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On The Cusp: The Call To Canastota

With the likes of Filipino icon and current pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao, Mexican three-weight world champion Juan Manuel Marquez and Floyd Mayweather all being tipped to an automatic call up to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota when they complete their five year eligibility period, other names look automatic certainties into the Hall of Fame, including the ageless Bernard Hopkins.

Another question remains; what are current fighters are on the cusp of being called up to the Hall of Fame?

Name: Evander Holyfield
Divisions fought in: Cruiserweight and Heavyweight.
Current Record: 57 fights. 44 wins (29 knockouts), 10 losses (2 by knockout) 2 draws and one no contest.

The argument for Holyfield’s inclusion of Hall of Fame:

The grand old champion is 49 years old, and still looking to become the Heavyweight Champion of the world for a record sixth time and therefore surpass Bernard Hopkins to become the oldest fighter every to win a recognised part of the World Championship.

Holyfield is in possession of a most impressive record, that being the first man to be recognised as World Champion at both Cruiserweight and Heavyweight. He is the only man in history to have won the title five times during his glittering career and defeated Hall of Fame Cruiserweight champions Dwight Muhammed Qawi and Carlos DeLeon to unify the Cruiserweight title before stepping to the Heavyweight division where he took on all comers at the weight from 1988 to date.

At heavyweight, Holyfield was often the smaller man with the exception of his two fights with Mike Tyson the late 1990's and Chris Byrd in 2002, usually giving away around a stone and a half [21 pounds] to his opponents. However, his excellent footwork, hand speed and punching power would often offset these disadvantages when he was in the ring.

This, combined with his grit and tenacity, always made for thrilling fights in a thrilling decade of boxing during the 1990's, which would strengthen his case for the call to the Hall of Fame in Canasota.

The arguments against Holyfield’s inclusion the Hall of Fame:

Of the 10 defeats on his slate, they include two losses against Riddick Bowe. The first one was a wide unanimous points decision on two of the judge's cards 117-110 and 115-113 on the third judge's scorecard.

The second fight with Bowe saw him being stopped in the rubber match of their thrilling trilogy while ahead by a point each on all three of the judges scorecard prior to the stoppage.

In his first fight with Michael Moorer, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in 1994, Holyfield looked very lacklustre in losing his titles, resulting in Moorer becoming the first southpaw to win the World Heavyweight title, although Holyfield was later found to have suffered a heart condition during the fight.

This defeat was later avenged three years later in Vegas when Holyfield dropped Moorer five times before Moorer was retired at the end of the eighth round,unifying the titles in the process.

It is also important to take into account an apparent decline from 2001 in which he was stopped by the former four weight world champion James Toney, then lost a points decision to Larry Donald, which saw Holyfield's licence withdrawn by New York State Athletic Commission for an apparent decline in his skills.

Prior to this there was also a loss and a draw to tough and rugged American/ Puerto Rican heavyweight John Ruiz and a controversial decision loss to Nikolai Valuev for the WBA title in a fight which many believed Holyfield won.

Although he has no current fight scheduled, it is uncertain whether or not Holyfield has finally given up on his quest to become heavyweight champion of the world .

Should he be called up to the Hall of Fame ?

On his recent record During the last six or seven years, you would have to say no and a run of three back to back defeats against Byrd, Toney and Larry Donald would cement this argument.

However, when you take into account Holyfield's overall record in the 1990's and in the 1980's as a Cruiserweight against the likes of Michael Moorer, James Douglas etc, that could potentially sway the panel to give him the call for Canasota once he finally gives up his quest to regain the Heavyweight world title and he completes his eligibility period...if he does not get tempted to back into the ring whether it be through ambition and/or financial reasons.

Name: David Haye
Divisions fought in: Cruiserweight and Heavyweight
Current Record: 27 fights 25 wins (23 by knockout) and 2 defeats (one by knockout)

The argument for Haye’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame:

Haye is a two-weight world champion at Cruiserweight and Heavyweight, like his ring idol Evander Holyfield, and like Holyfield, Haye succeeded in unifying the Cruiserweight division.

He did this by defeating Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli at the 02 Arena, adding Maccarinelli's WBO title to his WBA and WBC titles which Haye had won through defeating Frenchman Jean-Marc Mormeck in France in seven rounds after being knocked down in the fourth round.

Earlier in his career as a Cruiserweight, Haye also defeated the Italian Giacobbe Fragomeni when he was European Champion at 14stone 4lbs [200 pounds].

Fragomeni would later have a brief win as the WBC champion and also blasted European Champion Alexander Gurov in just one round.

At Heavyweight, Haye stepped up to defeat the biggest Heavyweight Champion in history in the shape of Nikolai Valuev, winning the WBA title on points in Nuremburg, Germany.

Haye followed this up by inflicting only the second stoppage defeat of two time world champion John Ruiz’s career, producing a stoppage in nine rounds.

