By Michael Rosenthal
The 2019 class of International Boxing Hall of Fame candidates is not inspiring.
None of the 32 “modern” fighters on the ballot recently sent to voters is a slam dunk, at least not on the scale of Erik Morales last year and Evander Holyfield and Marco Antonio Barrera the year before that.
There are many exceptional fighters on the list, just none that stands out as a “yes” at first glance.
I look for defining victories on the records of the candidates as one indication that he is worthy of serious consideration and there aren’t many among these fighters, although there certainly are some.
Here are 10 names that stand out to me and my immediate thoughts on their hall of fame credentials, or lack thereof.
DONALD CURRY (34-6, 25 KOs)
Curry had two careers in one, the first one spectacular and the second mediocre. The talented Texan seemed to have it all in Career I, winning his first 25 fights (including two victories over Marlon Starling and one over Milton McCrory) to climb to the top of the pound-for-pound list and to the precipice of greatness. Then, in 1986, he was stopped by huge underdog Lloyd Honeyghan and was never again a dominating fighter. He went 9-6 in his last 15 fights and was only 9-5 in title fights when he was finished. He’s a tough sell for voters.
RICKY HATTON (45-3, 32 KOs)
I don’t see it. I think Hatton was a very good fighter, as he demonstrated by stopping Kostya Tszyu, but not Hall worthy. He deserves credit for the victory over Tszyu but Tszyu was approaching 36 years old and never fought again, which indicates he was not at his best. Who else was there? No other victory really grabs your attention. And Hatton was blown out in his two highest-profile fights, a 10th-round TKO against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a one-punch knockout against Manny Pacquiao. Good fighter. Not a Hall of Famer.
GENARO HERNANDEZ (38-2-1, 17 KOs)
I’m biased when it comes to the late Hernandez because he was one of my favorite people in the sport. He was also a hell of a boxer. His run at 130 pounds stands out, as he won a major title in 1991 and successfully defended eight times before challenging Oscar De La Hoya at 135. Hernandez entered the ring with a broken nose and quit after six rounds. He later won another junior lightweight title in his most memorable victory, a split decision over the great Azumah Nelson. Hernandez isn’t an obvious Hall of Famer but he deserves consideration.
JULIAN JACKSON (55-6, 49 KOs)
Jackson is an intriguing candidate because of his legendary punching power but he falls short here. He won three major titles in two divisions and was one of the biggest punchers of his generation but he generally lost his biggest fights. He stopped Terry Norris and In Chul Baek (to win his first title) but was knocked out himself by Mike McCallum, Gerald McClellan (twice) and three others. Jackson can take pleasure in the knowledge that he was a fan favorite, which is admirable, but he probably isn’t destined to get a plaque in Canastota, New York.
RAFAEL MARQUEZ (41-9, 37 KOs)
I think Marquez will be among the three who will be inducted in June. He split four fights with Israel Vazquez in their epic series, although the fourth installment (which Marquez won) was more like an old-timers dustup than a legitimate fight. He twice beat Hall of Famer Mark Johnson and outpointed then-unbeaten Tim Austin. And he had a long stretch as a bantamweight titleholder, seven defenses over three-plus years. True warrior at a high level of skill, defining victories, a long reign as champion. Solid credentials.
DARIUSZ MICHALCZEWSKI (48-2, 38 KOs)
Michalczewski is often cited as a fighter avoided by a prime Roy Jones Jr., as if he was in Jones’ class. He wasn’t. That said, Michalczewski was a very good fighter. He defended his 175-pound title a remarkable 23 times and also wore a belt at cruiserweight. And he beat a number of big-name opponents, including Montell Griffin, Graciano Rocchigiani and Virgil Hill. The knock on him is that he fought only twice outside his boxing base of Germany, each time in inconsequential fights. That’s too convenient to be ignored when we assess Michalczewski.
MICHAEL MOORER (52-4-1, 40 KOs)
One could argue that Moorer deserves induction. The lefty was a terror at 175 pounds, finishing his light heavyweight career by stopping all 22 of his opponents. That run included 10 title fights. The problem was mediocre opposition at that weight. Moorer moved up to heavyweight in 1991 and won his first 13 fights, including the biggest victory of his career – a majority decision over Evander Holyfield to become champion. Moorer was stopped by George Foreman in his next fight but went on to win another title. Borderline Hall of Famer.
SVEN OTTKE (34-0, 6 KOs)
Ottke might seem like an obvious Hall of Famer at first glance but take a closer look. The native of Berlin retired undefeated and reigned as a titleholder for seven years but only once campaigned outside the safe confines of Germany, fighting early in his career in neighboring Austria. He probably benefitted from friendly judges in a number of fights that could’ve gone the other way. He deserves some credit for outpointing Charles Brewer (twice), Glen Johnson, Thomas Tate (Twice), Byron Mitchell and Robin Reid but probably not enough to enter the Hall.
MELDRICK TAYLOR (38-8-1, 20 KOs)
I think of what might’ve been when I think of Taylor. Few could match his combination of skills, speed, athleticism and fighting spirit but his willingness to mix it up at all times probably shortened his reign as an elite fighter. He lost his defining victory when he was stopped by Julio Cesar Chavez with two seconds remaining in a fight he was winning. He was never the same after that. Taylor did beat the likes of Buddy McGirt and Aaron Davis and won titles in two divisions but isn’t the Hall of Fame slam dunk his talents suggested he might’ve been.
FERNANDO VARGAS (26-5, 22 KOs)
Vargas might’ve had Hall of Fame ability but didn’t put together the requisite resume. The 1996 Olympian was only 21 when he stopped the rugged Yory Boy Campas to win his first of two major titles, which was soon followed by consecutive victories over Raul Marquez, Winky Wright and Ike Quartey. Vargas was at his best against Quartey, an imposing figure at that time. However, he subsequently suffered brutal knockouts against Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, after which he was never as sharp as he had been. He was only 29 when he last fought.
Michael Rosenthal is the most recent winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.