WBHOF Inducts “Finito” Lopez and Others

BY David A. Avila ON October 09, 2007
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If you’d like to see Larry Holmes and Ricardo “Finito” Lopez inducted to the boxing hall of fame, then keep Saturday open.

Holmes and Lopez are two of several professional prizefighters of the recent past that will be inducted at the 28th annual World Boxing Hall of Fame banquet at the Doubletree Hotel on Oct. 13 in Ontario, California. No television is available.

The others honored will be Gerald McClellan, Efren “Alacran” Torres, Yaqui Lopez, George Benton, and Steve Albert. In the posthumous category: Lily Rodriguez, Dick Sadler and Jose Vazquez De La Torre are also being honored.

But this year there are at least two very glaring omissions to the induction ceremony: Pernell “Sweetpea” Whitaker and Korea’s Jung Koo Chang. There really is no excuse for these two fine boxers to not be among those inducted. We’ll talk about this later.

The “Easton Assassin” definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame along with Finito Lopez. It’s a duo who represent the heaviest and the lightest weight divisions in boxing. Their entrance on the first ballot is much deserving.

Let’s discuss the reasons.

“Larry Holmes is among the top five heavyweights of all time,” said Doug Fischer, editor of Maxboxing.com and noted boxing historian. “On any given day he would have given fighters like Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson or Rocky Marciano fits. He was that good.”

Fischer said that Holmes fought many talented heavyweights that were unknown when he fought them who later became champions. And despite little fanfare and superior opposition he shined.

“Holmes never got the credit due for beating these young tigers,” Fischer said.

From 1973 to 2002 Holmes (69-6, 44 KOs) displayed a semblance of speed, skill and gritty determination that allowed him to beat a roster of heavyweights that would make others cringe including Ken Norton. Their battle that took place at Caesar’s Palace in 1978 is considered one of the classic confrontations of all time. Holmes captured the WBC heavyweight title that day on June 9 and would roll to 19 consecutive successful title defenses.

After losing two close decisions to Michael Spinks, Holmes returned to fight a much-feared Mike Tyson and surprised many with his ability to test the young warrior until the fourth round.

People describe Holmes jab as a piston hitting the cylinder and one of the best the heavyweight division ever saw.

“He was a fighting champion,” Fischer said. “He was a blue-collar fighter with not a lot of flash. He was just very good and deserving of the Hall of Fame.”

Mexico’s “Finito” Lopez (51-0-1, 38 KOs) flew beneath the radar of other Mexican boxers because of the weight divisions he ruled below 110 pounds. He never lost a fight as a professional nor amateur. But if any fighter can be described as possessing talent near-perfection it was Lopez.

“I feel he was the best fighter to ever come out of Mexico,” said Johnny Ortiz, a boxing expert who had a former boxing radio show and also owned the famous Main Street Gym in Los Angeles. “This is a guy who was 83 and 0 in his career (amateur and pro record combined). Nobody else can say that.”

Ortiz said that on one occasion, someone asked Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez if he considered himself the greatest champion ever from Mexico, he shook his head and pointed toward the end of the room where Lopez was standing.

“Julio Cesar Chavez said Finito Lopez is Mexico’s greatest champion,” Ortiz. “I have to agree.”

Lopez’s only blemish, if you can call it that, was in March 3, 1998 when he fought to a draw against Nicaragua’s Rosendo Alvarez. Eight months later he beat Alvarez by split-decision.

The Cuernavaca-born fighter who lives in Mexico City was a wizard at finding weaknesses in opponents and exploiting them in decisive fashion. For a boxer who dwelled in the minimum weight 104-pound division and 108-pound divisions, he packed a lot of power in his tiny frame. Few strawweights or junior flyweights could stop a guy with a single punch like Finito.

“I’ve seen a lot of boxers in my time,” says Ortiz including fighters such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Salvador Sanchez and Henry Armstrong who walked into his famous gym on occasion. “Finito Lopez was  somebody special.”

McClellan, a middleweight champion who suffered a near-fatal head injury in his last pro fight against Nigel Benn 12 years ago, has been inducted this year. During his career he knocked out a ton of middleweights including Julian Jackson and John “The Beast” Mugabi. He was in line to face Roy Jones Jr. when he suffered the fatal blow from Benn who he had already knocked down twice in the fight that took place in England. He was hospitalized and near death but he survived.

Yaqui Lopez engaged in some of the most memorable light heavyweight bouts in the history of boxing. Who can forget his battles against Matthew Saad Muhammad including the back and forth battering that took place in 1980 and was named Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine. He also battled against every top light heavyweight and was avoided by others. When you fought Lopez it was war.

Another inducted is George Benton, who trained some of the greatest fighters of the 1980s and who was a clever and skillful boxer when he donned the gloves and fought guys like Holly Mims, Hurricane Carter and Joey Giardello between 1949 and 1970. When he quit fighting he passed on his knowledge to many fighters including Whitaker who was ignored by the Hall of Fame despite winning world titles in three weight classes and losing only four fights in 46 bouts.

Another fighter ignored by the Hall of fame voters was Jung Koo “The Korean Hawk” Chang whose credentials exceed several who were voted in this year. Need proof?

After failing in his first bid to capture the WBC junior flyweight title in 1982 against Panama’s Hilario Zapata, the two fighters met again but this time Chang stopped Zapata in the third round. He then defended the title 15 times before Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez beat him by decision in 1989.

Voters wake up.

In the posthumous category Lily Rodriguez, one of the pioneers of female boxing, died earlier in the year. She is the sister of the legendary kickboxing champion Benny “The Jet” Urquidez. Rodriguez also trained female fighters when she quit boxing and guided bantamweight contender Bridgett “Baby Doll” Riley.

For dinner reservations call (909) 239-3541 or (909) 886-4431. Tickets are priced at $100, $150, $200. The social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. and the banquet at 7 p.m.

Autograph signings

Many former boxing greats will be in attendance at the memorabilia show at the Doubletree Hotel from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 13. It’s a great opportunity to meet champions like Aaron Pryor, Gato Gonzalez, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Gene Fullmer, Carlos Palomino and many others.

The cost is $10 and it’s free for children under 12 are admitted free.

Marco Antonio Barrera retires

Speaking of Hall of Fame candidates, the Mexico City prizefighter Marco Antonio Barrera is a sure thing when he qualifies in five years.

Barrera (63-6, 42 KOs) lost a 12-round unanimous decision to Philippine’s superstar Manny Pacquiao. In the end, it was age and an abundance of tough fights that played a major factor for the boxer known as the “Baby-face Assassin.”

“When I first started boxing my goal was to become a world champion,” said Barrera, 33, after the fight last Saturday in Las Vegas. “I became a world champion three times so I’m happy what I accomplished in this beautiful sport.”

He won the WBO junior featherweight title in 1995, then the vacant IBO featherweight title against Naseem Hamed in 2001, and the WBC junior lightweight title in 2005.

Barrera said he will not fight again and officially retired.

“This was my last fight,” said Barrera.

Fights on television

Tues. ESPN2, 7 p.m., David Banks (14-2-1) vs. Paul Smith (20-0).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Alex DeJesus (14-0) vs. Bulmaro Solis (9-0).

Sat. pay-per-view, 10a.m., Evander Holyfield (42-8-2) vs. Sultan Ibragimov (21-0-1); Jose Navarro (26-2) vs. Dimitri Kirilov (28-3).

Sat. HBO, 11 p.m., Julio Diaz (34-3) vs., Juan Diaz (32-0); replay of Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2) vs. Marco Antonio Barrera (63-6).

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