The Boxing Esq. Podcast, Ep. 37: Boxing writer Cliff Rold
The Ring is proud to present “The Boxing Esq. Podcast with Kurt Emhoff”. Emhoff, an attorney based in New York City, is a top boxing manager who has represented over 10 world champions in his 20-plus years in the sport.
His guest on this podcast is boxing writer and International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) voter Cliff Rold. Emhoff spoke with Rold about the 2020 IBHOF ballot and Cliff’s choices for the Hall of Fame. They also talked about Cliff’s criteria for selecting his potential inductees and which writers receive which ballots.
They also got into the great fights of the last few weeks including Canelo-Kovalev and Inoue-Donaire. And also the not so great KSI-Logan Paul fight.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
On what criteria he uses in considering who to vote for on the IBHOF ballot:
“It’s hard. I mean, I try to go with the guys I think are most deserving first. And for me most deserving, I try to base it as much as possible on what happened in the ring. The way that they’ve got the modern ballot cut now – so the modern ballot is if anybody who had their last fight no later than 1989. So really we’re looking at people from the 80s forward. I saw most of those guys. So that helps. Right? I have an impression. But you also have to consider who beat who, when they beat them. Sometimes the title accomplishments, you know, guys won titles in five weight divisions. Well, yeah, but you know, after the WBO comes around, you’ve got four chances to do it. You got these silly interim titles and some of that stuff becomes hyper-inflated. You gotta take your time.
Most years it’s kind of easy, right? Like there’s people I have an eye on, that I’ve studied their careers, that I think are deserving. This year it was funny cause some of the guys I have voted for in the past, like Argentine flyweight Santos Laciar, didn’t make my ballot this year. It was too crowded. The new requirement where guys only have to be retired three years has opened up a really impressive ballot. So you gotta take your time and see who you think really deserved it.
So this year, what I did was I pulled up, I happen to have all of the issues of Ring going back to – I have everything pretty much from 1970 forward. So I decided to pull everything out and to just start the thinking. Because it’s the most consistent sort of independent-ish ratings that you can have. I just sorta did a breakdown of looking at a selection of the guys on the ballot.
So I picked about half of the ballot. There’s guys that I know from having seen their careers, knowing what they accomplished that I don’t think I would ever vote for. So, you know, like a guy like Jorge Arce. Really respect his career. Super exciting. Not a guy who I would vote for, um, for various reasons. And I don’t want to pick on Arce, he had a great career. But I took the guys that I thought would likely have a case just knowing their careers and then I took a look at where were their opponents ranked. So at what point in their careers did they enter sort of the top 10 of a weight division.
And when was the last time they were rated? So you know, over that, trying to look at their peak period. So, for a guy who might’ve entered the ratings for the first time in 1993 and stayed there until 2002, who did they fight during that peak period of their career? Where were their opponents rated? Did they win or did they lose, quality losses. And, then I stratified it that way. And then I stepped back and thought about who had decisions that might’ve been considered controversial and I pared my ballot down that way. And then to make it easier, guys who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs at some point in their career who were on the ballot for the first time. So Antonio Tarver and Shane Mosley, I just decided not to vote for them this year.
I would consider them in the future. I expect Shane to get voted in this year. No problem. But I just thought if you’re looking for a way to stratify a deep ballot, that’s one way to do it. And I think it’s fair that way. I mean, these are guys that were caught doing something that is actually dangerous to their opponents outside of the norm of a dangerous sport. And so I eliminated them and that’s how I pared my ballot down. And then I came up with my top five.”
On how he pared it down to the five fighters he voted for in the Modern category:
“So when I took all the guys and I broke it down, right? I assigned a point value based on who beat who, where they were ranked, what division. I took into account if you moved up a division and in your first fight in that division if you beat a top 10 guy. Took all that into account. So when I sort it out, I’ll tell you off the top, I’ve voted for (Bernard) Hopkins and Juan Manuel Marquez. I don’t have to think about them. I don’t have to score that out. Right? Like those two guys are all-time greats. Juan Manuel Marquez is, I mean he’s right there with Chavez and Alvarez and he’s one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all-time. One of the greatest fighters, period.
Done. Bernard Hopkins, done. I don’t have to think about him. He’s a Hall of Famer. You just don’t see careers like his very often.
So then you got what’s left. What I’ve found is the next five guys, you can only vote for five. So when I broke it down, the next five guys were based on who beat who, where they were rated in the divisions these guys fought in were Tim Bradley, Sergio Martinez, Ricky Hatton, Rafael Marquez, and Carl Froch. And so then I just started looking at where would I consider their careers?
