By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Add three more names to the modern category.
A trio of television staples from the 1980s and 1990s – Donald Curry, Julian Jackson and Buddy McGirt – ascended into ring immortality last week when they were announced as the Class of 2019 inductees to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.
The three fighters combined for championships in four weight classes on the way to racking up 162 wins in 181 fights with 122 knockouts. McGirt won belts at 140 and 147 pounds, while Curry was a champ at 147 and 154, while Jackson closed out the elite-status club with runs as a kingpin at 154 and 160.
All were certainly worthwhile additions.
And while none of the three were on the ballot I sent in a few months back – for the record, I selected Ricky Hatton, Sung-Kil Moon and Meldrick Taylor – the disclosure of their enshrinement inspired me to take another look at who best warrants a hall spot alongside them.
But not from their list of contemporaries.
Instead, I’m tossing out the clearly faulty crystal ball in favor of a new one, with the hope it’ll let me zero in on the candidates about whom we’ll all be writing at this time a decade from now.
To bump up the challenge a bit, the only prerequisite is that all have to be 30 or younger.
And without further ado… here goes.
Vasyl Lomachenko, 30 – Let’s face it, in the course of only 13 pro fights the multi-talented Ukrainian has already done more – three weight-class titles, defeats of high-end champions like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters and Gary Russell Jr. – than several guys already enshrined (read: Gatti).
Leo Santa Cruz, 30 – He might not evoke instant hall reactions, but the guy’s put together an impressive resume across three weight divisions. It’s too bad he didn’t get Rigo on the way up, but the defeats of Abner Mares and Carl Frampton are pretty impressive. If he gets a belt at 130, cast the plaque.
Mikey Garcia, 30 – It’s not hard to find people who consider Garcia the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world – or at the very least in the top three alongside Lomachenko and Terence Crawford – which, again, is already a loftier perch than some of the more dubious inductees.
WORK TO DO
Canelo Alvarez, 28 – The fact that he’s on the verge of a third weight-class title is dampened by the fact that the belt is bogus, and doesn’t hide that he’s still in need of a legit career-definer. The narrow defeat and draw with Golovkin doesn’t yield immortality. Maybe a Charlo at 160 or a further rise to 175?
Anthony Joshua, 29 – He’s got paralyzing power, charisma and a shoulder-full of championship belts, but, to an even greater extent than Alvarez, he’s not got the signature victory. We’re all hoping to see him across a ring from guys named Wilder or Fury next year, and he doesn’t progress until it happens.
Errol Spence Jr., 28 – Make no mistake, I fully expect to check a box next to Spence’s name five years after he completes his run in the ring. But he’s not there yet. A rally to stop then-welterweight king Kell Brook in his backyard was impressive, and a rout of Garcia certainly won’t hurt the case in 2019.
Naoya Inoue, 25 – I can’t argue the fact that a guy nicknamed “Monster” would be at home in Canastota, and winning titles – or some semblance of them – in three weight classes is a pretty good way to get started. It’ll be interesting to see how much farther up the ladder he can climb.
Dmitry Bivol, 27 – He’s considered the future of the 175-pound division by no less an authority than Jim Lampley, who said, “He’s sensational. Athletic quality - A, skill level - A, intelligence and temperament - A, devotion to continued improvement – A.” But he’ll need to find and beat a real rival.
Gilberto Ramirez, 27 – If you’d have asked me after he schooled Arthur Abraham in Las Vegas a couple years back, I’d have bumped him up a level. But he’s been relatively anonymous since. A clear erasure of Jesse Hart will help, and who knows, maybe he can find himself across from a Canelo someday.
Luis Nery, 23 – OK, the slugging Mexican damaged the brand when he failed to make weight for a bantamweight defense earlier this year, but he’s been a KO machine for nine straight fights and will be an interesting proposition for any high-end guys within a class or two. A lucrative dice roll, perhaps.
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
WBO super middleweight title – Corpus Christi, Texas
Gilberto Ramirez (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Jesse Hart (No. 1 WBO/No. 18 IWBR)
Ramirez (38-0, 25 KO): Fifth title defense; Won by TKO in only other fight in Corpus Christi
Hart (25-1, 21 KO): Second title fight; Three straight wins, all TKOs, since loss to Ramirez in 2017
Fitzbitz says: The first one was more competitive than I’d have guessed going in, so I imagine this will be fun, too. Still, I’ll ride with Ramirez until another’s hand is raised. Ramirez by decision (65/35)
IBF junior lightweight title – New York, New York
Tevin Farmer (champion/No. 9 IWBR) vs. Francisco Fonseca (No. 13 IBF/No. 59 IWBR)
Farmer (27-4-1, 6 KO): Second title defense; Unbeaten in 20 fights since last loss in 2012 (20-0, 5 KO)
Fonseca (22-1-1, 16 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Last eight wins have come by KO/TKO (35 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: Fonseca is the puncher and could make something happen, but there’s a reason they’re ranked 50 slots apart. Farmer has more tools and will use them decisively. Farmer by decision (90/10)
IBO light heavyweight title – Hamburg, Germany
Karo Murat (champion/No. 19 IWBR) vs. Sven Fornling (No. 25 IBO/No. 60 IWBR)
Murat (32-3-1, 21 KO): First title defense; Has never lost a fight in Germany (24-0-1, 15 KO)
Fornling (14-1, 7 KO): First title fight; Has defeated three fighters with more than 10 career wins
Fitzbitz says: I’m well aware that Murat, as IBO champ, isn’t taken seriously. That’s an argument for another day. He’s the superior man here and the other guy’s name is Sven, c’mon. Murat in 9 (90/10)
WBA flyweight title – Kiev, Ukraine
Artem Dalakian (champion/No. 8 IWBR) vs. Gregorio Lebron (No. 3 WBA/No. 90 IWBR)
Dalakian (17-0, 12 KO): Second title defense; Six KO/TKO wins in nine career 12-rounders
Lebron (21-4, 16 KO): First title fight; Two fights outside the Dominican Republic, both losses
Fitzbitz says: Before we go ahead with the “why list the IBO” chat, can we wonder aloud why a guy ranked 90th by an independent body is ranked third by the WBA? BTW, he’ll lose. Dalakian in 6 (99/1)
This week’s garbage title-fight schedule:
WBA super middleweight title – New York, New York
Rocky Fielding (champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Saul Alvarez (Unranked WBA/Unranked IWBR)
Why it’s garbage: So we’re supposed to ignore the fact that there’s a guy named Callum Smith who just won a tournament in which the WBA’s premier championship belt was at stake? Sorry, can’t do it. You want to get excited for a Canelo fight, fine. But to label this a title try for him is a crime against boxing.
Last week's picks: 2-1 (WIN: Mbenge, Lomachenko; LOSS: Dogboe)
2018 picks record: 86-34 (71.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,006-338 (74.8 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.