By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It ought to be a holiday.
For we boxing fans at least, few days on the calendar provide the drama, jubilation and occasional controversy as the day the International Boxing Hall of Fame's enshrinement class is announced.
The Class of 2018 will be made public later today – and while I do plan to halt third-grade proceedings to show my students YouTube clips of the newest plaque-getters – I've decided to face further forward when it comes to any additional Canastota revelry.
While we can all agree that guys like Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather are locks for the next few years now that they're officially inactive, it takes a more prospecting roll of the dice when looking beyond, let's say, 2025.
So with that in mind, I've assembled my list of the five fighters still in their 20s who seem to have the best chance to eventually join the hallowed fraternity.
The list is compiled based on where these comparative youngsters stand, what they've already accomplished and what's still needs to happen to guarantee they'll pass muster with the BWAA masses.
Of course, given that it's my name at the top of the article, I'm approaching the project with my own hall voting criteria – perhaps more stringent than others’ – which asks whether the fighter was among the best in his peer group for a prolonged stretch of time?
Not a one-year star or a popular guy who got TV time solely due to persona or style, but was he one of those guys – for at least a handful of years – who were on a short list of the best fighters in the world?
If the answer is yes – think Mayweather and Pacquiao – he’s got my vote.
If the answer is no – think Butterbean and Kardashian – he’s got my apologies.
Without further ado, here's the sure-fire fantastic five, as well as a handful of others who’ll have a trifle more work to do before now and balloting day.
1. Vasyl Lomachenko
Record: 9-1, 7 KO
What he’s done: Became champion in third pro fight; won titles in two weight classes
Where he’s at: Holds WBO junior lightweight title, will defend against Guillermo Rigondeaux this weekend in New York City
What’s still needed: Given the criteria that opened the doors for the limited, but adored, likes of Arturo Gatti, the man known as “Hi-Tech” is pretty close to guaranteed already given a prodigious 10-fight resume. But an impressive defeat of Rigondeaux – which I think he’ll get – will surely help sway the holdouts, and titles in another weight class or two will make it a no-brainer.
When he’ll arrive: Assuming he goes to age 35, look for him in the Class of 2028 or 2029
2. Errol Spence Jr.
Record: 22-0, 19 KO
What he’s done: Stopped 19 of 22 pro opponents, including a homestanding Kell Brook, who was relieved of his IBF welterweight title by 11th-round stoppage last spring
Where he’s at: Still holds that IBF 147-pound strap, which he’ll defend against former 140-pound claimant Lamont Peterson on Jan. 20 in Brooklyn
What’s still needed: He’s off to a great start, but there’s work to be done. Needless to say, Spence needs a long, successful run at 147 – ideally including a unification with the likes of Keith Thurman or at least high-profile matches with Danny Garcia, etc. His skill set should enable a weight-class climb, too.
When he’ll arrive: Give him five years or so to fill out the bio and he’ll slide in with Loma in 2029
3. Mikey Garcia
Record: 37-0, 30 KO
What he’s done: Became a champion at featherweight in 2013, climbed to 130 for a belt later that same year and returned from a prolonged layoff to add a lightweight trinket in January
Where he’s at: Holds the WBC title at lightweight, but moved to 140 to handle former four-division champ Adrien Broner – a division in which Broner had never lost – in a non-title match in July
What’s still needed: Even more so than Lomachenko, Garcia could hang them up tomorrow and have a better case for enshrinement than several who are already in. That said, if he’s able to land and win a title fight at 140, and perhaps ultimately meet the likes of Lomachenko, there’ll be no case for dissent.
When he’ll arrive: Two more years sounds right for Mikey, so book him a room in Central New York in 2025
4. Canelo Alvarez
Record: 49-1-2, 34 KO
What he’s done: Two runs as champion at 154 pounds with six title defenses, alongside a second title at middleweight and a stirring duel with consensus divisional king Gennady Golovkin
Where he’s at: Doesn’t have a sanctioning body belt, but is still recognized as the top man at 160 pounds by Ring Magazine
What’s still needed: How is this guy still just 27 years old? He’s held four world title belts at two weights, rode sidesaddle to Mayweather in one of history’s most lucrative bouts and returned as the A-side in the long-awaited Golovkin showdown. He’s probably a lock at this point, too, but his stock will certainly rise if he’s able to land a second GGG fight and earn a decisive win.
