The Boxing Hall of Fame Class of 2014 featured the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Joe Calzaghe. Although all great fighters in their own right, each one of these fighters left a distinct and lasting impression on the sport and for their countries respectively.
Who was the best fighter out the group? Who had the best career? Who will be favored historically through the pages of time?
On paper, it looks like Oscar De La Hoya had the best career if we look at earnings, impact and accomplishments.
As an amateur, De La Hoya was 234-6 and won an Olympic gold medal. As a professional, he held a record of 39-6 (30 KO’s), defeated 17 world champions and captured 10 world titles across six weight classes.
De La Hoya also faced the who’s who of boxing: Fernando Vargas, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Hector Camacho, Shane Mosley, Jesse James Leija, Genaro Hernandez, Jorge Paez, Ike Quartey, Ricardo Mayorga and Felix Trinidad.
Wow what a list of fighters. The ”Golden Boy” definitely lived up to his namesake, generating $696 million pay-per-view wise and with the assistance of Richard Schaefer, started a successful promotional company that heavily impacts the sport to this very day.
But what fans and critics will also remember is De La Hoya came up short in many of his major fights.
Bouts against Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Bernard Hopkins and fellow contemporary and Hall of Fame inductee, Felix Trinidad.
Trinidad however, will probably be remembered more favorably amongst most fans.
He has a good reputation amongst most fans in boxing, fighting with vivid passion, as he was a power puncher with a devastating left hook like De La Hoya and he was an action fighter. These are traits that endear fighters to most fans.
“Tito” held a professional record of 42-3 (35 KO’s) and turned pro at 17 years of age. He captured five world titles across three different weight classes and holds the distinction of being the longest reigning welterweight titlist, (Six years, eight months, fourteen days).
Trinidad was also an outstanding amateur, the winner of five National Amateur Championship Titles in Puerto Rico, and is regarded as one of Puerto Rico’s greatest fighters.
He also faced the who’s who of boxing: Bernard Hopkins, William Joppy, Pernell Whitaker, Fernando Vargas, Roy Jones Jr., Ricardo Mayorga, David Reid, Oscar De La Hoya, Hector Camacho and Winky Wright.
Tito’s defeats came at the tail end of his career, against foes who were perhaps naturally bigger and more skilled. Guys such as Hopkins, Jones and Wright.
Joe Calzaghe is one of the rare fighters to retire as an undefeated champion. Calzaghe went 46-0 (32 KO’s), unified all of the world titles in the super middleweight division and captured the lineal title in the light heavyweight division.
Calzaghe held the super middleweight titles for over 10 years, had 21 successful title defenses and also boasted a great amateur record, 110-10, while winning three consecutive British ABA titles.
Impressive accomplishments, impressive career, but for Calzaghe, as great as he is, he suffers from the lack of big named and truly elite level fighters on his resume.
The biggest names on his resume, Hopkins and Jones were on the downsides of their careers at the time of their encounters, although Hopkins continues to defy father time and logic with his continued success in boxing.
Calzaghe beat an older Chris Eubank as well.
The next guy up is Jeff Lacy, who may have been a tad overrated. Calzaghe also bested Mikkel Kessler, in which was a solid victory over a tough opponent. Victories over Omar Sheika and Sakio Bika don’t exactly scream “All-time great” opposition, but some of these matters Calzaghe had no control over.
Maybe with the exception of Glen Johnson, it was difficult to persuade fighters to come over and face Calzaghe over in Europe. As a proud champion, Calzaghe did not feel like he needed to come to America to get the larger fights. This was a move, fellow British fighters like Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton and Prince Naseem Hamed did.
So who’s the best out the bunch?
Calzaghe never lost. He showed the ability to make adjustments mid fight and possessed a puzzling style no other opposing fighter was able to solve. He just lacked the consistent high quality opposition Trinidad and De La Hoya faced.
De La Hoya on paper, has all of the accomplishments, along with Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr. has generated the most money and is the most popular fighter out the group. Admittedly, he was one of the main fighters I grew up watching and rooting for.
He suffers from a lack of consistency in major fights and is like Peyton Manning in the playoffs, perhaps somewhat of an unfair criticism. Then with all of his out of the ring issues and scandals, that will damage in legacy inside the ring unfortunately.
Trinidad possessed a charismatic personality that translated in and outside the ring. He is a polarizing figure, and had the ability to connect with viewers; a rare trait indeed.
Especially for the common fan, he is a fighter you can easily identify with. A powerful punching, relentless riot, who systematically broke down his opponents. His only flaw was not having the ability to overcome the technical greatness of a truly skilled boxing tactician. Hopkins exposed this, De La Hoya to a degree did as well, along with Jones Jr. and Wright.
Either way, these were outstanding fighters worthy of their Hall of Fame inductions and no one can take away from what they’ve accomplished.
Who would you pick as the best fighter out the group?