Unlike last year’s International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot, where there were basically no slam-dunk votes and where some fighters that were on the borderline made it in for induction, the choices for potential inductees on the 2020 ballot were abundant. My choices for the HOF this year weren’t easy. But I went with Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Rafael Marquez and Timothy Bradley.
Thanks, in part, to a new rule stipulating that a retired fighter only has to wait three years to be placed on the ballot instead of five, an avalanche of legitimate HOF contenders punched their way onto the ballot for the first time. Which made for some difficult decisions. Like usual, an HOF voter, who are members of the Boxing Writers Association of America, could select up to five fighters, and the three who receive the most votes (and anybody else who is selected on more than 80% of ballots) will be inducted in June 2020. The rest will have to wait for the 2021 ballot.
One voter’s criteria can be much different from another’s, so here’s what I value as a voter: Dominance in a division and inclusion on the mythical pound-for-pound list; a sustained reign as one of the top fighters in their weight division; and victories against the top-notch boxers of his era. Some voters don’t believe a fighter’s popularity or money-making abilities should factor into the equation. I disagree (I’ll always believe Arturo Gatti deserves his place in the HOF because of the sheer excitement he brought to the sport, and I’ve voted in the past for Ricky Hatton because of his impact on U.K. boxing).
For me, there were three easy selections, one boxer I voted for last year who I still can’t believe didn’t make it in, and another first-timer on the ballot that just beat out two other first-timers. Just about everybody I voted for, though, has pros and cons on whether they should be inducted. But here’s something I kept in mind as I researched the fighters, watched their old bouts and compared them to each other: You can have flaws as a fighter and still be a HOFer. Not everybody, after all, can be the best ever.
On Wednesday, the HOF will formally announce who was selected on the 2020 ballot. Until then, here’s who I picked for the HOF and why.
Bernard Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs): It does not get more slam-dunk than Hopkins, one of the greatest middleweights in boxing history. He defended his 160-pound title a then-record 20 times, and he went on to unify two light heavyweight belts as well. He beat Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik and Glen Johnson, and he was on the Ring magazine’s pound-for-pound list for a total of 10 years (and was No. 1 overall in 2002). And with apologies to the amazing salesman George Foreman, Hopkins is the best fighter over 40 years old in modern times. If Bernard Hopkins somehow wasn’t elected to the HOF, there should be no HOF.
Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs): When so much of the boxing world was fixated on the rivalry between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales in the early 2000s, their Mexican countryman Marquez seemed to have a permanent spot in the background. But eventually, Marquez broke through, and frankly, he might have been better than both of them. He won titles at featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight, and he was featured in two Ring magazine Fights of the Year. Just like Hopkins, Marquez lost his first professional fight, but man, he went on to have an amazing career. And like Hopkins, Marquez is a slam dunk. Oh, and don’t forget perhaps the most iconic moment of his career against Manny Pacquaio.
Shane Mosley (49-10-1, 41 KOs): Though he was so very talented as a 135-pound lightweight, Mosley had major success all the way up to the 154-pound junior middleweight division, beating De La Hoya twice, Antonio Margarito, Jessie James Leija and Fernando Vargas twice. He also lost to the best of his era (Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto), which makes him less of a slam dunk than Hopkins and Marquez. Plus, Mosley also admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs at one point in his career. But his talent is undeniable, and he deserves to be inducted.
Rafael Marquez (41-9, 37 KOs): Marquez, the younger brother of Juan Manuel, should have gotten in last year. The 2019 ballot was not a strong one, but in my mind, he was clearly the most deserving. Apparently, I was outvoted. Now, he gets another chance. And he’s worthy. He beat Mark Johnson twice, upset Tim Austin and had one of the best four-fight series in boxing history with Israel Vazquez (both triumphed in two of those matches, and two of those events were crowned as the Ring Fight of the Year). Plus, how cool would it be if he went in at the same time as his brother? I honestly don’t think he’ll be voted in this year, but it’d be a shame if he has to wait too much longer.
Timothy Bradley (33-2-1, 13 KOs): This was the toughest call for me. Not because Bradley isn’t a HOFer. He certainly is as his impressive run of wins from 2019-14 that included victories against Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ruslan Provodnikov, Joel Casamayor and Devon Alexander will attest. But for my final spot on this year’s ballot, it came down to either Bradley, Carl Froch or Sergio Martinez. I thought long and hard about it, but ultimately I chose Bradley on this ballot because Froch was only a fringe pound-for-pound fighter and because he was not the top super middleweight of his time (that distinction belonged to Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward) and because Martinez wasn’t dominant at middleweight for a long enough period of time. I could see myself voting for Froch and Martinez in the future, but to me, Bradley was more deserving on this ballot.
As for my prediction for who actually will be inducted: I think it’ll be Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez and Mosley. For everybody else, there’s always next year.
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