By Cliff Rold
The first man ever to win belts in five weight classes, Detroit’s Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, leads the three new names added to the list of 45 fighters deemed eligible for the 2012 Class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF). Also known as the “Motor City Cobra,” Hearns is in his first year of eligibility, having last competed in February 2006 with a tenth round knockout of Shannon Landberg in his native Michigan. Hearns is joined by former lineal Light Heavyweight Champion Darius Michalczewski and former Flyweight and Jr. Bantamweight titlist Mark Johnson.
Hearns (61-5-1, 48 KO) was a devastating puncher who won titles at Welterweight, Jr. Middleweight, Middleweight, Super Middleweight, and twice at Light Heavyweight while defeating reigning, future and former champions ranging from the Jr. Welterweight to Cruiserweight divisions. He is best remembered for his part in a multi-man rivalry starring Ray Leonard, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Hearns was stopped by Leonard and Hagler is classic encounters, avenged the loss to Leonard in a dubious draw, and bested Benitez by decision and Duran with a memorable second round knockout.
Poland’s Michalczewski, in his second year of eligibility, bested then-lineal Light Heavyweight Champion Virgil Hill in 1997, adding Hill’s WBA and IBF 175 lb. belts to the WBO belt he already owned. Politics ripped the WBA and IBF honors from Michalczewski shortly thereafter but he would go on to tie Bob Foster’s record for consecutive lineal title defenses at 14 and make an overall division record 23 consecutive title defenses of his WBO belt from 1994-2003. His numbers remain a source of debate, as Michalczewski was never matched with American Roy Jones Jr. The two enjoyed parallel title reigns in the division from 1996-2003.
Like Hearns, Johnson (44-5, 28 KO), of Washington, D.C., is added to the ballot in his first year of eligibility. He may well have been the pound-for-pound most feared fighter of the 1990s, a dominant force at Flyweight and Jr. Bantamweight who could never get bigger names like Michael Carbajal, Danny Romero, or Johnny Tapia anywhere near a ring with him. He made seven defenses of the IBF belt at 112 lbs. and added the IBF honors at 115 lbs. before a stint in jail cost him his title. A pair of sensational losses to a young Rafael Marquez in 2001 and 2002 appeared to signal the end for Johnson but he would win one more title, earning a decision over the then-undefeated Fernando Montiel in 2003 for the WBO belt at 115 lbs.
The voting deadline is October 31, 2011. Results will likely be announced before year’s end.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]