It was a day to savor for boxing's smallest giants. Junior flyweight rivals Michael Carbajal and Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez will lead the Class of 2006 into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota.
Carbajal, a former U.S. Olympian, and Gonzalez, from Mexico, fought each other three times for a junior flyweight championship. Gonzalez won two of those bouts. (For the record, this author voted for both men.)
“We had some great fights together,” said Carbajal. “It seems right that both of us are going in at the same time like this. We have a history.”
The popular historian Hank Kaplan, a contributor to TheSweetScience.com was also inducted as an observer. The remainder of the Class of 2006 includes: former lightweight champion Edwin Rosario (deceased) in the modern category; welterweight and middleweight champion Lou Broulliard, light heavyweight champion Jimmy Slattery and middleweight champion Teddy Yarosz from the old-timers category; 19th-century English lightweight champion Jem Carney, in the pioneer category; and joining Kaplan as an observer was publisher Stanley Weston. Other inductees are English promoter/manager Jarvis Astaire, trainer Whitey Bimstein and Italian promoter Rodolfo Sabbatini.
The induction ceremony is June 11. Inductees are chosen by members of the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international boxing historians. Boxers must be retired five years to be eligible.
Carbajal made history as the first million-dollar flyweight and engaged in a thrilling, three-fight series with Gonzalez. They afforded boxing's smaller weight classes attention that was long overdue. Carbajal won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Among his U.S. teammates were Roy Jones Jr., Ray Mercer, Riddick Bowe and Kennedy McKinney.
“He was a pioneer in a lot of ways,” said hall-of-fame trainer and HBO commentator, Emanuel Steward. “His punching power for his size was phenomenal.”
Carbajal rose from a pair of knockdowns to unifiy the IBF and WBC by defeating Gonzalez in 1993 with a seventh-round knockout. Gonzalez reclaimed the title with a 12-round split decision in a February 1994 rematch and won another split decision over Carbajal in November 1994.
Carbajal left the ring in 1999 with a 49-4 record and 33 knockouts. Gonzalez retired in 1995 with a 43-3- record with 31 knockouts.