballot.

Other new names in the various categories include Non-Participants Johnny Addie (ring announcer) and Guy Jutras (referee/judge), “Early Era Old-Timer” Bushy Graham and Observers Jim Gray (broadcaster) and Eddie Muller (columnist).

With only five maximum checkmarks allowed for the Moderns, my process wasn’t about for whom to vote but whom to leave out. The first three checkmarks were easy to affix – Klitschko, Morales and Dariusz Michalczewski – because all boasted superior talent, high achievement and definitive long-term success, three vital factors when I consider a candidate’s worth.

 

 

Klitschko assembled one of the greatest comebacks in history by regaining the WBC title at age 37, in his first fight back from a nearly four-year layoff (a dominant eighth-round corner retirement over Samuel Peter) and notching nine successful defenses – six by knockout – during a reign that lasted almost four years before voluntarily giving up the belt, as he had the first time around. Meanwhile, Morales is one of the very best champions boxing-rich Mexico has ever produced, as he won belts in four weight classes and defeated 13 fellow titlists, including two-time conquerors Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera as well as Daniel Zaragoza, Wayne McCullough, Junior Jones, Kevin Kelley, In-Jin Chi, Guty Espadas Jr. (twice), Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez. Lastly, Michalczewski holds the light heavyweight record for most title defenses (23 as WBO champ) and title tenure (nine years, one month) and, by virtue over his dominant victory over future Hall-of-Famer and then-IBF/WBA titlist Virgil Hill, was the “man who beat the man,” when he and Roy Jones Jr. reigned simultaneously, beating several of the same fighters, while doing so. “The Tiger” ran his record to 48-0 before losing a split decision to Julio Cesar Gonzalez in his penultimate fight.

 

 

 

With just two checks remaining in the quiver, I was forced to carefully sift through the other viable contenders, which I narrowed to six: New entrants Calderon, Hatton and Wright and perennials Gilberto Roman, Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. and Henry Maske, all of whom I voted for, since the new ballot protocols were adopted. There are, of course, about a dozen other names for whom I’d like to vote but if I go above the maximum of five, my ballot will be invalidated.

I looked over each man’s record on Boxrec.com and made notes concerning the pros and cons of each, and, by the end of the process I voted for Calderon and Wright, while leaving out Hatton, Roman, Vazquez Sr. and Maske, all of whom I would have voted for under the old 10-vote maximum. So why did “Iron Boy” and “Winky” make the grade?

 

 

Calderon got my checkmark because (1), during his prime, he was considered the best defensive fighter of his time; (2) he held a world title almost continuously for more than seven years (the WBO minimumweight belt from May 2003 to April 2007 and the WBO light flyweight strap from August 2007 to August 2010), an especially difficult feat for those campaigning in the extreme low weight classes because such fighters age more quickly and (3) he accumulated 11 defenses at 105 and six more at 108, while beating nine men who had held a title at some point of their careers: Eduardo Ray Marquez, Alex Sanchez, Edgar Cardenas, Roberto Leyva, Daniel Reyes, Isaac Bustos, Hugo Cazares (twice), Nelson Dieppa and Rodel Mayol. Finally, while commentators criticized his constant movement, his lack of power and the sameness of each round, Calderon was the ultimate ring general, who banked round after round on the scorecards. One look at his score lines, especially between 2003-’07, illustrates the degree of his strategic command. Finally, because he didn’t have fight-ending power in either hand, Calderon had to depend on his array of skills to build up insurmountable mathematical leads and keep his aggressive opponents at bay. Calderon’s skills were such that he occasionally executed them with a showman’s flair; more than once his duck-under moves ignited shouts of “Ole!” I’ve always had a soft spot for fighters who succeeded without the safety net of one-punch power such as Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche and Hilario Zapata, and that soft spot – along with everything else described above – moved me to invest the fourth check.

To me, the meat of “Winky’s” successful candidacy was his blue-chip back-to-back-to-back victories over Shane Mosley (twice) and Felix Trinidad. The first win over “Sugar Shane” occurred in a rare three-belt unification match at 154, in which Mosley was a 5-to-2 favorite and was in line to make a $10 million purse against Trinidad, had he won. Instead, Wright used his ramrod right jab and timely counter lefts to build a huge lead, then went toe-to-toe with Mosley, when he launched a desperate 12th round rally. The rematch was much more competitive but two of the judges were more impressed by Wright’s more frequent connects (273 to 154, including a 138-46 bulge in landed jabs) while the third judge, who scored it even, gave a bit more weight to Mosley’s heavier blows.