So Bradley was a guy that I was kinda on the fence about. But when you break his career down and you really look and then you realize that along with all these high-rated fighters, like even if you throw out the first Manny Pacquiao fight, right? Unified twice at 140. Fight of the year with Ruslan Provodnikov. You can go into all those superlatives but he just beat a lot of good fighters. Beat Devon Alexander when he was highly-rated. Beat Kendall Holt when he was highly-rated at 140. Beat Juan Manuel Marquez. So he beat a great fighter coming off the best win of that fighter’s career. So, and then you’d factor in that guys like Lamont Peterson and Miguel Vazquez were not even considered top 10 junior welterweights or lightweights yet in their career and went on to have these fantastic careers. So he had quality wins all over the place. A lot of depth to his record that, the more you look at it, you’re surprised by the depth. So voted for him.
Sergio Martinez was a guy I wasn’t going to vote for. But when you break his career down, it’s just loaded with top 10 contenders. Right? Like from the time he beat I believe it was Alex Bunema jumping up into the top 10 at 154, he beat a bunch of contenders. Arguably beat Paul Williams the first time. Got a really, say like really questionable scorecards, especially the one I believe from Pierre Benoist. There was one really crazy scorecard. And you know, beat Williams, beat Pavlik, beat a bunch of top 10 guys when he was champion. Matt Macklin, escaped against Martin Murray, even Sergei Dzinzruk was a highly-rated at junior middleweight. So I ended up voting for him.
So then I got to pick the last spot and you’re picking between and I boiled it down. I even took into account Israel Vazquez, right? So cause he was the next guy after those guys. So you’re looking at Hatton, Marquez, Froch, and Vazquez.
And ultimately I went with Rafael Marquez. Rafael Marquez beat almost nothing but guys who were rated at 118 or 115 pounds, legitimately, throughout his bantamweight title reign. Before he was the bantamweight champion, he had some rough losses early in his career. He was matched real hard early on. I mean he started his career his pro debut was against a former world champion Victor Rabanales. I mean his very first fight. I think he got knocked out in the eighth round against a former (bantam)weight champion of the world. I mean, that’s a hell of a way to start your career. So then he entered the ratings for the first time, loses to Genaro Garcia and it’s the last time he loses for years. Comes back, beats Mark Johnson in an absolute classic. That was, you know, a lot of people thought Johnson won the first one. Most people have never seen the fight. It wasn’t on TV. You gotta go find it on YouTube, great fight. Comes back, has a rematch. They’re fighting tit for tat. Knocks out Marc Johnson. Now Mark Johnson was a staple of the pound-for-pound ratings in the 1990s. Then he beats Timmy Austin when Timmy Austin was considered the best Bantamweight in the world, him or Veeraphol Sahaprom. And I probably just mutilated his name. But he beats Tim Austin in another good fight. Had quality defenses – two quality defenses against Silence Mabuza. I mean he just had a really strong run at 118 pounds.
Then he jumped up, beats Israel Vazquez. Now he’s the lineal champ and the Ring champion, all that stuff at 122 pounds. Loses the rematch. Then you got the third fight, which, you know, if you throw their fourth fight out, it’s maybe the best trilogy of fights I’ve ever seen. It’s the only one I can think of where every fight was better than the last fight before it. And then on the tail end, he gets in good fights, not winning fights, but good fights. You guys like Toshiaki Nishioka and Daniel Ponce De Leon (actually Juan Manuel Lopez). I just think when you look at his body of work at bantamweight and at junior featherweight, he slightly edges out Israel Vazquez, who only fought in one weight class. And Ricky Hatton who I think some of his better wins, like Jose Luis Castillo, was rated number one by Ring when Ricky Hatton was world champion and defended against him. But I think it’s fair to say Castillo wasn’t really Castillo anymore.”
On the recent Canelo-Kovalev fight:
“I think Canelo has developed into a fantastic fighter. He’s excellent defensively. I thought his performance against Danny Jacobs, which a lot of people weren’t excited about, was one of the best of his career. He boxed him beautifully. He outboxed a guy with good solid technical ability with length and power. I assumed if he won, he would find a way to outbox Kovalev. I thought Kovalev had enough left in the tank and I realize he’s fading, but I thought he had enough left in the tank, working off of his jab, to keep Canelo outside and have a chance at a decision.
