Rival British middleweight and super middleweight stars Chris Eubank (left) and Nigel Benn are not on the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot, but they are eligible and they should be on it.
This Sunday afternoon, the International Boxing Hall of Fame will usher in its newest slate of inductees. The Class of 2012 is topped by two men who were defined by their nicknames – Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson – and other living honorees include ring announcer Michael Buffer, trainer Freddie Roach, broadcaster Al Bernstein and journalist Michael Katz.
One can’t argue that this year’s class is one of the stronger ones in recent memory, as was last year’s that included Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Kostya Tszyu. Although the voting over the past several years have yielded strong results, the process can still be improved.
Since this scribe became an elector for the Hall’s Modern category in 2001, a disturbing trend has developed: A vast majority of the 43 names that were present then remain so 11 years later. That means the electors have already made up their minds on the candidacies of many of them, including Georgie Abrams, Horacio Accavallo, Joey Archer, Jose Beccera, Johnny Bratton, Jimmy Carruthers, Hiroyuki Ebihara, Tommy Farr, Tiger Jack Fox, Ceferino Garcia, Al Hostak, Harry Jeffra, Peter Kane, Pone Kingpetch, Tippy Larkin, Raul Macias, Freddie Mills, Rinty Monaghan, Ken Overlin, Gustave Roth, Lou Salica, Dave Sands, Pete Scalzo, Yoshio Shirai and Kid Tunero,
If the majority of voters believe these 25 men weren’t worthy of enshrinement this many years in a row, it’s very unlikely they’ll experience a sudden and collective change of heart when fresh names like Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Arturo Gatti, Joe Calzaghe and Virgil Hill get their first crack before the voters in the next couple of years.
The voting pattern repeats itself year after year – the three slots vacated by last year’s enshrinees are continuously shuffled while the others remain like so much dead wood – no pun intended. Meanwhile, fairly recent entries like Dariusz Michalczewski, Myung Woo Yuh, Miguel Lora, Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. and Naseem Hamed are squeezed by the three-Modern-inductees-per-year limit while other outstanding fighters who have been retired more than the minimum five full years are prevented from having their day before the voters due to the glut of names already there.
Here’s the quandary: How can one honor the memories of those presently on the ballot while making room for those who merit their shot at immortality? Expansion isn’t the answer, because simply adding a few dozen more names onto the Modern ballot will further divide the vote and do nothing to enhance anyone’s chances. The same fresh names will shuffle in and out while everyone else withers on the vine.
Therefore a seismic shift in policy is in order, and it’s long overdue: Change the parameters of the ballot’s Modern category.
Currently, the roster of Moderns includes fighters who had at least one fight after 1943, meaning boxers whose careers ended sometime in the last 69 years are theoretically eligible for inclusion. Not exactly the definition of “modern,” yes?
When the IBHOF opened in 1989 the gap between the present year and the eligibility cut-off was only 46 years. So why not revert to a similar standard starting next year by moving up the cut-off date from 1943 to 1970, a 43-year gap? Then shift the affected fighters from the Modern ballot to the Old Timers list, where they will compete against a different group of names. Who knows, maybe their new residence will breathe new life into their candidacies.
With so many fighters changing neighborhoods — those listed in the third paragraph would be affected — how will those newly vacated slots be filled?
As the following list will prove, there isn’t a shortage of candidates. These 10 profiles will be presented in order of longest time spent on the theoretical eligibility list, and for some of them their wait has spanned decades.
Here’s hoping that the powers-that-be at the IBHOF will execute the suggested changes to the voting criterion, paving the way for these fighters to end their pugilistic purgatory. (Click “NEXT” to begin the 10 list.)