Hall Call: Forecasting Tomorrow's Inductions Today
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
It's as predictable as sunburn in July, Christmas in December and disappointment for Jets in January.
In other words, when it comes to me and the International Boxing Hall of Fame, bad things happen.
Most of the dissension over the past few years has resulted from my insistent -- and many would say misguided -- viewpoint that the unbeaten resume compiled by Sven Ottke during his unbeaten championship years at super middleweight is indeed Canastota worthy.
But I don't take it personally.
I'm right. They're wrong. No irreparable harm done.
And none of the rigmarole has swayed me from trying it once again...albeit in a different form.
Rather than breaking down the 2011 ballot and plucking the 10 or so names that warrant even moderately intense scrutiny for enshrinement next summer, I've decided instead to dust off the crystal ball and make the calls a few years -- or decades -- in advance.
A few of the picks are no-brainers, which leaves me eminently qualified, but I've also attempted to up the ante with a call or two on guys nowhere near the prominence of a Mayweather or Pacquiao.
Perhaps when the time comes in 2030, I'll be viewed as a prescient genius.
Or perhaps the piece will be the one thing the never-weres will cling to when insisting to disbelieving grandkids, "No really, I was a professional boxer."
Either way...here goes.
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO -- A champion of one alphabet or another for all but three of the past 12 years, the multi-dimensional Ukrainian is perennially undervalued by a jingoistic U.S. fan base. But his dominance of the division since stopping Chris Byrd in 2006 is worthy of comparison to any marquee division title claimant since the fading of Larry Holmes. Don't hate the opposition, folks. Love the way in which a great fighter makes a good one look silly.
ANTONIO TARVER -- OK, this one's a little tougher for me because it's Tarver -- never one of my favorites -- as opposed to Klitschko, whom I've always liked and admired. Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that as a 42- year-old past elite, the "Magic Man" woke up the echoes for a dominant stoppage of Danny Green to become a top dog in a second weight class. Defend 10 or more times in one class or win a legitimate belt in two, and, in my eyes at least, you're as good as in.
ISMAYL SILLAKH -- Call it a wild guess, a shot in the dark or a premature tilt at a windmill, but there's something about the 26-year-old Ukrainian-turned- Californian that's got me seeing stars. Yes, I know he's never been within 100 yards of a title fight and the biggest name on his resume might be Daniel Judah, but something about the way the kid called out Hopkins after blasting Judah in two rounds makes me think he's got more up his sleeve than perhaps even he knows.
ANDRE WARD -- He's not lost since his days as an amateur and it's my guess it'll be a while before he does again. And once he finishes off the Showtime tournament against Carl Froch and ultimately unifies the 168-pounders with a win over Lucien Bute, even the critics who see him third-best in that trio will rush to change their minds. From there, a light heavyweight belt would make the perfect dessert to an already impressive main course.
MIGUEL COTTO -- He's already a three-division champion and on his way to upstate New York whether I endorse it or not, but it's a sign of respect to include the classy Puerto Rican who initially drew my attention when he was buried deep on Bob Arum undercards in the first few fights of his career. I can't remember which stiff he was undressing that night, but I distinctly remember turning to then-colleague Todd Thorpe and saying, "This kid's gonna be great."
MANNY PACQUIAO -- No, there's really no explanation needed, is there? Anyone who's read my stuff knows how I picked the De La Hoya fight, but since then I'm happy to say I've gotten each one right as the Filipino has completed the climb to the sport's penthouse suite. And while I'm more than a little nauseous each time I hear him croak out Dan Hill lyrics on that constantly played tablet computer commercial, it's hard to argue he's the best in the business... at least until Sept. 17.
FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR. -- Yes, I know he's a jerk. Yes, I know he's spent much of the last 12 months making the police news while not making the only fight that matters. But I also know he's dominated belt-worthy competition -- Corrales, Gatti, Baldomir, Hatton, De La Hoya, Judah, Marquez, Mosley -- in a way that few have matched. And when the time comes to meet Manny... and yes, I believe it'll happen in 2012... a slew of folks are going to need a slew of new reasons not to call him No. 1.
AMIR KHAN -- Whether you can define "it" or just know it when you see it, this kid is it. Forget the weight-drained loss to Prescott in much the manner than Pacquiao zealots explain away his KO losses to Torrecampo and Singsurat in the 1990s. And instead focus on the way he's scaled the 140-pound mountain and unseated Timothy Bradley, who just six months ago was a party to the biggest unification in the division's recent history. Next stop: ringing the welterweight cash register.
JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ -- He was a junior featherweight. Then he was a featherweight. He was good. Then he was great. He was an increasingly respected champion. And then, just as quickly it seemed, he was on the short end against an 11-loss foe. Not exactly the script Arum & Co. intended, but one that he'll surely get a chance to flip before too much longer. And when he takes the title back from Salido, expect a longer, more fruitful run than would have occurred had he not tasted adversity.
RAY XIMENEZ JR. -- The soothsaying special of the night, dropped squarely on the shoulders of an 18-year-old bantamweight still not legal to drink after a fight. Admittedly, it's a reach. But in winning each and every one of 12 rounds through his initial three maiden-breaking fights, the well-spoken Dallas resident has laid the very early foundation of skills that he'll draw upon while climbing the ladder toward title talk in, let's say, two years. Lay 100 bucks on the future... and thank me with a share later.
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.