So ultimately I picked Kovalev (to win). I was wrong. Sometimes you’re wrong. And Canelo did light him up. So, you know, props to him. I mean, it was a beautiful knockout. And it’s one of those fights, there was plenty of debate about who was winning the rounds prior to that. I favored Kovalev, and, you know, having picked him, I know people would be like, well, maybe you’re looking for that. But I often score against people I pick. So I don’t think that was the case. I’ve always been very impressed with Kovalev’s jab. The way he works off it. His technical acumen. But you gotta give Alvarez credit. He kept working. He found the opening and he put it away and he put the series of punches away. I mean, it’s one thing to predict somebody will do something. It’s another thing for them to go out and execute. And he executed his game plan in the end and put him away. And that’s a great thing about knockouts. We don’t have to debate about the scorecards like after the Golovkin fights cause they counted to ten.”
On the amazing Inoue-Donaire fight:
“I was blown away. It was a great fight. I expected Donaire to be competitive. I said before that one that there were some people expecting Inoue to blow him out, kind of like he has his last few opponents. I didn’t think that would happen. Donaire is a different animal. Donaire’s always been durable. I mean Donaire’s been stopped once. And he got stopped in his fifth weight class. You know up at featherweight against Nicholas Walters who was one of those guys who, with rehydration clauses, came into the ring pretty big. And that’s not to say that Donaire didn’t also benefit from rehydration clauses at lower weight classes. That’s kind of how the game works now. But you’re talking about a guy who has taken big shots from Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vic Darchinyan and you know, he doesn’t go anywhere.
And he’s been in wars recently, like with Cesar Juarez. I mean he’s just, he’s a durable guy. I did think he would eventually get stopped, that didn’t happen. It almost happened. The referee, might have, depending on how you saw the count when Donaire went down, you could find that questionable. But I think Donaire would have best the count anyways. He took the referee’s count. It’s not 10 seconds, you know, would that debate can go on somewhere else. It was just a great fight. And it’s the one I think this year that will stick in people’s memories the longest. It was one of those nights like or mornings, excuse me, like Erik Morales and Marcos Maidana where this older fighter fight summons up, this probably last, but who knows, gut check, incredible performance against an off-the-charts talent.
In that sense it was better than Morales-Maidana or even, I mean, Naoya Inoue is a different kind of talent. And Donaire reminded us why he was a different kind of talent at 112 and 118 pounds. It was also a reminder that sometimes the economic pressure to go up in weight, stops fighters from being the very best they could have been. What might have been if Nonito Donaire after the wins over Montiel, had decided to stay at bantamweight for years? Would we remember him as one of the great bantamweights like Zarate or Olivares? I don’t know. Maybe not, I mean, maybe an Abner Mares would have beat him. Maybe Anselmo Moreno would have outboxed him. Instead, he chased higher up the scale. That was greatness of its own regard. It’s not a wrong choice, it’s just a different choice. But he had never lost at bantamweight and he showed that at bantamweight, he’s still a beast to deal with. And it was just, Inoue won, but Donaire stole the show. It was really memorable to watch.
I mean he came to get him. He came in there against one of the most killer punchers in boxing. One of the best finishers in boxing who had Donaire hurt and on the ropes more than once. And he survived onslaughts in the 10th, 11th, the 5th round. Nobody else from 108 to 118 pounds has withstood when Inoue has them locked in and really hurt. He puts those guys away. I mean, Donaire had to dig so deep for that. It was, again, I don’t mean to sound sort of in awe, but I’m in awe, it was an incredible performance.”
On what he thought of the KSI-Logan Paul fight:
“I had it on in the background for a little bit. But I was more paying attention to the Jamel Herring fight. I mean, it wasn’t my thing. I don’t have anything against it. Good for them. I don’t know who those kids are. That’s for a younger demographic than me. But I mean, and they’re not boxers, but I got nothing against celebrity boxing. I watched Danny Bonaduce fight whoever the hell he fought on some, I think he fought one of the Bradys on celebrity boxing. I watched Tonya Harding do celebrity boxing once. But I knew who Tonya Harding was and I knew who Danny Bonaduce was. Right. Cause I watched the Partridge Family when I was a little kid and you know, all that stuff. So I mean, if I knew who these guys were, I would have had fun with it.
What I noticed was that the crowd seemed like they were having a great time. Social media seemed to have fun with it. I mean, if you don’t take yourself too serious, you can just kinda be in on the joke. And at the end of the day, look, it wasn’t my thing, but two guys went out in front of the whole world and punched each other and took the chance to get knocked silly. You know, I mean, that’s not a gutless thing to do. So good for them. I hope everyone had a great time. I don’t think it’s going to have a lasting effect on the sport or make new fans, but if they all made some good money and they put on a show that the people that were there enjoyed, then God bless them. That’s all that really matters.”