Barring comebacks (and in boxing, comebacks can never be ruled out), members of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America will be confronted with a loaded ballot come 2022. This year four true stars retired–Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather, Waldimir Klitschko and Andre Ward. All of them have been legitimate world champions, and among the best of their generation.
A lot of us wish Jones would have retired years ago. It’s been over a decade since Jones was an elite fighter. But the sad spectacle of his recent career should not detract from what he accomplished in his prime. To paraphrase his most well-known rap video, boxing fans who remember the 1990s “have not forgot”, and never will. Jones combined uncanny athleticism with a first-rate ring IQ. He was not only able to do things his opponents couldn’t do–he also knew exactly when and where to do them. At his best, he was essentially untouchable. He was the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world for much of the 90s and the early part of this century.
Mayweather has been his heir. If Jones was the top pound-for-pound star for the 1990s through the early years of this century, Mayweather is the best since Jones’ stature diminished. He is the boxing version of Mozart, a true prodigy, born and bred around the sport. I do not remotely view him as the greatest of all time, as his fanboys proclaim. But he does indeed stand alongside Pernell Whitaker as the greatest defensive fighter of my lifetime.
Klitschko and his older brother, Vitali, were the first professional boxing stars to emerge from Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I do not view Klitschko as in the class of Ali, Foreman, Louis, Frazier or Dempsey. But he is definitely somewhere in the top 20 heavyweights of all time. That puts him in elite historical company.
Ward lacks the longevity of the other three fighters, but like Jones and Mayweather, he reached the pinacle of the mythical pound-for-pound rankings. He completely cleaned out the super middleweight division, never even coming close to losing. He moved the heavyweight to face Sergey Kovalev, the most feared fighter on the planet, and beat him twice–the second time by stoppage. He beat Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, Chad Dawson and Sergey Kovalev–five men who ae all likely to join him in the Hall, eventually.
Boxing writers are allowed to vote for only three fighters on each ballot. That means a deserving candidate will go lacking in 2022.