An undefeated pound-for-pound megastar. A dominating and record-setting longtime heavyweight champion. And an unbeaten two-division world champion.
All three are going to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Floyd Mayweather, Wladimir Klitschko and Andre Ward, three of the most dominating fighters of their era, were elected to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility in balloting results announced on Tuesday.
Members of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a panel of international boxing historians – about 200 voters -- elected them, and they will be enshrined during the culmination of the four-day 31st annual induction weekend on June 14 at the Canastota, New York, museum.
Two years ago the Hall of Fame reduced the waiting period for fighters to be eligible for election from five years to three, but however long the wait would be the three elected Tuesday were clear slam dunks.
Two other newcomers to the ballot, with huge resumes but who fell short, were superstar Miguel Cotto, the first Puerto Rican male fighter to win world titles in four weight classes, and onetime pound-for-pound king and three-division world champion James Toney, whose case likely was damaged by testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs multiple times, including one instance that erased a heavyweight title victory. In the modern men’s category, the top three vote getters are elected in addition to anyone who achieves an 80 percent vote threshold, meaning Cotto and Toney fell shy of that percentage.
In the modern women’s boxer category, added last year, bitter rivals who never faced each other but still blazed their own impressive legacies were elected: two-division champion Laila Ali and three-division champion Ann Wolfe.
In the non-participant category, Dr. Margaret Goodman was elected along with posthumous honors to cut man/trainer Freddie Brown and manager/trainer Jackie McCoy.
In the observer category, legendary Boston Herald writer and author George Kimball and longtime Showtime Sports president Jay Larkin were elected posthumously.
In the old-timer category, late former featherweight champion Davey Moore was elected and Marian Trimiar and the late Jackie Tonawanda were elected in the women’s trailblazer category.
It will be a double induction ceremony because the class of 2020 will also be enshrined. That class, led by Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley in the modern men’s category and Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker in the first modern women’s class, were supposed to be inducted this past June but Hall of Fame weekend was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During Mayweather’s legendary 21-year career he won world titles in five weight classes – junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight – and was the dominant fighter of his time, and one of the most dominant in history. Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) also claimed a 1996 Olympic bronze medal, was one of the premier defensive boxers ever and retired as the pay-per-view king, earning more money than any fighter in history thanks to a string of mega pay-per-view events against fellow stars such as Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo Alvarez, Ricky Hatton, Mosley, Cotto and even UFC star Conor McGregor, who crossed over to boxing to convince Mayweather to end a two-year retirement.
“It is a great honor for me to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a first-ballot nominee and a member of the 2021 class,” Mayweather said. “Throughout my career, I gave everything I could to the sport of boxing, and now, to be recognized by one of the most prestigious honors in the sport for that hard work and dedication is very humbling. I am looking forward to attending the Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in June and being honored alongside the other members of the class of 2021.”
Ukraine native Klitschko (64-5, 54 KOs), the dominant heavyweight for a decade, fought in more heavyweight title fights (29) than anyone in history over two title reigns during his 21-year career. During his second reign, from 2006 to 2015, he held the title for 9 years, 7 months and 7 days, longer than any heavyweight champion other than Joe Louis. Klitschko also made more consecutive title defenses (18) than any heavyweight other than Louis (25, the all-time record for any division) and Larry Holmes (20). Klitschko also unified three of the major belts and was a 1996 Olympic gold medalist.
Klitschko will join his brother, fellow former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, who was a 2018 inductee, in the Hall of Fame. They will become the third set of brothers to be inducted, joining Mike and Tommy Gibbons and Angelo and Chris Dundee.
“It is an honor to be a Hall of Famer,” Wladimir Klitschko said. “I’m so impressed with the dedication and passion the Village of Canastota has for boxing. All of the champions feel so honored and blessed to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s amazing.”
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs), who won a 2004 Olympic gold medal, unified world titles at super middleweight, where he defeated Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham and Mikkel Kessler en route to winning the Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament. He eventually moved up to light heavyweight and outpointed Sergey Kovalev to take his three unified belts and then knocked Kovalev out in a rematch before retiring undefeated.
“I’ve been waiting for this call for most of my life. It finally came,” Ward said. “I’m a first ballot Hall of Famer. God has been good to me. I can finally rest now. This chapter of my life is complete.”
Ali (24-0, 21 KOs) joins her father, legendary three-time heavyweight champion and 1990 inductee Muhammad Ali, in Canastota. They are the first father/daughter to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Laila Ali was the longtime No. 1 women’s boxer in the world, had a long reign as a super middleweight champion and also won a light heavyweight title during her 1999 to 2007 career.
