Facing eroding credibility, boxing HOF voting process must be overhauled
The boxing Hall of Fame announced its latest class on Wednesday, and if there is one takeaway from Hector Camacho, Lupe Pintor and Hilario Zapata being inducted next June, it’s this: The Hall of Fame voting process needs a significant overhaul. Members of the Boxing Writers Association of America vote for the nominees in the “Modern” category; full disclosure, I’m one of them. There is no minimum number of votes needed to be elected. It’s not like baseball and hockey, which require 75%. It’s not like the NFL, where each entrant needs a minimum of 80%, or basketball, which needs yay votes from 18 of the 24 members of a committee.
Every year, the boxing Hall of Fame elects three new members, regardless of the qualifications of the class.
If you think that’s a little ridiculous, well, you should.
Why do they do it? It’s not difficult to figure out. The IBHOF is in Canastota, a sleepy town in upstate New York. Induction week is a big deal up there. There’s a parade and events in which fighters, past and present, all participate. It generates revenue and attention for a Hall that lacks the stature of one representing the mainstream sports. If the Hall starts setting minimum thresholds that lead to years in which no fighters are inducted, well, that’s bad for business.
But it needs to set thresholds. Camacho was a fun fighter with a granite chin and a handful of quality wins on his resume, but he shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer. Pintor is a former bantamweight and junior featherweight titleholder with a 5–4 record against world champs and current Hall members. He’s not a Hall of Famer. Zapata is a former junior flyweight and flyweight champion. He’s not a Hall of Famer either.
The IBHOF doesn’t reveal voting results, but if it did, I’d bet a lot of voters would agree with me. I’d bet they would say the same of this year’s class, which was headlined by Riddick Bowe, Ray Mancini and Prince Naseem Hamed. Force-feeding fighters who lack Hall-of-Fame credentials not only waters down the talent, it makes the Hall look ridiculous.
So, too, does limiting the number of inductees to three. Consider this: Next year could be the last year for Manny Pacquiao, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones and Miguel Cotto. Per the current rules, one will not get in. Camacho will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Pacquiao, Hopkins, Jones or Cotto will not.
The voting is only going to get uglier. Name a fighter whose career began this century who is a lock for the Hall of Fame? Cotto? That’s one. Andre Ward? If his career ended today, he’s borderline. Gennady Golovkin, Saul Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev are trending in that direction, but they are not sure things. Today’s fighters are more motivated in protecting a glossy record than facing the toughest challenges. If that doesn’t change—as long as shadowy advisor Al Haymon controls a large chunk of the talent, it won’t—Hall ballots will soon be filled with laughable candidates.
The Hall has a choice: Continue this way, throw a good party each June and watch its credibility erode yearly. Or make the necessary changes that will elevate it into the elite club that it should be.