It was supposed to be this June.
Instead, thanks to a lingering pandemic, it’ll be exactly 478 days from today.
No matter when it occurs, few weekends on the calendar provide the drama and jubilation as the one in which the International Boxing Hall of Fame's newest class is enshrined.
And given the still-rolling impacts of COVID-19, the next one will be even more compelling.
The Class of 2020 already had its celebration postponed last June and a recent IBHOF announcement indicated the Class of 2021 will also be stalled, setting up an historic stretch in the late spring of 2022 – from June 9 to 12 – where no fewer than three groups of inductees will be honored at the same time.
In boxing, we call that a trilogy. In Canastota, they’ll call it unforgettable.
“The word trilogy is synonymous with boxing and if there is one sport and one location that could have the perfect setting for an induction trilogy, it is the sport of boxing and the place is Canastota,” said Ed Brophy, the hall’s executive director. “It is so important to honor inductees with all the bells and whistles that the hall of fame weekend is known for, including the intermingling between celebrities and boxing fans, and provide each inductee with the recognition they each so richly deserve.”
While we can nearly all agree on the recently retired fighters who’ll be locks when they're officially inactive, it takes a more prospecting roll of the dice when looking beyond, let's say, 2025.
With that in mind, I've assembled my list of the four fighters – all still far from being “late” in their careers – who have the best chance to eventually join the hallowed fraternity.
Of course, given that it's my name at the top of the article, I'm approaching the project with my own hall voting criteria – perhaps more stringent than others’ – which asks whether the fighter was among the best in his peer group for a prolonged stretch of time?
Not a one-year star or a popular guy who got TV time solely due to persona or style, but was he one of those guys – for at least a handful of years – who were on a short list of the best fighters in the world?
If the answer is yes – think Mayweather and Pacquiao – he’s got my vote.
If the answer is no – think Butterbean and Kardashian – he’s got my apologies.
Without further ado, here's a sure-fire fantastic four, as well as a handful of others who’ll have a bit more work to do before now and balloting day.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR
Record: 54-1-2, 36 KO
What he’s done: Two runs as champion at 154 pounds with six title defenses, alongside a second title at middleweight, and two more at 168 and 175.
Where he’s at: Most recently separated Callum Smith from his super middleweight title with a 12-round beatdown in December, and is frequently connected to nearly every name fighter between 154 and heavyweight – not to mention an MMA wannabe or two.
What’s still needed: How is this guy still just 30? He’s held legit title belts at four weights, rode sidesaddle to Mayweather in one of history’s most lucrative bouts and returned as the A-side in the long-awaited Golovkin showdown and a rematch. He’s a lock at this point, but doesn’t seem ready to stop resume-building just yet.
When he’ll arrive: He’s been a pro since 15, but it’s hard to envision him quitting before he’s at least 32 or 33. Assuming it’s the latter, in 2023 or so, he’ll be a late-2020s class-topper.
Record: 37-0, 28 KO
What he’s done: Has been on the championship level since 2014, initially winning a belt at 135 before climbing to 140 and then to 147. It’s now up to 15 straight title bouts, all wins, and all clear cut.
Where he’s at: Emerged from an 11-month pandemic slumber with a fourth-round blitz of Kell Brook in November. Every story about him these days mentions a fight with Errol Spence Jr., which has to happen to cement both fighters’ legacies but very well might not.
What’s still needed: Given that he’s been dominant in three divisions with double-digit wins, he’s certainly done enough to be voted in. A Spence victory makes him an all-timer if it happens.
When he’ll arrive: Thinking another couple years will be enough. Expect Crawford to maybe get to 35 or so and be ready to appear in Central New York by 2026 or 2027.
Record: 20-0, 17 KO
What he’s done: Was a champion at 108 pounds in his sixth pro fight and has since added belts in two more divisions while maintaining an 85 percent stoppage rate.
Where he’s at: Made his second U.S. appearance and stopped a rugged Jason Moloney in seven rounds while highlighting an ESPN card in October. Like Alvarez, is connected in one way or another with the best fighters in every adjacent weight class.
What’s still needed: Probably nothing. While it’s true he’s got just 20 fights, it’s also true that he’s packed a lot of Monstering into them. Another big win will sway those holding out for a little more.
When he’ll arrive: No reason to believe he’s anywhere close to being done. In fact, he may be a guy who’ll try to at least approach Pacquiao’s ridiculous ladder climbs. Call it 2030 or beyond.
Record: 14-2, 10 KO
What he’s done: The Ukrainian amateur king became a professional champion in just his third pro fight and has won titles in three weight classes from 126 to 135.
Where he’s at: Finds himself without a belt for the first time in a while after last fall’s surprising unification loss to Teofimo Lopez, but probably won’t be without an opportunity for too long.
What’s still needed: Given the criteria that’s opened doors for the likes of Arturo Gatti, the man known as “Hi-Tech” is guaranteed already given a prodigious 16-fight resume. Hard to believe too many would be holdouts at this point.
When he’ll arrive: Assuming he goes to age 35, look for him to headline in the mid-2020s.
STILL NEED A TICKET (FOR NOW)
Record: 30-0-1, 21 KO
Early returns: The world’s best heavyweight took down one long-term king when he beat Wlad Klitschko in 2015 and returned to start another reign with a blasting of Deontay Wilder early last year. Problem is his lack of defenses screams for high-end bullet points like a Joshua fight. He wins and he’s in.
Enshrinement probability: 75 percent
Record: 16-0, 12 KO
Early returns: Took the leap from touted prospect to newly crowned champion when he beat Lomachenko at 135 pounds. His social media presence guarantees he’ll always be a target and a few more wins in a few more high-profile bouts will move the needle toward enshrinement.
Enshrinement probability: 50 percent
ERROL SPENCE JR.
Record: 27-0, 21 KO
Early returns: Stopped 21 of 27 pro opponents, including three of six in title bouts, and added the WBC welterweight title in 2019 to the IBF belt he’d had since 2017. He’s off to a great start, but Spence needs a long, successful run at 147 and his skill set should also enable a weight-class climb, too.
Enshrinement probability: 67 percent
Record: 18-0, 13 KO
Early returns: Another Ukrainian who accomplished big things after a decorated amateur career, Usyk climbed to status as the world’s best cruiserweight while scoring three KOs in seven championship-level fights. Has been less transcendent in two bouts at heavyweight, so he’ll need some big wins.
Enshrinement probability: 25 percent
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC super featherweight title – Las Vegas, Nevada
Miguel Berchelt (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Oscar Valdez (No. 1 WBC/No. 9 IWBR)
Berchelt (37-1, 33 KO): Seventh title defense; Six stoppages in seven title fight wins (48 total rounds)
Valdez (28-0, 22 KO): Eighth title fight (7-0); Held WBO title at 126 pounds (2016-19, six defenses)
Fitzbitz says: The good news for Valdez is that he’s got two KOs at 130 after having just three in seven title fights at 126. The bad news is Berchelt has been a beast all along. Berchelt by decision (85/15)
This week’s garbage title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBA minimum title – Binan City, Philippines
Victorio Saludar (No. 4 WBA/No. 8 IWBR) vs. Robert Paradero (No. 5 WBA/No. 43 IWBR)
Why It’s Garbage: Another week. Another weight. Another reason to discount anything the WBA touches. Once again, already having a super and a gold champion at 105 pounds isn’t lucrative enough. The Panamanian trash cartel just has to add a third belt to the mix to ensure things are pathetic.
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Castano)
2021 picks record: 3-0 (100 percent)
Final 2020 picks record: 39-10 (79.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,159-375 (75.5 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@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.