The latest class inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame included Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Kosta Tsyzu. There are many fighters active today who will end up there. Near the top of that list are two guys who I have not included on my list, Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones, because honestly, it pains me to even think of them as "active." They are so far past their primes at this point, every time they lace up their gloves, all they're really doing is placing their health and future in serious jeopardy for paydays a fraction of what they made a decade ago.
There is no disputing that Manny Pacquiao will end up in Canastota someday. His credentials include legitimate world championships in four weight classes and alphabet belts in an unprecedented eight divisions. His phenomenal surge from flyweight to welterweight saw him vanquish elite opponents in Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and very narrowly, Juan Manuel Marquez, probably the three best Mexican fighters of the era. He also boasts big wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto. Pacquiao's future induction to the Hall of Fame is a certainty.
Floyd Mayweather is clearly one of the best fighters of the past 20 years in boxing. His supreme defense, unmatched speed and razor-sharp reflexes have carried him through 41 fights without ever taking serious punishment. He was knocked down once, officially. His glove touched the canvas on a flash knockdown. You can count with one hand the amount of times he's been hurt or wobbled. He won the legitimate championship at 130 135, and 147...defeating staunch competitors in Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and the last remnants of Shane Mosley along the way. Floyd is a shoe-in for the Hall no matter how his career plays out.
Bernard Hopkins, the long-reigning middleweight champion, is an absolute guaranteed first-ballot selection for Hall of Fame honors. Love him or hate him, and many do (at least his very methodical, tactical style), you have to acknowledge his accomplishments are right up there with the best of his era. His signature wins include upsetting then-undefeated power puncher Tito Trinidad, seizing the light-heavyweight crown from Antonio Tarver, beating then-undefeated Kelly Pavlik as an underdog and his latest win over Jean Pascal to claim the legit championship at light heavyweight at the age of 46, the oldest man in the history of the sport to win a lineal title.
Bernard's middleweight run and late-career rebirth will get him in. The question is, how many more notches on his belt will the wily old coot rack up as he continues to fight on his way to 50?
Shane Mosley has nothing left to prove and possibly nothing left to offer. His complete no-show against Manny Pacquiao in May was one of the most dissapointing performances of the year, especially from a guy whose fighting heart and spirit was thought to be a proven commodity. Regarding his Hall of Fame credentials, none of that matters.
A long-time stalwart of pound-for-pound lists, Mosley boasted the quintessential combination of speed, power and a reliable chin. He boasts two signature wins over Oscar De La Hoya, both close and semi-controversial decisions. He consistently fought the best competition around and only ever lost to very good fighters, never knocked out. Mosley was one of the best fighters in the sport from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s, and he even capped off his fine career with a classic knockout of previously iron-chinned Antonio Margarito. Mosley will undoubtedly land in the hall when all is said and done.
Wladimir Klitschko has done enough to land in the hall; there's no doubt about that. You can argue the quality of opposition or his own shortcomings as a fighter, but he will end up there. He has defended the heavyweight championship 10 times, stifling many top contenders in the division on his run. The ones that he didn't stifle, his brother did.
In his latest title reign, Klitschko has been ruthlessly efficient, methodically jabbing and frustrating his opponents and then catching them with the big right hand. You can't be as successful and dominant as Klitschko has been at the highest level of the sport in the most storied weight class and not earn Hall of Fame accolades.
Might as well eliminate the mystery here, because both brothers are sure-fire Hall of Famers when they finally leave the sport (and possibly create some intrigue in the snooze-fest heavyweight division for the first time in years by doing so). Vitali blazed his own path of utter domination over the past decade, easily swatting away many top-ranked contenders.
The only thing that's stopped him from being unanimous champion was his brother. Wladimir's chin has been a major question mark, considering he was violently stopped several times by aggressive, brawler types. Vitali's chin is rock-solid. He absorbed blows from Lennox Lewis that would have sent most normal humans to the hospital (if they were lucky).
Wonjongkam is the long-reigning lineal flyweight champion, and he will gain entrance to the hall on his first eligibility. His level of competition hasn't always been great. In fact, it's typically been horrendous for a "lineal champion."
I disagree with his being on pound-for-pound lists because in recent years, the quality of opponent has been atrocious as I mentioned, but as far as career honors, Wonjongkam has to be recognized as a lineal champion and one of the most dominant at his weight. For a solid decade, he outclassed every credible opponent put in front of him.