Again like Holyfield, Haye's future is slightly unclear as it is rumoured that he may fight Vitali Klitchsko should Klitchsko defeat fellow Londoner Derek Chisora in his forthcoming defence of the WBC Heavyweight title as Haye has been in talks with K2 Promotions but nothing seems to fruition yet.

Haye, both at Cruiserweight and at Heavyweight, has displayed lightening quick hands coupled to electrifying knockout power, making him a favourite with fans and the television networks despite some people regarding the Cruiserweight division as the bastard lovechild of the Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight divisions.

The argument against Haye’s inclusion to the Hall of Fame:

Haye’s record at Heavyweight, although a positive one, is not really packed with Hall of Fame material with the likes of Gary Delaney, Tomasz Bonin, Valuev and former amateur team mate Audley Harrison, who Haye defeated in three rounds in what was essentially an utter farce of a Pay-Per-View listed fight at the MEN Arena back in November 2010.

This is also anchored to a very lacklustre performance against Vitali Klitchsko's younger brother Wladimir in their much-anticipated and hyped Heavyweight match up in Hamburg in July 2011, which saw the younger Klitchsko add Haye’s WBA belt to his and Vitali’s collection.

Haye also has a stoppage defeat to a 40 year old Carl Thompson, the former WBO Cruiserweight champion, on his slate in a fight that Haye dominated for four rounds against the much older Thompson before a combination of running out of gas and tactical naivety on his part saw Haye being stopped in five rounds at the Wembley Arena back in September 2004.

Haye failed to avenge this defeat during his career and along with his lack of activity, it makes his body of work look rather thin.

Should Haye be called up to the Hall of Fame?

His record as a Heavyweight would definitely say no as there is no real marquee name on his record, but having unified the Cruiserweight division could make a strong case for him, despite his rate of activity.

Name: Wladimir Klitchsko
Division: Heavyweight
Current Record: 59 fights 56 wins (49 knockouts) 3 defeats (all knockout)

The argument for Wladimir’s inclusion into the Hall of Fame:

Despite the argument of whether the quality of opposition that Wladimir has faced during his long reign as Heavyweight Champion, in comparison to the all time greats such as Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Muhammed Ali et al., there have been very few boxers in the Blue Ribbon division of the sport who have dominated the for as long as Wladimir has done since wining the IBF and IBO titles against Chris Byrd in 2006.

Wladimir avenged a loss against Lamon Brewster, who knocked Klitschko out in five rounds at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in 2004, with a sixth round retirement three years ago before winning his WBO title back against Sultan Ibragimov at the great Basilica of Boxing, Madison Square Garden in 2008.

In terms of athletic ability, physical fitness and boxing brain, very few if any Heavyweights have come close to matching Wladimir as we recognise it today with his 6’6 inch frame.

He has always been in excellent condition, and he uses his punishing left jab to keep opponents at bay, while using his somewhat under rated footwork to dictate the range.

While Wladimir has a knockout percentage that is greater than Mike Tyson and George Foreman, he has never been a bomber in the recent stages in his career. Instead, he prefers to grind his opponents down with his jab and overhand right before knocking them out in the later rounds, comfortably ahead on the cards, displaying his great technical and athletic ability.

The argument against Wladimir’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame:

It can be argued that the quality of opposition that Wladimir has faced during his career is not packed with all time greats, with names like Samuel Peter, Eddie Chambers, Calvin Brock on his slate, but it can be argued that the Heavyweight division is not as strong as it was.

There is little that Wladimir could have done about this, in my opinion. A technical aspect that this writer has often noticed when I have watched Wladimir fight is he seldom, if at all, mixes up by switching to the body to further soften his opponent and it is unlikely at 35 years old that this shall change and it also an aspect that I have noticed with his elder brother Vitali.

He also does not possess a great chin as well, having been knocked 11 times in his career, four times by the South African Southpaw Corrie Sanders, which saw Wladimir lose his WBO title the first time around.

Wladimir has also been dropped three times by Samuel Peter in their first bout, an IBF eliminator, before winning the fight on points and showing that he had the guts to match the skills, plus he was stopped by journeyman Ross Purrity early on his career which saw him loss his unbeaten record.

Plus, there is the defeat to Lamon Brewster, a stain on the record, however Wladimir did succeed in avenging this defeat, battering Brewster into quitting on his stool.

Wladimir's great technical ability does appeal to knowledgeable fight fans around the world but has not always translated well to more casual fight fans and the major American television networks, in the shape of HBO and Showtime, who have at times in his career been reluctant show his fights as he isn't seen as a thrilling entertaining fighter, although they praise his technical ability.

He has also seldom gone to the body in mixing up his attacks on his opponents for fear of exposing his chin. However, he did score effectively to the body when he fought American southpaw Tony Thompson in Hamburg back in 2008, and it is that reluctance to go the body that has seen Wladimir score later knockouts rather than set up much earlier knockouts.

Should Wladimir called up to the Hall of Fame?
While he does not have a glittering CV in comparison to some of the all time greats, he has unified the Heavyweight division, a rare feat in this increasingly fragmented era of boxing.

