EASIEST DECISION II
Freddie Roach: Roach’s dream was to become a world-champion fighter but he didn’t have the physical tools to realize it. He had the mind, though. His keen knowledge of boxing, gleaned from Hall of Fame mentor Eddie Futch, and ability to communicate it has allowed him to become one of the best trainers of his era. He has been named the Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year a record five times over the past eight years. His prize pupil is Manny Pacquiao, who has won major titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, but he has worked with dozens of other major titleholders. And he has done it all while battling Parkinson’s disease. Roach is one of the most-remarkable figures in boxing history – and almost assuredly a first-ballot inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson: Johnson (44-5, 28 KOs) was a complete fighter, an excellent all-around boxer with blazing-quick hands and considerable power. Twenty-one of his knockouts came within the first four rounds. He was on pound-for-pound lists for a number of years and a two-division titleholder (flyweight and junior bantamweight), with seven successful defenses of his flyweight title. Johnson was only 6-4 against titleholders and Hall of Famers, though. That included two losses to Rafael Marquez, the first by split decision only because Johnson lost two points for holding and the second by an eight-round TKO . And while he beat a number of very good fighters, including then-unbeaten Fernando Montiel, most aren’t well known at least in part because of their size. He had no signature victories. Still, Johnson seems to be destined for the Hall. He might just have to wait a while.
HARDER DECISION II
Dariusz Michalczewski: The biggest knock on the two-division titleholder from Poland is that he never fought outside Europe and never faced Roy Jones Jr., the best light heavyweight of their era. Michalczewski (48-2, 38 KOs) accomplished quite a bit, though. He beat Graciano Rocchigiani, Hill and Montell Griffin and had division-record 23 successful defenses of the WBO 175-pound title. He also was a solid 6-2 (three KOs) against champions or Hall of Famers, losing only to Julio Gonazlez and Fabrice Tiozzo in his final two fights. His last 14 victories were knockouts, a testament to his punching power. Is he a Hall of Famer? Most likely. His overall level of opposition was lacking but his numbers – he was a dominating light heavyweight for a full decade – are striking. He probably won’t be in the next class but he’ll get in eventually.
Al Bernstein and Michael Buffer: Icons of the sport generally find their way into the Hall of Fame. And these two are definitely iconic. Bernstein, who works for Showtime, has been one of the best television analysts in any sport for the past 30 years. He knows boxing and expresses himself concisely and clearly, which is extremely difficult to do on camera. He deserves induction, probably on the first ballot. Buffer is best known internationally for his catch phrase “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble,” which sets the tone for many of the biggest fights in world. Buffer is more than a slogan, though. He prepares himself well before each card, as evidenced by his ability to use at least some of the local language in whatever country he works. In other words, he’s a pro. He’ll probably find a place in the Hall, although possibly not on the first ballot. For the record: If Buffer gets in, so should Jimmy Lennon Jr. Jimmy Lennon Sr. was a truly great ring announcer and his son is just as good. His voice is golden.
Thomas Hearns, on evolving from a boxer into a feared puncher: "The Kronk brought it out of me. Emanuel Steward brought it out of me because he showed me how and I learned how to put my weight behind my punches. Before that, I was just arm-punching and winning and every once in a blue moon I would stop a guy. Once Emanuel showed me how to sit down on my punches, that's all that it took. … I started to gain respect. It was in my blood after that."