To the expectation of just about everyone in boxing, Evander Holyfield was voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this past Tuesday. In case you’re thinking that this already happened when Mike Tyson was seen inducting Holyfield in 2014, that honor was for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, a newer and less recognized organization.
Instead, The International Boxing Hall of Fame is based out of Canastota, NY, and has been established for decades longer. It is also recognized as the more official “Hall of Fame” for the sport of boxing. Each year, inductees are voted in by members of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and a panel of international boxing historians, spanning the globe from South Africa to Japan. For the “Fighters” category, candidates who have been inactive for at least five years are chosen based on their ring accomplishments or their popularity in the sport. Holyfield likely got in on both.
As a 1984 Olympic Bronze medalist, Evander Holyfield gave the public some of the most exciting displays of boxing during his professional career, and certainly raised the overall profile of the sport. He won a major title at cruiserweight in only his 12th professional fight, defeating Dwight Muhammad Qawi in a bout that would never be forgotten. He’d go on to be the first to unify the belts at cruiserweight, move up to become the undisputed heavyweight champion (holding the WBC, WBA and IBF titles simultaneously), and go down in history as the only fighter to regain a legitimate world heavyweight title four different times. He’s probably best remembered for upsetting the then feared Mike Tyson in 1996, then getting portions of his ear bitten off seven months later in a rematch. With a history and résumé like that, there isn’t much more to accomplish in the sport.
"What can you say when you've done what I've done? It do speak for itself. I had a good amateur career, became the first undisputed cruiserweight champ of the world and then undisputed heavyweight champ," Holyfield told ESPN. "I fought them all. I fought everyone who was the best at my time of boxing and did real well. If you're the best you're going to be in the Hall of Fame.
“I fought everybody. I didn't make up excuses on why I shouldn't fight this guy or that guy. I fought everyone I was supposed to. I'm glad I played by the rules and became the champ. I fought and did my very best."
For some, those words come as a relief to seal the storied career of “The Real Deal.” As many boxing fans might remember, Holyfield fought well past his prime, chasing a title shot at one of the then champion Klitschko brothers. The shot never came and the boxing public cringed as they watched the ring warrior get outclassed by mediocre competition, or sloth through fighters that he would have wiped the floor with in his prime. Though he never regained a heavyweight title, he did end his career on a win, and retained most of his physical faculties going into retirement.
Joining him in the 2017 class is Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera, who is probably best known for his back-and-forth trilogy against Erik Morales, and his upset victory over “Prince” Naseem Hamad. He’s also claimed major titles at junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight.
"This is the best news for me," Barrera said. "I'm very happy to hear this news that I have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and I am excited to go to Canastota."
Rounding out this year’s inductee of fighters is the late Johnny Tapia, who won five major world titles spanning three different weight classes despite battling major addiction issues and clinical depression. Also known as “Mi Vida Loca”, Tapia has gone down in boxing as one of the more tortured souls of the sport, so being inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility has brought a certain resolve to his family.
"What he used to say is, it doesn't matter how many times you fall, it's how many times you pick yourself up to be successful," said wife and manager Teresa Tapia.
The three fighters (along with a list of trainers, judges, and journalists) will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota on June 11th of next year.
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