“It truly is an honor to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame,” Ali said. “Being that my father was also inducted many years ago makes this honor extra special to me. I learned so much inside the ring that I have applied to every area of my life outside of the ring. Boxing will forever be my first love and knowing that I will be on the Hall of Fame wall, inspiring others who come behind me for years to come, is a blessing that I will never take for granted.”
Now a trainer, Wolfe (24-1, 16 KOs), who boxed from 1998 to 2006, won titles at junior middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight and carried big punching power, going from homelessness to world champion.
“I got goose bumps,” Wolfe said when she learned she had been elected. “I don’t think a lot of people understand what I did. I came off the streets, trained with the best and boxing saved my life. This makes all the work I did worth it. This means completion. I completed what I set out to do in life and in boxing. In boxing a lot of people have to live life first. I lived boxing first and boxing helped me through life. I would not be where I am in life if it wasn’t for boxing and this just puts the icing on the cake.”
Trimiar (14-4, 5 KOs), who fought from 1976 to 1985 and was recognized as the women’s lightweight champion in 1979, and Tonawanda, who was 75 when she died in 2009, were instrumental in advancing the cause of women’s boxing. In separate cases they both sued the New York State Athletic Commission for discrimination after being denied licenses to box. Eventually, they won their cases and were among the first women to be granted the right to box in New York. Tonawanda’s record is unclear as is any specific accomplishment but she is being recognized for paving the way for other women to have the right to box professionally.
Moore (59-7-1, 30 KOs), known as “The Springfield Rifle,” boxed from 1953 to 1963 and died at age 29 in 1963.
He was a 1952 U.S. Olympian before finding pro success. He defeated Hogan “Kid” Bassey by 15-round decision to win the featherweight world title in 1959. Moore beat him again in a rematch and made five successful defenses before losing by 10th-round knockout to Sugar Ramos in 1963. Moore died two days later due to a brain injury suffered in the bout and was memorialized in the famed Bob Dylan song, “Who Killed Davey Moore?”
Goodman, a neurologist, is the former chief ringside physician for the Nevada State Athletic Commission and now is the president of the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, boxing’s gold standard for drug testing. She is the first physician to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
“This means everything. I can’t tell you how much I love boxing. I’ve always loved boxing and I love the fighters and it’s all about the fighters,” Goodman said. “The fact that I’m recognized in this way means so much because it means a lot for the healthcare of the fighters, the safety of the sport and promoting improvements to the sport to make it better for everyone involved. It’s the best honor I could even imagine.”
Brown, who died in 1986, boxed as an amateur before finding his calling as a trainer and cutman, working corners for many top fighters from the 1940s to 1980. He worked with fighters such as Rocky Marciano, Larry Holmes, Dick Tiger, Aaron Pryor, Floyd Patterson, Rocky Graziano, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Vito Antuofermo. Brown was the co-trainer with Ray Arcel of Roberto Duran.
McCoy will join some of the fighters he worked with in the Hall of Fame, including former welterweight champion Carlos Palomino, former featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez and former bantamweight champion Manuel Ortiz.
Kimball, who was 67 when he died in 2011, was one of the deans of the American boxing press for decades as an award-winning Boson Herald writer and columnist. He also wrote a weekly column for many years for The Irish Times. Among the books he authored was the acclaimed “Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran, and the Last Great Era of Boxing” in 2008, which detailed the legendary 1980s rivalry and the round-robin of bouts – all of which he covered -- between Hall of Famers Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Duran.
Larkin, who was 59 when he died from brain cancer in 2011, was the longtime first head of Showtime's boxing franchise. He spent 22 years with the network and was one of the most influential people in the business during his time in the role. He was trained in theater but became well versed in boxing and during his run Showtime Sports emerged as a challenger to HBO's boxing dominance by televising many big events, including numerous fights involving Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Julio Cesar Chavez.
Larkin was also Showtime’s key negotiator for the 2002 heavyweight championship bout between Lennox Lewis and Tyson, which was, at the time, the biggest money fight in boxing history and marked the first time Showtime, which had Tyson under contract, and HBO, who had Lewis under contract, joined forces in a landmark deal to put on the mega fight together. Larkin will join several others with long Showtime associations who are already in the Hall of Fame: broadcasters Al Bernstein, Steve Farhood, Barry Tompkins, Steve Albert and Jim Gray and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr.
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.