 

 

Despite the twin victories over Mosley, Wright was again the 8-to-5 underdog to Trinidad, who was fighting for the second time following a nearly 29-month layoff but was coming off a sensational eighth round TKO over Ricardo Mayorga. Wright said before the fight that he would make victory look easy and, to the astonishment of virtually everyone, made good on his promise as his vaunted jab repeatedly thudded into Trinidad’s face while “Tito’s” legendary left hook was left in mothballs. Like Bernard Hopkins three fights earlier, Wright thoroughly dominated and frustrated the Puerto Rican legend en route to completing his career-defining trifecta.

 

 

But while those three fights alone may vault Wright into Canastota, other aspects of his career helped his cause. He twice reigned at 154, notching three WBO defenses before being dethroned by a majority decision to Harry Simon and posting five more during his IBF tenure before moving up to fight Trinidad in a 160-pound title eliminator. Other notable victims include title winners Bronco McKart (three times), Keith Mullings, Sam Soliman and Ike Quartey and, although he lost a majority decision to a weight-weakened Fernando Vargas, many say Wright did enough to win. The same could be said about his draw against then world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, two fights after conquering Trinidad. In fact, one could opine that the only man who definitively defeated Wright during his best years was Julio Cesar Vazquez, who scored five official knockdowns en route to a unanimous decision victory to retain his WBA super welterweight belt, in Wright’s first shot at a major belt. It wasn’t until exactly 12 years and 11 months later against Bernard Hopkins that Wright was similarly vanquished. Wright was an elite talent with an excellent record, an equation I believe should equal enshrinement.

I am but one voter, however, and unless the choices are patently obvious, predicting the outcome of the Modern voting is tricky. The reason: Although the voting criteria is included with the ballot, in practice, each elector has his own set of priorities. Some, like myself, prioritize talent, accomplishment and time spent near the top, while others place more weight on the candidate’s “fame,” especially if that candidate is either charismatic, likable, geographically meaningful or featured often on TV in action-packed contests that transcend, whether that fighter won or lost them. With that in mind, I believe the IBHOF’s Modern Class of 2018 will consist of – barring ties –Vitali Klitschko, Erik Morales and Ricky Hatton.

As for how I voted in the other categories, there were a lot of “repeat” checkmarks because the people I chose were not inducted. Such was the case for my entire slate of “Early Era” Old Timers – Leach Cross, Frank Erne, Tod Morgan, “Harlem” Tommy Murphy and Thomas “Pedlar” Palmer – and for three of the five Non-Participants: Trainer Dai Dollings and promoters Klaus-Peter Kohl and Bill Mordey. The other two Non-Participant checks went to Addie and Chargin (the detail person in her decades-long partnership with husband Don, who was inducted in 2001). While I eagerly checked Chargin’s name, I hesitated about doing the same for Addie because of his profound inability to read divided scorecards in the proper order. In the Observers race, I voted for three repeats – writer Mario Rivera and broadcasters Steve Albert and Antonio Andere – while also choosing writer/broadcaster/referee/judge Ray Mitchell and “Joe Palooka” creator Ham Fisher.

My predictions for these categories? Tod Morgan for the “Early Era” Old-Timers, Addie, Chargin and Kohl for the Non-Participants and, for the Observers, Mitchell and Albert (though Jim Gray might also get the nod). How confident am I in my choices? I believe Addie and Chargin are locks but I’m not so certain about the others.

In terms of time spent, this year’s voting process was considerably shorter than in past years. One particularly arduous session lasted 11 hours but, here, I spent around two. Because I finished an hour before my local post office closed for the day, I signed my ballots, made copies for my records and placed them inside the stamped envelope kindly provided by the IBHOF. Ten minutes later, when I handed the envelope to the postmaster, my voting process officially ended.

Sometime during the first full week of December, the world will know who will make up the IBHOF Class of 2018. No matter what names are named, I do hope that I will be able to make my 26th consecutive trip to Induction Weekend in Canastota, New York, my home away from home.

*

 

 

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 seven 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 (available on Amazon)” and the co-author of the upcoming book “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers.” To contact Groves, use the email [email protected].

 

 

 

 

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  • Chris Smith

    Excellent write-up and reasoning. I agree that Hatton will make it but I’d consider about 9 or 10 more deserving names on the ballot including Roman, Laciar, Michaelczeski, Arbachkov of the repeat nominees.

