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Hall Of Fame Inductions: Rijker, Herrera, Mitchell, Canizales

BY David A. Avila ON October 22, 2009
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Female boxing star Lucia Rijker heads the list of those being inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The 30th annual World Boxing Hall of Fame banquet takes place at the LAX Marriott Hotel on Saturday. Those being inducted are Rijker, Rafael Herrera, Brian Mitchell, Orlando Canizales in the boxer category. Others being awarded are trainer Amilcar Brusa, analyst Al Bernstein and referee James Jen Kin.

Rijker (17-0, 14 KOs) is the first woman boxer to be admitted to the Hall of Fame and justly so. As a prizefighter she is considered by many to be the best female prizefighter to lace up the gloves. She oozed with talent.

Her last scheduled fight was to be a confrontation with Christy “Coalminer’s Daughter” Martin in Las Vegas several years ago, but a foot injury a week before the fight scuttled the long-awaited match and Rijker never fought again.

A couple of years ago Rijker was honored by WBHOF for her work toward promoting women’s boxing. This time she is honored as a prizefighter who displayed the same dominance she did as a world champion kick boxer. Most people recognize her as the villainess in Million Dollar Baby. But in the boxing world she was recognized as a fighting machine who never got the notoriety she deserved...until now.

Herrera (48-9-4, 19 KOs) was a boxer out of Mexico City who made the trek to California to take part in several blockbusting world championship duels with Chucho Castillo, Rodolfo Martinez and of course the upset knockout of Ruben Olivares.

It was common to see more than 17,000 fans show up to the Inglewood Forum for one of Herrera’s duels. The slick-boxing fighter was not known for power, but if an opponent dared go for broke, it was usually decided quickly. That’s what Olivares discovered when they fought for the bantamweight world championship in 1972, a fight that took place in Mexico City’s bullring.

Up until 1972, Olivares had knocked out all but three opponents in 70 fights and had only one loss that was due to a bad cut. Herrera had five losses and wasn’t seen as a threat, but his boxing ability was superior to most and superior to Olivares that night. He stopped the Mexican slugger in the eighth round.

Herrera was a two-time bantamweight world champion.

Mitchell (45-1-3, 21 KOs), a junior lightweight world champion from South Africa, had the misfortune to fight during a period when his country faced international sanctions and boycotts from other nations due to its apartheid policies. Nevertheless, Mitchell never lost his world title despite 13 defenses including two riveting wars with California’s Tony “The Tiger” Lopez in 1991 in Sacramento.

The great South African fighter had only one loss and that came against Jacob Morake in 1982. He won the rematch in 1985 but Morake died from injuries sustained in that fight.

Mitchell’s career has been overlooked but no longer.

Canizales (50-5-1, 37 KOs) was another bantamweight world champion who dominated from 1989 to 1994. The hard-hitting 118-pounder from Laredo, Texas defended his world title 16 times  including wins over Clarence “Bones” Adams and Kelvin Seabrooks.

The Texan fought from 1984 to 1999 and had 37 knockouts in 57 pro fights. That’s a lot of power for a bantamweight.

Others inducted

Brusar is most known for training and guiding the career of Argentina’s greatest boxer, middleweight world champion Carlos Monzon. The Argentine trainer still works with fighters and worked with Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez and Omar Weiss to name a few. His election was a long-time coming. He’s now in his 90s.

Bernstein is the much respected boxing analyst who is often seen on ESPN Classic, Showtime and other networks in the past. He now lives in Las Vegas and still covers boxing. He’s known for his ability to break down a fighter’s strong points and drawbacks. He’s also very popular to all boxing fans.

Jen Kin is still refereeing fights in California. He’s known for being literally slap-happy and has a habit of smacking people during clinches. He’s supervised some huge fights in his career.

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