Former five-division titleholder Thomas Hearns and former flyweight beltholder Mark Johnson were elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, along with trainer Freddie Roach, broadcaster Al Bernstein, ring announcer Michael Buffer, and veteran journalist Michael Katz, it was announced by the Canastota, New York-based hall and museum on Tuesday.
The class of 2012 also included deceased former welterweight and middleweight contender Cocoa Kid in the “Modern” boxer category, Newsboy Brown, Leo Houck and Jake Kilrain in the “Old-Timer” boxer category, James Wharton in “Pioneer,” and promoters Hugh D. McIntosh and Rip Valenti in “Non-Participant.”
“It’s a tremendous honor. Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I’m thrilled. It’s the honor of a lifetime,” said Roach. “I look forward to joining the ranks of my mentor, Eddie Futch, who is the greatest trainer of all time. I just want to thank everyone for voting for me.”
The class of 2012 will be officially inducted to the hall of fame during the museum’s annual weekend, scheduled for June 7-10 in Canastota, N.Y.
Hearns, who won major titles at welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight, during the 1980s and early 1990s, is the most popular fighter among the 23rd class of inductees. The Detroit native is best known for his unforgettable showdowns with fellow hall of famers Pipino Cuevas, Sugar Ray Leonard, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler.
“To me this is an amazing accomplishment,” said Hearns. “It makes me so happy to know that I made it after all these years and so many fights.”
Hagler, who beat Hearns in one of the best shootouts in ring history, was delighted to learn of his former adversary’s induction.
“I watched Thomas Hearns grow from amateur status to professional, until he became a world champion, who faced his boxing challenges with courage and determination. I have tremendous respect for Hearns.”
Emanuel Steward, Hearns longtime trainer, was overjoyed at the news.
“Of all my champions, he is my favorite fighter,” said Steward, who was inducted into the IBHOF in ’96. “As a fan I knew it was going to be pure excitement. Just walking down the aisle to the ring was exciting because you knew what you were going to wee — skills, power and guts. He was that type of exciting fighter.”
Johnson was superbly talented southpaw boxer who won major titles at flyweight and junior bantamweight. The Washington, D.C. native, who was one of the best boxers, pound for pound, in the mid-to-late ’90s, made seven defenses of the IBF 112-pound belt.
“This is an awesome moment for me,” said Johnson. “I strived my whole career to be in the Hall. This is a dream come true, just wonderful.”
Cocoa Kid, born Herbert Lewis Hardwick in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, fought fellow hall of famers Charley Burley, Holman Williams (numerous times), Chalky Wright and Lou Ambers, as well as other top fighters of the ’30s and ’40s, such as Georgie Abrams and Kid Azteca, during a 20-year career that included 244 bouts. Hardwick died in 1966.
Roach praised this year’s entries.
“All of them are really big in the same era as myself. Al Bernstein got his start at ESPN at around the same time that I got my start,” said Roach.
“Tommy Hearns is just legendary as a fighter. Michael Buffer has turned announcing into an art and just a big, big event type of situation. It’s just a great honor to be among them.”