By Tris Dixon
THE electors at the International Boxing Hall of Fame are this month faced with the type of headache they have not become accustomed to of late.
In recent years the ballot has contained occasional standouts but the depth has not been outstanding.
It has allowed the process to play catch up, with some boxers who have been on the ballot’s peripheries getting in after waiting for years.
This year, however, while some will be left waiting again, some sure-fire so-called first-ballot Hall of Famers will have to hang fire, even if it is only a year or so.
For next year’s induction weekend, between June 7 and June 10 2018, one of the following, Vitali Klitschko, Ivan Calderon, Winky Wright, Erik Morales and Ricky Hatton, will have to wait at least a further year to get in.
For many, Morales and Klitschko will be the locks. The hardcore fan may look towards Calderon, the blue-collar supporter may reckon Winky gets in while the mainstream fan may side with Hatton.
Of course, there are other names on the sheet that will garner checks in the future.
Many in Britain would believe Nigel Benn deserves a spot, while having beaten Benn, Chris Eubank would claim he should be inducted.
Their time might or might not come.
More log jams in future years lie ahead, particularly five years from now when Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Marquez, Floyd Mayweather, Timothy Bradley, Andre Ward and Miguel Cotto could all be eligible.
Morales, one would have to say, is next year’s gimme. Wins over great rivals Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao – even though he lost three fight series with both – put him on a pedestal above so many others. Then there were wins over Injin Chi, Wayne McCullough, Jesus Chavez, Guty Espades, Paulie Ayala, Kevin Kelley, Junior Jones and Daniel Zaragoza.
Morales will get the check.
Vitali was the dominant heavyweight of his era aside from one man, the brother he said he would never face, Wladimir. They ruled atop of boxing’s flagship division for more than a decade and Vitali managed to do it both before and after a long layoff for a serious injury.
The Hall electors like to consider achievements away from the ring, too. This is the Mayor of Kiev, a political figure who has used his power and celebrity for good. Rightly or wrongly, that will carry some sway.
Then you have Wright. For so long he was the avoided man who looked like he would be the bridesmaid to messrs De La Hoya, Vargas, Trinidad and Mosley.
But the southpaw managed to craft open an opportunity, seize it and eventually, finally kick the door in on a lucrative career.
He lost to Vargas, but wins over Trinidad and Mosley turned him from nearly man to A-side.
What of the ‘Hitman?’ Manchester’s Ricky Hatton developed the kind of fan following that boxing had not seen before or since. A man of the people (that also goes along way with the electors, apparently), he hit the top of the 140lbs division with a defining win over Kostya Tsyzu and only lost twice in and around his prime, to Floyd Mayweather up at 147lbs and then Pacquiao back down at 140. He had gained a slice of the welterweight title, too, albeit with a contentious decision over Luis Collazo.
Poor Calderon would not get a look in if the ‘man on the street’ had a say. Fortunately he will have a chance, even if it is an outside one.
The petit Puerto Rican southpaw Calderon lost three of the last four of 39 career fights but by then had been a dominant two-weight world champion, just at lower weight classes – which do not get afforded the same level of kudos or nostalgia as the larger divisions.
Not Calderon’s fault, but that will not help him.
Yet there is no sense in expanding the categories for busier years as, eventually, all of these deserving fighters will go in.
Thus far plenty of fight figures worthy of consideration have not even seen the ballot paper.
For instance, none of the great Cuban amateurs have been granted a spot. Felix Savon and Teofilo Stevenson, for starters, have never appeared. When I asked the Hall about this, they said it was because it was a professional boxing hall of fame. That is fine, but that stretches the merits of the induction of Hungary’s legendary Olympian Laszlo Papp, who won two Olympic golds but never went beyond the European title as a pro.
And while Aileen Eaton was rightly a pioneer as a lady entering the Hall, no female fighters have made the ballot papers either.
Of course, this will probably change in time. Calderon will get in, so will Hatton and Wright and Klitschko and Morales. Yes, there is something a bit special about being a first ballot Hall of Famer but the most important thing is to leave your mark and no one can deny that any of them have done that.