It’s a conundrum and a half for the International Boxing Hall of Fame, isn’t it? Every year, a slew of possible candidates for induction come forward and you have to sift through their qualifications. For some boxers under consideration, the calculus is fairly simple. These are the all-time greats, or the no-doubters, but then there are the fighters for whom closer scrutiny is necessary to decide if they get over the line that allows them to become part of this exclusive club.
Like the Baseball Hall of Fame, I see it as there are three tiers of hall-of-famers.
There is the cream of the crop – the greatest of the great. In baseball, that’s guys like Aaron, Mays, and Mantle. In boxing, that’s Ali, Floyd, and both Sugar Rays. Then there’s the second tier. Athletes that are easy to vote for, but not necessarily the greatest of the greatest. In baseball, that’s Derek Jeter, Nolan Ryan, and Eddie Murray. The second tier in boxing would consist of folks like Larry Holmes, Lennox Lewis, and Miguel Cotto. None of these athletes require much thought, but they are just a little short of Mount Olympus. The thornier category is the third tier. These are the athletes who you have to dive into and decide, if, on balance, they clear the threshold. In baseball, that’s players like Phil Niekro, Bert Blyleven, and Andre Dawson. In boxing, that might be Bobby Chacon, Hector Camacho, and Buddy McGirt. These are all sportsmen who had fine to great careers, but require some rumination before casting a ballot.
Recently, one of my colleagues at NY Fights took on the puzzle that is Danny Garcia and his case for future induction onto the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
I recommend giving fellow scribe Lucas Ketelle’s deep dive into Garcia’s career a look, and how he reached the conclusion that yes, Garcia should be in the HoF, but also acknowledging for a variety of reasons why his “yes” vote comes with mixed feelings.
Garcia is a great test standard for the IBHOF. Garcia has had an excellent career, winning straps in multiple weight classes, being a quality draw at the turnstiles, and accumulating a high-quality number of scalps along the way. In assessing any fighter's credentials, I believe we should consider the following criteria: impact on the sport, championships, attained, who they fought, and most importantly, who they beat.
As I perused the IBHOF’s website to consider the modern fighters who have been found worthy of induction, two thoughts came to mind: The first is, who in the hell is in charge of this puny website? This landing spot on the world wide web looks like something a modestly talented high school student from the late ‘90s could have come up with. To put it mildly, it’s time to spring for an upgrade. More significantly, as I my eyes ran over the names of those who have been honored with induction, my sights set on one inductee in particular: Arturo Gatti.
Let me state clearly, I loved, loved, loved watching Arturo Gatti. He was a courageous, all-action fighter who was willing to take two to deliver one.
That being said, his resume, compared to almost every other fighter on the list of modern inductees, is inferior overall. Sure, Gatti won belts in three weight classes, was a great draw at the gate, fought some of the best in the business (Floyd, Oscar, and Baldomir), but he lost to every single one of them. Not only that, his resume includes losses against Micky Ward, Angel Manfredy, Ivan Robinson (X2), and Alfonso Gomez. All guys that if Gatti were truly great, he should have beat some (if not all) of them. Furthermore, what is Gatti’s best win? Micky Ward? Gabriel Ruelas? Tracy Harris Patterson (X2)? All of these victories are nice wins, but the career of Arturi Gatti is defined largely by how much we loved watching him, and not by how much he accomplished in the ring in terms of quality accomplishments.
And please don’t misunderstand, I adored Arturo Gatti, and my feelings aren’t hurt by his induction. I’m just saying that he sets the floor for that third tier. Look, there are worse things in life than being the least impressive boxer in the IBOF. I don’t mind Gatti being there at all, but if he sets the low end of the standard, how do we deny fighters whose accomplishments best his own?
Take for example Vinny Paz, an incredibly entertaining fighter who won titles in two different weight classes (a third if you count his title wins of the IBC, WBO, and IBO titles at super middleweight), fought such luminaries as Grag Haugen (X3), Roger Mayweather, Hector Camacho, Gilbert Dele, Roberto Duran (X2), and Roy Jones Jr. The Pazman beat Haugen (X2), Dele, and Duran (X2). And of course, there’s the incredible story of him suffering a broken neck due to a horrendous car accident and returning to the ring against all odds to become a top-tier fighter once again. A comeback that was so remarkable that the terrific movie Bleed For This was made to recount the extraordinary story of Paz’s return to the ring. On the basis of these facts, it’s hard to argue that his resume doesn’t eclipse that of Arturo Gatti’s, but, to this day, Vinny sits on the outside looking in.
Now, to come back around to the debate over Danny Garcia’s credential for IBHOF consideration, I have to confess, I’m at a loss to see the argument against his future induction. Garcia has taken two straps in two different weight classes, has been a top draw at the box office, he owns victories over champions with names like Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt, Erik Morales (X2), Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson (yes, I know it was a disputed decision, but a W is a W), Paulie Malinaggi, Robert Guerrero, and Brandon Rios. His only losses are against A-Listers Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter (whose candidacy, based upon the Arturo Gatti threshold, I am reconsidering), and Errol Spence. Sure, not all of the guys he beat are going to end up in the IBHOF, but they are all likely to make the ballot, and his losses are against potential future inductees (especially Spence). In all three of those losses, Garcia was competitive – he in no way embarrassed himself.
But most significantly, if we are to hold Garcia’s career up against the Arturo Gatti bar for induction clearance, how in the hell does he not clear it, and with ease? The only reason to argue against the induction of Danny Garcia into the IBHOF is quite simply because either people haven’t done the math, or they simply don’t like him. And I get that. He, and particularly his father, are not easy to warm up to. While I understand that sentiment, it’s not reason enough to deny the resume, and as I said before, he sails over the Gatti standard with great ease.
And look, I'm not arguing Garcia or Paz belong in tiers one or two of the IBHOF, but I am arguing that they have clearly met the standard of tier three. To argue otherwise is to simply put your feelings before the facts.