The International Boxing Hall of Fame will welcome 13 new members to Canastota, N.Y., next June, with familiar names like Tommy Hearns, Cocoa Kid and Mark Johnson, trainer Freddie Roach, broadcaster Al Bernstein and longtime journalist Michael Katz leading the class. The inductees were announced on Tuesday.
As a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, I voted for fighters in the modern-era category. Here is what my ballot looked like:
Tommy Hearns: Easily the biggest no-brainer on the ballot, Hearns would have been inducted years ago had he not come out of retirement in 2005 to fight two more times. Hearns (61-5-1) was a big, powerful puncher who won titles in four weight classes. Along with Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler — the Four Kings of the 1980’s — Hearns waged some epic wars, most notably a 14th-round knockout loss to Leonard in 1981 and a third-round knockout defeat to Hagler.
Cocoa Kid: His record (176-56-10, according to boxrec.com) and background are hazy, but Cocoa Kid’s talent was undoubtable. Tall (5-foot-10) and rangy, Kid began his professional career fighting in the 130’s and moved all the way up to the mid 150’s before calling it quits. Though he never won a meaningful world title, Kid (born Louis Hardwick) fought some of the greats of his era, including Archie Moore and Charley Burley and once reportedly knocked Sugar Ray Robinson down in a sparring session.
Wilfredo Vazquez: A three-division champion — not to mention one of the greatest Puerto Rican fighters of all time — Vazquez shined when the spotlight was brightest: in 21 career title fights, Vazquez was 16-3-2. He was never afraid to fight in someone’s backyard and was dubbed El Viajero (“The Traveler”) for his willingness to fight outside Puerto Rico. In 1996. he scored a stunning victory over featherweight champion Eloy Rojas, when he rallied to drop Rojas twice in the 12th round to win by TKO.
Ken Overlin: Overlin was a warrior. According to boxrec.com, Overlin fought 163 fights as a professional, winning 135 of them. And that was with the two-year break Overlin took to serve his country in World War II. The names Overlin beat in his day aren’t household today, but his wars with Ezzard Charles and Al Hostak were big news in the ’40s. Overlin never shied away from a fight and his resume is littered with Hall of Fame-caliber fighters.
Pone Kingpetch: Great name, huh? Kingpetch was born Mana Seadoagbob but adopted Pone (which signifies the flight of an eagle) and Kingpetch (derived from a camp where he trained in his native Thailand). Kingpetch was a pioneer, the first great champion to come out of Thailand and one of the very first to emerge from Asia. Light handed, Kingpetch was a stylist whose best attributes were his jab, footwork and agility. Kingpetch was an inspiration to Thai fighters — there is a statue in his honor in his hometown — and a true legend in his time.
– Chris Mannix