He has displayed terrific technical ability and boxing brain during his current tenure as World Champion, which could potentially last until he is 40, as he continues to dominate the top division of the sport. And it’s this dominance that should see him called up to Canastota, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will be in his first year of eligibility .

Name: Vitali Klitschko
Division: Heavyweight
Current Record: 45 fights 43 wins (40 by knockout) 2 defeats (2 knockouts)

The argument for Vitali’s call up to the Hall of Fame:

If Wladimir is to be discussed on a call up to Canastota, then it is only fair in this discussion that big brother Vitali has to be considered as well.

Vitali is a two time European Heavyweight Champion, first winning the belt back in 1998 after demolishing Mario Schiesser in just two rounds. He then made two defences of the title before demolishing Britain’s Herbie Hide in just two rounds at the New Den, the home of Millwall Football Club, to win the WBO title although he would later lose his title to Chris Byrd after suffering a shoulder injury. This led to unfair accusations of quitting.

However Vitali successfully rebuilt his career, scoring a victory against former World Cruiserweight Champion Orlin Norris, along with victories against world title challengers in the shape of Vaughn Bean and Larry Donald, scoring late knockouts against both of them, which Evander Holyfield failed to achieve in his career.

Vitali then gained a shot at the World title against Lennox Lewis. Vitali was in shape, as always and Lewis, who looked a little out of shape, would serve up a Heavyweight classic for six rounds, rocking each other in a thrilling brawl.

While neither man was sent to the canvas, it showed that Lewis was an aging champion that was potentially on the slide.

Klitschko showed terrific heart, despite being left needing 60 stitches to repair the grotesque cut that Lewis had inflicted, and gained more respect Stateside following the Lewis fight, which has gone down as modern classic.

Against the conqueror of his brother, big hitting South African Corrie Sanders, Vitali became world champion for the second time after stopping a brave and gallant Sanders in eight rounds. However, it was not an easy fight as the quick-handed Sanders did succeed in rocking Vitali at times, however Vitali succeeded ground his man down with his jab while powerful straight rights were regularly finding the target.

Following this, Vitali took on British champion Danny Williams, scored four knockdowns and showed his superior class against the brave Williams before stopping him in eight rounds.

After a four year absence, Vitali regained his WBC title to become World Champion for the third time, forcing then champion Samuel Peter to quit on his stool after beating Peter from pillar to post for eight rounds. Since then, his body of work has seen him look utterly dominant, stopping former Cruiserweight world champion Juan Carlos Gomez of Cuba in nine rounds, defeating American Heavyweight hopefuls Chris Arreola and Kevin Johnson in extremely dominant fashion.

Following these contests, Vitali then got back his powerful ways, knocking out European Champion Albert Sosnoswski of Poland in 10 rounds before inflicting a terrible beating on former World Champion Shannon Briggs before knocking out former Cuban amateur star Odlanier Solis in one round after Solis suffered a knee injury.

Most recently, Vitali dismantled former Light-Heavyweight and Cruiserweight world champion Tomasz Adamek in 10 rounds, in front of Adamek’s own fans in Poland, to join his brother Wladimir on the pound for pounds list.

Vitali, in comparison to his brother Wladimir, is a fighter who is more willing to take risks in letting his shots go, which he does not waste, and possesses a far stronger chin than Wladimir as he has yet to be knocked down in his professional career to date despite being rocked by Sanders and Lewis.

Vitali possesses slightly quicker hands than his brother and a higher knockout percentage and since his return from injury looks almost impregnable and more dominant than his younger brother Wladimir.

The arguments against Vitali’s call up the Hall of Fame:

Apart from the obvious losses to Byrd and Lewis in his body of work, which could dent his case, the other big thing that you notice when studying Vitali’s record in considerable depth is a four year gap in fights between Danny Williams in 2004 and Samuel Peter in 2008.

This was due to injury problems, which it can be argued that perhaps this took some of the prime years out of him.

Vitali suffers from the same problem that his brother Wladimir in that he has no all time greats on his record, apart from Lewis. Vitali’s Hall of Fame reputation could come under some test against Derek Chisora, the former British and Commonwealth Champion, who looks a real body, whose footwork and quick hands could give an aging Vitali a few problems and could potentially dent Vitali’s dream of joining his brother in the Hall of Fame.

Should Vitali join the Hall of Fame?

The quality of his opposition is not all time great material, but there is nothing neither both he and his brother can do about it except beat whoever goes in with them. This is what Vitali has done in an extremely powerful and dominant manner since his return from injury back in 2008 to richly deserve a top 10 listing on the Ring’s Pound for Pound list.

His knockout percentage puts him above George Foreman Mike Tyson and Rocky Marciano in the all time KO power list, and his powerful dominant manner and his ambassadorial work that he and his brother have been engaged in could help support his case for a Hall of Fame call up.

About Iain Langmaid

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