THE International Boxing Hall of Fame grounds in Canastota, New York will be abandoned the second weekend of June. There won’t be a boxer in sight, including the 2020 inductees. The milling crowd armed with Sharpies and items they want autographed will be missing. Forget about Saturday’s banquet, Sunday’s parade and induction ceremony. Worst of all, Graziano’s bar, where once a year famous fighters party with their fans, will be lonelier than an Edward Hopper painting. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down virtually all aspects of live boxing and the IBHOF has postponed the festivities until Summer 2021, when both the class of 2020 and 2021 will be inducted. Fingers crossed.
There are any number of boxing Hall of Fames, and that’s a good thing, but the IBHOF is generally recognized as the ultimate honour. Induction Weekend is a festive occasion and IBHOF has raised boxing’s profile more than a little. Some people, however, are troubled by the selection process.
“The problem is that every member of the Boxing Writers Association of America gets a vote and that group far outnumbers the rest of the historians,” said promoter J Russell Peltz, who was inducted in 2004. “I would say close to 95 percent of the BWAA have no idea what went on prior to the 1980s except for Muhammad Ali’s career.”
Whatever the cause, Peltz has a point. History is important. You’ve got to know the past to understand the big picture. Like soccer, boxing is an international sport and in order to be fair we must cast a larger net. Popularity counts, of course, but not when it keeps more accomplished boxers out in the cold.
The following is not intended to be a definitive list of overlooked boxers. It’s a sample, 10 fighters worthy of consideration; some have been on the ballot previously, while others have not. I’m sure practically everybody reading this could come up with their own list if they felt the need. This is just a place to start, something to talk about during the long wait until Induction Weekend returns to Canastota. The boxers are arranged in alphabetical order. Six countries are represented.
Horacio “Roquino” Accavallo
Active: September 1956 to August 1967
Record: 75-2-6 (34)
Title held: WBA flyweight
Best Performances: Katsuyoshi Takayama, Hiroyyuki Ebihara, Efren Torres
The 5-foot-1½ Accavallo was charismatic sparkplug with a ready smile and a fan-friendly fighting style. “He was a southpaw who used to study his opponents in the early rounds, but then he like to brawl, with intelligence,” said Argentinian journalist Carlos Irusta. Except for a 10-fight sojourn in Italy during 1958 and ‘59, Accavallo spent the bulk of his career home in Argentina where he maintained a busy schedule of beating up guys you’ve never heard of. Despite impressive numbers he probably wouldn’t be part of the conversation if it were not for the grandstand finish to his career. Accavallo had 10 fights between March 1, 1966 and August 12, 1967, a span of 17 months in which he won the vacant WBA flyweight title, defended it three times and then retired. He said he wouldn’t fight again because that way, “I will be champion forever.”
Nigel “Dark Destroyer” Benn
Active: January 1987-November 1996
Record: 42-5-1 (35)
Titles held: WBO middleweight, WBC super middleweight
Best Performances: Gerald McClellan, Iran Barkley, Chris Eubank II
Nigel Benn was the U.K.’s mini-version of Mike Tyson, a knockout artist who began his career with a reign of terror, leaving a trail of unconscious opponents in his wake. Benn’s knockout streak ended in his 23rd match when Michael Watson stopped him. Soon afterward Benn buggered off to the U.S. won a couple big fights and came home with the WBC super-middleweight title. His feud with Chis Eubank enlivened the British boxing scene and led to a pair of huge fights and handsome paydays. Benn was stopped the first fight and held Eubank to a draw in the rematch, a bout many felt he had edged. Then there was the McClellan tragedy, a significant win for Benn but a fight so brutal that the American was permanently disabled. Benn rode the WBC title practically to the end, finally losing it to Thulani Malinga in March 1996.
Active: February 1982-January 2000
Record: 47-12 (34)
Titles held: IBF and WBC welterweight, WBC super welterweight
Best Performances: Tyron Trice I and II, Terry Norris I, Maurice Blocker
The first thing
that comes to mind when Brown is mentioned is his fight with Vincent Pettway in
April 1995. That was when Brown was counted out in the sixth round, flat on his,
back, unconscious but still throwing punches. Nevertheless, Brown should be remembered
for far more than that. In his prime the Jamaican immigrant was a straight up
badass in the ring and could punch like the devil. He won the vacant IBF
welterweight title by stopping Tyrone Trice in April 1988, and made nine successful
defenses, unifying the WBA and WBC titles before moving up in weight after a
losing to Buddy McGirt in November 1991. Brown’s upset knockout of Terry Norris
for the WBC super welterweight title in December 1993 was further testimony to
his toughness. Simon walked through the best Norris had to offer and knocked
Active: May 1982 to February 1992
Record: 24-4-1 (16)
Title held: WBC flyweight
Best performances: Yong Kang Kim II, Carlos Salazar, Jung Koo Chang II
Thailand’s Chitalada was a flashy fighter with a precise left jab and a dangerous right hand. Defensively, he was reminiscent of Muhammad Ali, leaning back away from punches and moving just enough to avoid getting hit. A former Muay Thai champion, he transitioned to boxing in 1982 and annexed the WBC flyweight title in his eighth boxing match, winning a split decision over Gabriel Bernal in October 1984. Chitalada fought future Hall of Famer Jung Koo Chang twice, losing the first and winning the second.Overall, Chitalada made 11 successful defenses over two reigns. Sixteen of his 31 bouts were title fights, 11 of which he won. He is considered Thailand’s most proven road warrior, having been victorious in the U.K., Jamaica, Kuwait and Japan.