    I’ve never made it to Canastota, but I will be going in 2020 for the induction of Juan Manuel Marquez. Who knows, maybe Rafael Marquez makes it that year (I know he’s eligible for 2019). Who else do you think would be on that ballot? How is the best way to get to Canastota and how soon in advance do you have to book hotel rooms? I’d want to fly into NYC or Boston for a few days and then take in the whole weekend.

    • Lee Groves

      Thanks for the kind words…the first-time eligibles for 2020 include Sergio Martinez and Carl Froch along with Marquez and I believe that will be the induction class. I usually reserve my hotel room in December or January and I pretty much pick the same place every year because I get a good “loyalty” rate.

      • IRISHBOXING NUT STEVIE

        how do you get tickets for the event and is it hard to get to from jfk i would be coming from ireland thanks

      • Chris Smith

        Thanks. I’d be coming from LA. Does Amtrak from Boston or NYC go to Canastota? Also, sorry about all the questions, who do you foresee being inducted in 2019? I know Rafael Marquez will be on the ballot maybe it’s worth going a year earlier than planned. I always said I’d go when Juan Manuel was inducted, but Rafa is also a personal favorite of mine.

        • Lee Groves

          Some the first-timers for the 2019 ballot include Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Mikkel Kessler and Chris John, which could open the door for some longtime guys to get in. As for Rafael Marquez, his first year will be for the class of 2022, which will probably have Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley filling the first two slots.

          • Chris Smith

            Rafael’s last bout was 2013, so he’d be on next years ballot. I think he’s a lock on that ballot.

          • Lee Groves

            You are correct…it is 2019. And yes, he has an excellent chance.

    • IRISHBOXING NUT STEVIE

      how do you get tickets for the event and is it hard to get to from jfk i would be coming from ireland

      • Lee Groves

        You can call the IBHOF at (315) 697-7095 and ask about getting a flyer mailed to you that will provide ticket information for the 2018 event when it becomes finalized. The closest airport to Canastota is Syracuse, which is about a half-hour west. As for how to get there from NYC it’s about a 4-5 hour drive and most of it takes place on Interstate 90. The IBHOF is right off Exit 34.

        • IRISHBOXING NUT STEVIE

          thanks very much for the reply lee much appreciated i will get onto this now.
          now i just have to trick the boss lady into a trip to canastota i will tell her the shopping is great

          • Lee Groves

            I can’t speak to the shopping part so much, but for me the vast majority of my “mad money” each year is spent at the card and memorabilia show 🙂

        • IRISHBOXING NUT STEVIE

          also keep up the great work

  • J Russell Peltz

    I don’t think it’s fair to hold against Addie the deal about him not splitting the scorecards, though it does seem that he should have been able to figure that out. But what about the promoters or the matchmakers of those shows? Where were they? Why didn’t they instruct Addie on how to read the cards. On my shows, if an announcer does that I ream him out. Addie was a fixture on the Friday Night Fights, not only from New York City, but elsewhere. He should have been on the ballot years ago.

    • Lee Groves

      Hi Russell…I didn’t hold it against Addie because I did vote for him — and I fully expect him to be inducted. And he should be. But the fact that he read scorecards in the wrong order in terms of drama is a personal peeve of mine. I don’t know whether that was emphasized at all during that era or not. If it wasn’t, then that’s one thing. But if there were other announcers in the era that did do that, then that’s another. The first ring announcer I saw that placed an emphasis on it was Chuck Hull, who should DEFINITELY be in the Hall. Just as Addie was the voice of MSG, Hull was the voice of Las Vegas.

      • J Russell Peltz

        He did Robinson-Basilio I and he got that one in the right order.

        • Lee Groves

          Good to know. I didn’t know that because my version is silent 🙂

  • Left Hook2

    Good article. Wrong conclusions. If you would not watch them fight, they do not belong in the HOF. Winky and Ivan were pretty dreadful to watch. Winky’s best wins were over two fighters who were above their best weight and past their primes. He should have to pay for entry every time he goes to the HOF. Vote Julian Jackson. I do like DM and of course Morales.

    • Lee Groves

      Hi Left Hook. Like I said in the article, everybody has different priorities in terms of affixing checks. Some say that Miguel Canto was terrible to watch because he was a light puncher and a very scientific boxer, but his long stay at the top at 112 marks him as an outstanding fighter. The same for Pernell Whitaker, Hilario Zapata and, eventually, Mayweather. But all plied their trade with outstanding skill and they achieved long-term success. “Watchability,” so to speak, is a bonus. As for Julian, I’d love to see him get in because I believe he is the best pound-for-pound shot-for-shot hitter of my lifetime. But with the limited amount of check marks given to us, the influx of outstanding first-ballot guys coming down the line and the three-fighter limit for Modern Classes will hinder his chances for years to come. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality.

