3 Punch Combo: Looking Ahead to the IBHOF Class of 2019 and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO: The International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY recently hosted its annual induction ceremony. Each year, three boxers are inducted in the modern category which comprises boxers who had their last bout no earlier than 1989 and have been retired for at least five years. The three inducted in 2018 in this category were Erik Morales, Ronald “Winky” Wright and Vitali Klitschko. Incidentally, this was the first time all three were eligible. Looking ahead to 2019, there will be plenty of debate as to which candidates are most deserving.

When forecasting the class of 2019 in the modern category, it is best to start with the names that will appear on the ballot for the first time, a list likely to include Chris John, Mikkel Kessler and Rafael Marquez. Of these three, it is difficult to see a scenario where Kessler or Marquez garners enough support to make it in their first year of eligibility. However, one can build a very strong case for Chris John. He was a long time featherweight champion who first won the WBA interim featherweight belt in 2003. The following year, John became the regular WBA champion and made in total 18 successful defenses of that title, a run that included a win against future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez. John’s final record was 48-1-3 with 22 KO’s and the only loss was in his final fight to Simpiwe Vetyeka.

There will be debate on John due to the opposition he faced but for the sake of this piece I will assume he gets elected. That leaves the door open for two holdovers. The names I see that will get the most attention from voters will be Vinny Paz, Ricky Hatton, Ivan Calderon, Michael Moorer and Henry Maske.

Of these five, I think Paz (pictured alongside Calderon) will get tons of momentum. He was immensely popular and an extremely entertaining fighter. His resume is loaded with a who’s who of his era and he holds wins over some very top fighters in the sport. Paz belongs in the Hall of Fame and I think the window is open in 2019 for his rightful induction.

So who will be the last name? If I had to take a guess, it will be Calderon. Calderon seemed to have a lot of momentum last year and though the information is not made public I would guess he finished a close fourth behind Wright. Aside from three losses late in his career, Calderon was a dominant champion in the lower weight classes who exhibited tremendous skill inside the ring. He won a 105-pound title in 2003 and made 11 successful defenses before winning a flyweight belt in 2007. And then it was six defenses of that title before losing it to Giovani Segura in 2010. Calderon’s resume speaks for itself and he should find himself in Canastota in 2019.

 Hall of Fame Blind Resume Comparison

The criteria to get into the International Boxing Hall of Fame seem very ambiguous. Some fighters are considered locks while others with similar credentials seem to get completely ignored. To this point, here is a blind resume comparison of two fighters who fought during the same time frame around the same division. One of these fighters is in the Hall of Fame and one does not really get considered.

Fighter A began his career in 1992 in the 115-pound weight division and eventually rose to capture a featherweight title in 1995. He defended that title successfully for six years. In total, he compiled a record of 16-1 in title fights and a record of 10-1 against fighters who at some point held a title belt. No wins were against Hall of Fame fighters.

Fighter B turned pro in 1989 as a bantamweight and in 1993 won a world title belt in that division. He would lose that belt a year later but in 1996 become a two division world champion after capturing a belt in the 122- pound weight class. In total, he had a 10-4 record against fighters who at some point held a title belt including three wins against fighters who are in the Hall of Fame.

Fighter A, if you haven’t guessed, is Naseem Hamed who finished with a career record of 36-1 with 31 KO’s. Hamed was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015.

Fighter B, who finished with a career record of 50-6 with 28 KO’s, is Junior Jones. I am not saying here that Hamed is not a Hall of Famer. I am also not saying that Jones is a Hall of Famer. But what I am saying is that if Hamed is in, then Jones at least needs to be in the discussion. His credentials are not that far off from those of Hamed’s. At the very least, Jones belongs on the ballot.

Under The Radar Fights

After a busy few weeks with some significant cards, the sport takes a bit of a reprieve this coming week. Despite the lack of big events, there is still plenty of action taking place and some interesting bouts that are deep under the radar.

ShoBox returns on Friday night with a tripleheader of action headlined by Claressa Shields (5-0, 2 KO’s) and Hanna Gabriels (18-1-1, 11 KO’s) who will be fighting for the vacant WBA and IBF women’s middleweight belts. Though this should be a solid fight, it is the opening bout of the telecast between light heavyweights Umar Salamov (20-1, 15 KO’s) and Brian Howard (13-1, 10 KO’s) that piques my interest

Salamov, 24, is a rising prospect in what is quickly becoming a very deep light heavyweight division. He is an aggressive boxer-puncher who likes to press forward behind a sharp well-timed left jab. Salamov’s best punch is the overhand right and he will use the jab looking to set up openings for that punch. He also likes to look for counter opportunities with the right. Defensively, Salamov is a work in progress. He often holds his left low and has very little head movement. His one loss came last year to Damien Hooper on the Pacquiao-Horn undercard and in that fight Salamov was out boxed though not by a wide margin in losing a close decision.

Howard, 38, is coming down from cruiserweight where he has fought the vast majority of his career. He has fought few very recognizable names and the one loss on his ledger was by knockout to veteran journeyman Harvey Jolly. Howard will look to use his legs and work behind the left jab from the outside. He does have decent hand speed and can punch a little. But he does consistently hold his left low and has shown many instances of wildly swinging away at his opponents. I think his style along with the defensive issues makes for an entertaining fight with Salamov, at the very least.

For those that didn’t cancel their ESPN+ subscription following Crawford-Horn, there will be a card broadcast from the UK on Saturday afternoon on this app. Martin Murray (36-4-1, 17 KO’s) will face late substitute Roberto Garcia (41-3, 24 KO’s). Garcia replaces Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12 KO’s) who withdrew citing an injury.

I like Murray-Garcia much better than Saunders-Murray. Both Murray and Garcia are aggressive fighters who come forward looking to mix it up. Neither is afraid to take two or three punches to get in one of their own. Though Murray is a little more well-rounded than Garcia, they are not that far apart. I think we see a very entertaining fight that is competitive and full of many power punching exchanges between two guys who just like to fight. Of all the fights this coming week, this is easily the best of the bunch.

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