Santos “Falucho” Laciar
Active: December 1976-December 1990
Record: 79-10-11 (31)
Titles held: WBA flyweight, WBC super fly
Best performances: Hilario Zapata, Juan Herrera, Betulio Gonzalez
Laciar wasn’t a big puncher but was very durable, always in condition, a relentless bulldog type who just kept coming, He spent most of the first five years as a pro fighting mainly in his home state of Cordoba, Argentina, but after stopping Peter Mathebula in Johannesburg to win the WBA flyweight, Laciar became an international traveller, fighting in 10 countries besides Argentina. He made 10 successful defences in two reigns as 112-pound title-holder, and then moved up to super flyweight in May 1987 and stopped Gilberto Roman for the WBC super fly title. When he lost the title to Sugar Baby Rojas in his first defense at the new weight, it was the beginning of Laciar’s decline. He was one of Argentina’s beloved little giants, a national hero who was never stopped in 101 pro bouts.
Tony “The Tiger” Lopez
Active: May 1983-February 1999
Record: 50-8-1 (34)
Titles: IBF super featherweight, WBA lightweight
Best Performances: Rocky Lockridge I, John John Molina I & III,Dingaan Thobela I
Sacramento boxing was on life-support at the
start of the 1980s, but that would change with the emergence of Lopez, a
130-pound of enthusiasm who revitalized the sport in California’s capital city.
Fans loved his two-fisted assault, and by the middle of the decade he’d
outgrown the 3,850-seat Memorial Auditorium and moved to the 17,300-seat Arco
Arena. In July 1988 Lopez came of the floor to win the IBF title with a
unanimous decision over Rocky Lockridge. It was an exhilarating struggle and The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year. Lopez
made six successful defenses at super featherweight over two reigns and lost
the title for good to Brian Mitchell in September 1991. A move up to lightweight
provided another stint at the top, albeit a short one. Lopez stopped Joey
Gamache to garner the WBA title, successfully defended it against Dingaan Thobela and then lost it to the South African in a June 1993 rematch.
Active: September 1995-September 2013
Record: 41-9 (37)
Titles held: IBF bantamweight, WBC super bantamweight
Best performances: Israel VasquezI & III, Tim Austin, Mark Johnson I & II
Marquez’s older brother, Juan Manuel Marquez, had a higher profile, but Rafael had an exceptional career in his own right. After beating future Hall of Famer Mark Johnson in an eliminator, the Mexican stopped Tim Austin to win the IBF bantamweight title in February 2002 and successfully defended the title seven before facing the man that would take him to places he’d never been before in March 2007—WBC super bantamweight title-holder Israel Vazquez. Their first three fights were just as good as the Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward trilogy but at a higher skill level, simply awe-inspiring. Two guys who really knew how to fight going right after one another.
Davey “The Springfield Rifle” Moore
Active: May 1953-March 1963
Record: 59-7-1 (30)
Title: World featherweight
Best performances: Hogan “Kid” Bassey, Kazuo Takayama, Sergio Caprari
This is not the Davey Moore who Roberto Duran savaged in 1983. It is instead the former lightweight champion who died of head injuries following his title-fight loss to Sugar Ramos in March 1963. When a boxer dies of an injury suffered in the ring it tends to overshadow virtually everything else in his career. Prior to his death, however, Moore was an excellent fighter, with outstanding footwork and sharp, accurate punches. After winning the world title from Bassey in March 1959, he made five successful defenses. Moore was another exceptional road warrior, winning fights in Canada, England, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Finland, Venezuela, Panama, Cuba and Italy. He lived in Springfield, Ohio, hence the unusual nickname.
Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez
Active: March 1995-May 2010
Record: 44-5 (32)
Titles: IBF, WBC super bantamweight
Best performances: Oscar Larios II, Rafael Marquez II & 111, Jhonny Gonzalez
Vazquez and Rafael Marquez will forever be
linked thanks to their magnificent series of fights. Their styles meshed
perfectly. Vazquez was a skillful but cut-prone slugger with a terrific left
hook. Marquez was the sleeker of the two, better at range but loved to trade.
Marquez busted Vazquez’s nose in the first fight and forced a stoppage. Vazquez
stopped Marquez in the second match, and the third scintillating fight came
down to the scintillating final round which Vazquez won, along with the split
decision. Both bouts were amazingly exciting and were selected as The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year in
2007 and 2008. Their fourth bout should never have happened. Vazquez’s right
eye was still badly damage and the trilogy had taken its toll. Marquez stopped
him the third round of a sad affair.
Active: March 1979-March 1986
Record: 26-2 (17)
Title: WBC super flyweight
Best Performances: Shoji Oguma, Gustavo Ballas, Soon Chun Kone
Japan’s Watanabe won a 15-round unanimous decision over Rafael Pedroza to claim the WBA super-flyweight title in August 1982. He was talented standup boxer with knockout power in both hands. When Watanabe, a converted southpaw, had his opponents in range he unleashed rapid-fire combination with unerring accuracy. His career was relatively brief but impressive nonetheless. He successfully defended the title 11 times in less than four years, and was the first Japanese boxer to defend a title outside of Japan, when stopped Suk-Hwan Yun in South Korea. Watanabe was Japan’s Fighter of the Year, every year from 1982 to 1985. He retired immediately after losing the title to Gilberto Roman by decision in March 1986. He ran afoul of the law later in life, but was close to perfect in the ring.