Morales is a favorite of every fight fan. He's a master of the craft of boxing with a penchant for going to war and a refusal to surrender in the face of adversity. He's one part of two of the best trilogies of the decade, going to war with Marco Antonio Barrera for 36 very close rounds, and of course against Manny Pacquiao, who Erik Morales can claim to be the only man to beat while Manny was in his prime.
Pacquiao has no doubt improved since then, but regardless, Morales beat Manny Pacquiao in his prime, something no other fighter has done. Those fights alone, the trilogy with Barrera, and his win over Pacquiao are enough to get him there in my book, but they are far from his only notable achievements.
Morales certainly isn't backing down from dangerous competition now that he's older. He gave Marcos Maidana fits in a fight where people feared for his health going in, and now he's scheduled to face another heavy-fisted, younger fighter coming into his prime, Lucas Matthysse. Erik Morales is a supreme boxer and a courageous warrior.
Juan Manuel Marquez, like his countryman and nemesis Erik Morales, is an incredibly skilled boxer with the heart of a fighter. Who else could go down three times in the first round against Pacquiao, look like he's dead in the water and come back to outfight and outbox him over the next 11 rounds to salvage a draw?
His overall resume is probably not as strong as Morales and Barrera, but no one has given Manny Pacquiao tougher fights, and had one of those scorecards tilted his way, Marquez might be seen in a different light. As it stands, he won lineal titles at 130 and 135 lbs, and he fought two wars with the best fighter of his generation (at his weight class). Marquez is also probably the best fighter of one of the best brother combinations in the history of the sport.
Miguel Cotto has suffered two rough defeats, a savage beating at the possibly loaded gloves of Antonio Margarito and a decisive loss to Manny Pacquiao. Those losses don't overshadow the fact that Cotto was one of the best fighters in the sport, facing the highest level of competition, for years.
Cotto has always been a fan favorite, a humble, hard-working fighter who often took serious punishment to keep pressing forward looking to inflict his own. His style left him to susceptible to getting rocked, and even in victory, Cotto left a lot of himself in the ring. He will go down as one of the best fighters from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, and he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as one of the best, most crowd-pleasing fighters of his generation.
Ivan Calderon is proof of the adage that great things often come in small packages. Fighting in the oft-overlooked 108 lb. division, Calderon was not the atypical brawler type often associated with the tiny weights. He was actually one the best pure boxers in the world and dominated the lower weight divisions for almost a decade. Eventually, he met a bigger man who overpowered him, Giovanni Segura. That takes nothing away from Calderon's legacy. He was unbeatable until he finally got to his mid-30s and met an opponent who was just too aggressive and powerful.
If Calderon had been running welterweight or lightweight the way he did junior-flyweight and minumweight, he would have been one of the biggest names in the sport. Instead, he'll settle for certain Hall of Fame honors and go down as another one of Puerto Rico's finest fighters.
There's a few guys I did not mention who will undoubtedly be heading to Canastota in the years to come.
The one that's striking me now is Marco Antonio Barrera. Of course he's going to the hall; that's a no-brainer. The question is, how active is he? We all wrote off Erik Morales before he fought Maidana, and obviously, the old wizard from Tijuana had something left in the tank after all.
Barrera has been brutalized in recent years against top competition, and by all appearances, does not have much more left than say, James Toney. Now of course, you could look at my 10th selection, Ivan Calderon, and question what he has left. I'm not sure, but with Segura likely moving up to 112, I think Calderon is still a viable force at 108 or 105 lbs. should he continue fighting.
Barrera's not a force at any weight anymore, in my opinion. He also has no fight scheduled, and if he does continue, it's likely to be against someone the WBC wouldn't even rank in the top 10.
But as usual with these lists, I'm sure I forgot someone who's still lacing up the gloves. Antonio Tarver is borderline in my opinion, but winning fights like the Danny Green bout is only helping his cause. I mentioned Jones, Holyfield, Toney and Barrera. Any other glaring candidates that I missed?
And finally, here's some guys with all the talent to one day get there themselves; either they're too young or need just a few more solid wins:
Juan Manuel Lopez (yes, I'm still buying even after the Salido fiasco)