The International Boxing Hall of Fame might have to build a new wing to host all the inductees after this weekend’s ceremonies.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. alone makes Sunday’s event one of the most anticipated in years. Add in fighters like Roy Jones Jr., Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins — as well as some pioneering women — and the boxing hall in tiny Canastota, New York, figures to fill up quickly.
The last two ceremonies were canceled because of the pandemic. So there’s a three-year class of 27 fighters — and 36 honorees in total — that should appeal to even the most casual boxing fan.
That includes a new women’s category headed by Laila Ali and Christy Martin, who shot to fame when she was featured on some of Mike Tyson’s fight cards in the 1990s.
Organizers say all the fighters are expected to be there except one. Former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko is in Ukraine alongside his brother, Vitali, helping run the capital city of Kyiv during the ongoing war against invading Russia. Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv and also a former heavyweight champ, was inducted in 2018.
There are so many fighters that the event will be held at a nearby casino instead of in Canastota. Instead of fighting each other, the inductees will find themselves fighting for time for their acceptance speeches in the biggest induction ever for the small hall that honors boxing’s greatest.
Here’s a look at some of the inductees:
FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR. — One of the all-time greats, and certainly one of the best defensive fighters ever. His 50-0 record suggests perfection but Mayweather will probably best be known more for how he capitalized on his career better than any fighter before him. He invented the Money May persona, but the money was very real, including the estimated $200 million he made to fight Manny Pacquiao in the richest fight ever. Mayweather also banked similar money to fight UFC’s Conor McGregor, and his record as a pay-per-view king may stand for a long time. Is he the greatest fighter ever as he claims? No, but that doesn’t stop him from being in the conversation.
BERNARD HOPKINS — The Executioner was certainly one of the greatest middleweights of all time, with a record 20 straight defenses of the middleweight title he won in 1995. Hopkins would later move up to 175 pounds, and set a record as oldest champion when he beat Jean Pascal at the age of 46 to win the light heavyweight title. Two years later, he won the title again at the age of 48. Hopkins made his biggest payday when he stopped Oscar De La Hoya with a body punch in their 2004 showdown, then won again when he joined De La Hoya as a shareholder in Golden Boy Promotions. Not only a great fighter, but a great talker, especially when it comes to his career.
ROY JONES JR. — In his prime he was a masterful blend of speed and power, so shifty that opponents struggled to even hit him. Jones had a gold medal stolen from him in the 1988 Olympics, but went on to win titles in four different weight classes. One of those titles came at heavyweight when he beat John Ruiz in 2003, but the drastic move up from light heavyweight took a toll on Jones, who would go on to lose three of his next four fights at 175 pounds. His legacy was diluted further because he fought another 15 years after that with middling results.
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO — One of two hulking heavyweight brothers who grew up in the Soviet boxing system, Klitschko’s career nearly ended in 2004 when he was stopped by Lamon Brewster. He would come back from that defeat to dominate the heavyweight division for nearly a decade, fighting most of the time in Germany, where he had a big fan base. More casual fans didn’t like his careful style but Klitschko showed he could brawl, too, when he dropped Anthony Joshua before 90,000 people in London before being stopped in 2017 in what would be his last fight. Klitschko has been in Ukraine with his brother, Vitali, since Russia invaded their country.
CHRISTY MARTIN — Her story was as compelling as her fights, and Martin had a big stage on the undercard of some of Tyson’s pay-per-view fights. She was a gritty fighter who moved forward constantly and her bloody match with Deirdre Gogarty on a Tyson undercard in 1996 made a lot of boxing fans realize that women’s fights were real. Martin would later be shot and stabbed by her husband and trainer, who is currently serving a prison term. Also inducted on the women’s side is Laila Ali, who carried the weight of her famous father’s name as she campaigned her way to a 24-0 record at a time women’s boxing wasn’t taken seriously.
OTHERS — Take your pick among a group of deserving candidates including Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Andre Ward, Shane Mosley and James Toney. All are top fighters who could headline any other ceremony that didn’t include some of the greatest ever.
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