      • Left Hook2

        I certainly respect your opinion..which when it comes to voting matters much more than mine. I just have a hard time seeing ‘special’ in Winky when his biggest wins are tainted and less than scintillating. When I go to the HOF I should be able to explain to my kid the ‘wow’ moment or moments that make this fighter worthy above many, many others to be enshrined. A win over a non-juiced, undersized Shane and an undersized Felix would not do it for me. He is in the ‘good’ category, not the greats. IMHO. The ferocity of Benn, the arrogance of Eubank, the power of the Hawk….those are traits that should be bronzed.

        • Lee Groves

          I respect your opinion as well. Allow me to offer a rebuttal: I wouldn’t say that Felix was undersized…he constantly struggled to make the 147-pound limit and appeared to be stronger during his brief stay at 154. Also, he was dominant against genuine middleweights William Joppy and Hacine Cherifi (probably because he was more talented than both, though Cherifi was thought to be a physically strong 160-pounder) and he scored stoppages in both bouts. At the time, Trinidad was thought to be a big favorite over Wright and when Wright tossed the shutout collective jaws dropped. I believe that was the “wow” fight of the trio, though the first fight with Mosley also was seen as a surprise. He was coming off the repeat win over DLH and was in line for a big payday with Trinidad had he won.

          • Left Hook2

            Four years after the Hopkins fight was when Winky got him in the ring. Four years. Tito’s fights after that were perennial no-hoper Cherifi and no-defense Mayorga. It’s one thing to let Forrest hit you…another to let Tito. If you believe Tito was best at JMW, that would have been 2001, or 4 years before the fight with Wright. Tito was done at that point, and Winky gets way too much credit for beating the former welterweight kingpin who was a shell of himself when they met. Shane had been toppled twice by Vernon Forrest shortly before Winky won, so regardless of the oddsmakers, it wasn’t that shocking and definitely wasn’t spectacular. Sorry. Not trying to pick a fight. Just wondering about the luster of lackluster fighters accomplishing what others had done previously, yet getting far more credit.

          • Lee Groves

            You bring up points that may well deny him the check mark with other voters, and they are reasonable points. It won’t be the first time — or the last — that my opinion didn’t match up with the final results. As I stated in the article, I am but one of a couple of hundred. We’ll see how things shake out in December.

          • Left Hook2

            And I certainly respect yours and understand that my opinions are just that, opinions. At least with you we get open scoring, right? Thanks for the dialogue.

          • Lee Groves

            An exchange of opinions with knowledgeable people is one of the great joys of being a boxing fan, and, for four days each year, Canastota becomes the epicenter of great boxing talk. In the meantime we have social media and comment sections 🙂 As for the latter, I do believe in transparency. If a voter can detail and justify his reasoning to the point of “I may disagree, but I see where you’re going there” then that’s a good thing.

    • Dee Money

      SOmetimes LH2 I feel I agree with you too much.

      Winky Wright was probably my least favorite fighter of the 00s; mostly because I disliked his style, put his lanky arms up and cover his head, body and everything else all at once and just wait.

      But to be fair he is a HOFer, at least based on where the bar has already been established. Maybe we let too many in, but the line has been drawn as to what a HOFer is and Winky clears the bar.

      • Left Hook2

        NOOOOO!!!! If we let a few low rungs on the bar guide us we are destined to one day have adrien broner and sven ottke running the parade! Heck, this puts rigo one win away (even if it’s not Loma, if he beats a lower tier guy like Lee Selby or Oscar Valdez, his ‘wizardry’ will get him into the hall instead of having to earn it as a special fighter.)

        • Dee Money

          I feel you in general premise, unfortunately thats the way it always is in HOFs. Once the bar is set you just hope they don’t move it any lower (Broner). But it does give Wright a legit shot.

  • Turner Wednesday

    Whenever I have trouble sleeping, I read something written by Lee Groves. Works like a charm every time!

    • Lee Groves

      At least it’s good for something, yes? 🙂

      • Turner Wednesday

        Exact…zzzzzzzzzzz…

  • Chris Smith

    I’ve not seen Joel Casamayor on the ballot. I think he should be on the ballot already. Excellent amateur career, series win against Corrales, list of other solid wins (Campbell, Garcia, Beasley, Katsidis etc) and until he fought Marquez one could argue the only loss on his record should have been Santa Cruz.