The All-New Boxing Hall of Shame

14.03.07 - By Mark Law: I’m not a big fan of award shows but I’m always interested to see who gets elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame every year. Generally, I agree with the chosen inductees, though there have been some borderline cases. This year, I was real pleased to see that Pernell Whitaker and Roberto Duran will be enshrined, as there is no disputing the fantastic accomplishments of these two legends.

But what was Jose Sulaiman’s name doing on the list of inductees? Was this a misprint? Or a joke? Who the hell nominated him??? It’s sad that this guy, who unbelievably has referred to himself as the “humble servant of boxing” (did he manage to say that with a straight face?), will receive a plaque in Canastota. No representative of any of the alphabet groups should be honoured in such a way, from my perspective.

But this got me thinking; shouldn’t the Hall of Fame have an opposite? After all, there’s a heaven and a hell to counterbalance each other. And with the Oscars, the movie world has an antidote in the Razzies. So what about a Boxing Hall of Shame? If boxing fans started one, here’s a selection of first-time nominees for the dishonourable induction ceremony:

The Alphabet Groups (all of them)

This is an obvious choice. All the boxing fans I know despise them, and either laugh or shake their heads in dismay at their shenanigans. What they have done to boxing is woeful: way too many titles, too many weight divisions, reluctance to unify, unfathomable ratings, whimsical title strippings, pointless mandatories, and on and on and on. There are so many belt-holders out there now that it’s impossible to keep track of who’s defending what. Who knows or even cares?

Do we really need weight divisions such as mini-flyweight (or strawweight or whatever appellation each alphabet group prefers)? In some instances, a mere 3 lbs separates a weight division! Ever heard the one about the flyweight who walks into McDonalds, takes in a cheeseburger and fries and walks out a junior bantamweight? Or the junior flyweight, following a bowel movement, suddenly becomes a strawweight? If all these weight divisions are necessary, by that rationale, there should be a weight division between super middleweight and light heavyweight, and another one between junior middleweight and middleweight! Of course, with more weight divisions come more titles and therefore, more sanctioning fees. Money overrules the good of the sport.

Then we have the groan-inducing mandatory defences that boxing fans have to endure, the most recent of which was Wladimir Klitschko against Ray Austin, which, let’s face it, was a meaningless match-up. Was it a contest anyone was screaming for? No. And who benefited from this? Certainly not the heavyweight division, which didn’t advance because of it. And if the division wants to move forward and gain some respect along with crossover media attention, then Klitschko should be facing Shannon Briggs, or Oleg Maskaev, or Samuel Peter. It’s the fault of the alphabet groups for forcing needless defences on their title-holders and it will continue unless somebody does something about it.

There is actually a faction who can stop the rot: the boxers themselves. Let’s say, for example, Joe Ordinary is stripped of the IBF welterweight title for admitting that his favourite colour is blue (or some other contrived reason that suits the suits), and Eddie No-Hoper and Johnny Journeyman are nominated to fight for the vacant title. What if Eddie and Johnny decline, exclaiming “We don’t wanna fight for your senseless belt and hand over a pile of our hard-earned cash in sanctioning fees! But we’ll fight each other anyway on our own terms to prove who’s the best!” If all boxers did this then the alphabets groups could be dropped quicker than a prostitute’s panties.

It’s quite astonishing that the WBC, WBA etc. are still in existence and that the chaos and confusion they generate continues with no end in sight. Why do we tolerate it when it’s the sport and the fans that suffer? The court cases that the WBC and the IBF have experienced in recent times highlighted their true colors, so why would anyone want anything to do with them? They should be prime nominees for a Hall of Shame.

Jose J Guerra

This boxing judge gets a nomination for what I personally consider a ludicrous score he produced in the Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard superfight of April 6th 1987. He scored 118-110 for Leonard, which equates to 10-2 in rounds. I’ve watched this fight numerous times and I’m convinced Hagler won. I can’t give Leonard any more than five rounds.

However, even though I favour Hagler, I do acknowledge that Leonard performed better than expected and that the fight was close. No matter what Leonard says, there will always be an air of controversy attached to his “victory” over the Marvelous One. In a way, this is the type of fight that no one can win, because even if the decision had gone to Hagler it would still be controversial because some fans and journalists would claim that Leonard was robbed. In a close fight, opinions will always be divided. That’s why we continue to grumble about the verdicts in Muhammad Ali-Jimmy Young and Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez. Even the dubious decision in Mickey Walker-Tiger Flowers has never been laid to rest, and that was in 1926!

The gripe here is that Guerra’s result is so lopsided. Maybe he was distracted by the round card girls. Actually, mentioning round card girls, I’ve sometimes wondered how boxers manage to concentrate on what their trainer is telling them between rounds when there is a scantily-clad babe strolling by. And why do the cameramen pan away from these babes? Anyway, Guerra’s figures are more appropriate for, say, Evander Holyfield-Larry Holmes, but not Hagler-Leonard. Even those who reckoned that Leonard won have to admit that it was a close fight. Therefore, Guerra should be handed a ticket to the Hall of Shame for his off-base scoring.

Hector Camacho

Some boxing fans may wish to nominate the “Macho Man” for not fulfilling his potential, and they may have a case. However, I’d nominate him for the Hall of Shame for his dreadful ring attire. It’s not unusual in this era for a boxer to wear a ridiculous pair of trunks (just consider Luis Collazo’s horrendous fashion sense in his fight with Ricky Hatton last year). And it’s not just trunks that have reached absurd proportions, it’s ring entrances too. Before the first bell even rang, Floyd Mayweather should have had a point deducted for his over-the-top gladiator act prior to his clash with Carlos Baldomir. Another culprit in this department was Naseem Hamed. With all the showbiz fanfare and messing about he went through, it was a wonder he ever made it to the ring on the same night the fight was scheduled. Remember his entrance for his showdown with Marco Antonio Barrera in which he was supported on some sort of bizarre trapeze-like contraption? For cripes sake…gimme strength!

Could you imagine Jack Dempsey or Stanley Ketchel indulging in such antics? Absolutely not. Even Muhammad Ali, the ultimate showman, never sported hideous, garish trunks with tassels and goodness knows what else hanging off them. One of the most admirable things about Mike Tyson was his throwback appearance in the ring. Those all-black trunks and the no-robe-no-socks look was oh-so cool. Evander Holyfield always managed to look classy and dignified without having to resemble Robert Redford in “The Electric Horseman”.

Though there have been many boxers who adopt clownish apparel (Jorge Paez is another that springs to mind), Camacho may have been the instigator. Maybe I’m being old fashioned or a fuddy duddy, but I don’t care. This is boxing. It’s not a circus and it’s not wrestling. So Camacho should be sent to the Hall of Shame on health grounds i.e. hurting audience’s eyes.

There’s plenty of scope for a good, fun debate over who you’d nominate to be sent to the hall. How about John Horne, one-time co-manager of Mike Tyson, for his nauseating comments after the Holyfield-Tyson rematch, when he pathetically attempted to justify Tyson’s appalling actions? The next time you and your buddies gather to see a big fight on a Saturday night, you could compile a list while kicking back with a Budweiser and pizza. Maybe you agree or disagree with me, but one thing’s for sure, we know which hall Jose Sulaiman should be sent to.

Footnote Question

Back in the mid-to-late 1980’s, “The Ring” magazine’s senior writer was Joseph D’O’Brian. When the magazine changed ownership in 1989, D’O’Brian vanished. Anyone know what happened to him or what he’s doing now? Any info is appreciated.

Article posted on 14.03.2007

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