When he’ll arrive: He’s been a pro since 15, but it’s hard to envision him quitting before he’s 32 or 33. Assuming it’s the latter, in 2023 or so, he’ll be another late-2020s class-topper – call it 2029.
5. Anthony Joshua
Record: 20-0, 20 KO
What he’s done: Has stopped each and every professional opponent since emerging from the Olympics and has assembled a collection of three title belts – IBF, IBO and WBA – at heavyweight
Where he’s at: Holds those three belts in the big-boy division and has defended four times, including a thrilling defeat of longtime king Wladimir Klitschko in which he climbed off the deck to win in 11
What’s still needed: He’s on his way, but not yet a slam dunk. A sought-after unification with WBC champ Deontay Wilder is the latest fight to put the heavies back on the mainstream map, and a win in such an event adds an important resume bullet point. He’ll probably that and double-digit defenses to move the enshrinement needle from “maybe” to “likely.”
When he’ll arrive: Two fights a year will extend the time needed to get his Hall pass sufficiently filled out, so we’ll say he goes another seven years and gets his plaque in 2030.
BEST OF THE REST
Leo Santa Cruz
With belts already at 118, 122 and 126, he’s more than likely got a leg up. But it feels like another weight class might be needed to lock things up.
Enshrinement probability: 95 percent
Go ahead, suggest that his first-round KO of hot prospect Erickson Lubin won’t stay with you for a while. If he locks up No. 1 status at 154 and extends the empire to middleweight, he’ll get there.
Enshrinement probability: 75 percent
A dozen KOs in 14 fights and two weight-class titles have been an impressive career foundation, and it won’t hurt that “The Monster” will be shown to the masses on HBO.
Enshrinement probability: 50 percent
Speaking of non-ring advantages, what’s better than the promotional machine powered by Mayweather and Co.? Davis has been spotty lately, but, at 23, he’s got loads of time to add to what’s already done.
Enshrinement probability: 33 percent
Going 10 rounds in three of four fights since the start of 2016 has dimmed the spotlight on the Top Rank-promoted lightweight, but he’s one impressive performance from re-establishment.
Enshrinement probability: 25 percent
* * * * * * * * * *
Weekly title-fight schedule:
IBF featherweight title – London, United Kingdom
Lee Selby (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Eduardo Ramirez (No. 11 IBF/Unranked IWBR)
Selby (25-1, 9 KO): Fourth title defense; Unbeaten in scheduled 12-round fights (14-0, 6 KO)
Ramirez (20-0-3, 7 KO): First title fight; First fight scheduled for 12 rounds
Fitzbitz says: Selby may or may not belong in the featherweight air of Leo Santa Cruz and others. But no evidence will come from this fight. Ramirez is the definition of a look-good foe. Selby by decision
Vacant IBF junior lightweight title – Las Vegas, Nevada
Kenichi Ogawa (No. 4 IBF/No. 11 IWBR) vs. Tevin Farmer (No. 5 IBF/No. 19 IWBR)
Ogawa (22-1, 17 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Japan
Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since starting career 7-4-1 (18-0, 4 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Maybe Ogawa is the real deal who’ll show his stuff in his U.S. debut. But the hunch that Farmer has dealt with and sometimes beaten better foes has me feeling otherwise. Farmer by decision
IBF super middleweight title – London, United Kingdom
James DeGale (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Caleb Truax (No. 15 IBF/No. 30 IWBR)
DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KO): Fourth title defense; Unbeaten in 14 fights since 2011 (13-0-1, 6 KO)
Truax (28-3-2, 18 KO): Second title fight (0-1); First fight outside the United States
Fitzbitz says: Wide losses to Taylor, Jacobs and Dirrell – two by stoppage – indicate that Truax is short of the highest levels at 160 and 168. DeGale is closer to that level here, and should win. DeGale by decision
WBO junior lightweight title – New York, New York
Vasyl Lomachenko (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux (No. 1 WBO/Unranked IWBR)
Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KO): Fourth title defense; Has stopped all four foes above 126 (28 total rounds)
Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO): Tenth title fight (8-0, 1 NC); Fourth fight above 122 (3-0, 2 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Rigo is as skilled and tricky as they come, but he’s up against a guy who’ll ultimately go down as an all-time great. Loma will solve the puzzle and make it academic late. Lomachenko in 10
Last week's picks: 2-1 (WIN: Mikhalkin, Vargas; LOSS: Cotto)
2017 picks record: 91-27 (77.1 percent)
Overall picks record: 913-301 (75.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.