by Sean Crose
The votes have been tallied and former heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe, along with former lightweight champ Ray Mancini and former featherweight champ Naseem Hamed, are Hall of Fame bound.
All three men are certainly well known in the fight world – and even beyond – and will be inducted in Canastota, New York on June 14th of next year.
Bowe was an extremely talented big man in his day, winning two out of three classic battles with the legendary Evander Holyfield, including the infamous “Fan Man” bout, where one James Miller tried paragliding into the ring. Bowe also collected a very impressive record of 43-1 – no small feat.
Mancini was a hugely popular television attraction during the first half of the 1980s, fighting hard and aggressive in numerous bouts. He kayoed Arturo Frias in classic style during the first round of their matchup and sadly led Duk Koo Kim to an early grave as the result of a fourteenth-round knockout.
Hamed was not only one of the more colorful figures in boxing during his time in the ring. He was one of the most colorful athletes on earth, period. His ring entrances were pure showbiz. His ring dominance, however, was equally captivating. The man absolutely ruled boxing’s lighter weights for a good long time.
What’s interesting about this year’s selections, however, is the fact that each of the three men failed to live up to expectations at some point or other during the course of their respective careers.
Bowe, for instance, never did meet his contemporaries Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis. He also looked terrible against the dirty but powerful Andrew Golota.
Mancini was a potential candidate for enormous matches with Hector Camacho, and junior welterweight Aaron Pryor when he was stopped by Livingstone Bramble in 1984. He went on to face Bramble (again) and Camacho (belatedly), but the man’s best years were behind him and he lost both of those fights by close (and perhaps controversial) decisions.
Hamed was truly like a jet fighter racing through the sky during his heyday, but his great run ended abruptly when he faced Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001. Barrera dominated the fight, won the decision and completely took the steam out of the Englishman’s engine.
Hamed would fight just once more afterwards.
Still, credit has to be given where credit is due. And all three guys deserve a lot of credit.
Bowe, after all, beat Holyfield twice: and he did it while “The Real Deal” was in his prime. That’s something Tyson and Lewis could never say.
And Mancini? He got over a grueling loss to the truly great Alexis Arguello to win nine straight bouts, eight by knockout, against the likes of Frias and Bobby Chacon, no less. Also, the Kim fight was an absolute war, a fact rightfully overlooked by the bout’s tragic consequences.
Hamed? The guy went thirty-five fights without a single defeat. Oh, and he won thirty one of them by knockout. What’s more, he was the WBA, IBF, WBO AND lineal featherweight champ. How’s that for dominance?
While it’s true that this year’s HOF picks are somewhat controversial, it’s also true that each man possessed huge amounts of both heart and talent in the ring. What’s more, these athletes made boxing exciting.
Who can think back to televised boxing in the ’80s without recalling Mancini? Who could possibly imagine the heavyweight division during what was arguably one of its greatest eras, the ’90s, without remembering Bowe? And who could ever forget a Hamed bout, from the ring entrance to the fight itself?
Their greatness can be argued, but it’s undeniable that each of these three fighters had the goods to sit atop boxing’s mountain.
And that’s saying something.
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