The annual International Boxing Hall of Fame opened its doors this past weekend in Canastota, New York, with a star-studded event welcoming nine new entrants into their ‘Class of 2018’.
As is customary, the IBHOF induction featured legends in four categories; ‘Observer’, ‘Non-Participants’, ‘Old-Timer’ and, the jewel in the crown, ‘Modern’.
Posthumous inductions for ring announcers Johnny Addie and Lorraine Chargin – as well as 1920’s lightweight contender Sid Terris – were followed by broadcasters Jim Gray and Steve Albert gaining entrance in the ‘Observer’ category.
Finally, promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl would join Addie and Chargin in the ‘Non-Participant’ category, leaving just the ‘Modern’ category to be announced.
With a stacked 32-man shortlist featuring some of the sport’s marquee fighters of the last thirty years, the ‘Class of 2018’ was one of the most competitive ballots of recent times.
Tallying votes from some of the most influential and well-respected boxing scribes, the IBHOF seeks to whittle down their list to a mere three names. A difficult task when considering iconic names such Meldrick Taylor, Julian Jackson and Buddy McGirt were all vying for a spot in this year’s class.
At this weekend’s glitzy unveiling, the three names inducted received almost universal appreciation from boxing fans.
Over the next week, Boxing Social will take a look at the three ‘2018 International Boxing Hall of Fame’ inductees, starting with a legendary former World heavyweight champion…
Vitali Klitschko – (45-2-0, 41 KO’s)
Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, who ruled the heavyweight division alongside younger brother Wladimir for the best part of a decade, deservedly took his place in the ‘Hall of Fame’ following a stellar career that saw him hold the World heavyweight title on three separate occasions.
After turning professional in November 1996, ‘Dr Ironfist’ racked up twenty four consecutive wins – all by knockout – picking up the European heavyweight title in the process.
His first attempt at World honours would come in June of 1999 against Britain’s former belt-holder Herbie Hide in London.
True to form, Klitschko would exhibit his formidable punching-power in blasting Hide away inside two rounds to capture the WBO heavyweight crown, before going on to make two low-key defences of his title in his adopted homeland of Germany.
However, Klitschko would lose his title in acrimonious circumstances in April of 2000, when he quit on his stool against American underdog Chris Byrd at the end of the ninth round.
Leading on all of the judges scorecards at the time, Klitschko cited a shoulder injury as the reason for his withdrawal and he would become the subject of ridicule by many boxing fans in a severe backlash following the bout.
Undeterred, Klitschko would return to the ring by the end of the year, going the distance for the first time against then-unbeaten Timo Hoffman to regain the European title.
He would then rack up four consecutive stoppage victories – including avenging brother Wladimir’s own TKO loss to Ross Puritty – to put him in position to challenge divisional ruler Lennox Lewis in Los Angeles in June 2003.
Klitschko would put on a breakout performance against Lewis, rocking the champion frequently during a toe-to-toe war between the two men in the opening rounds.
With Klitschko holding a lead on the judges scorecards, he would suffer horrendous facial injuries at the hands of a series of Lewis uppercuts, sporting deep cuts above and below his left eye.
With the titanic battle between the pair reaching boiling point, the bout would be called to a premature end in the sixth round, after the ringside doctor deemed Klitschko’s eye injuries as being too severe to continue – handing Lewis the TKO victory.
After putting on a career-best performance up to that point, the 6ft 7″ challenger became apoplectic at the decision, screaming at officials to let him continue. Lewis would never fight again, and with his retirement, would leave Vitali unable to seek redemption.
Nevertheless, Klitschko would go on to enjoy vast success throughout the remainder of his career.
The questions about his heart and desire – raised in the TKO loss to Byrd four years earlier – were now a distant memory, and Klitschko would become World champion for a second time less than a year after his loss to Lewis. The opponent? Corrie Sanders, the South African power-hitter that knocked out brother Wladimir in his previous bout.
Vitali would once again avenge his younger brother’s loss, stopping Sanders in the eighth round of a thrilling firefight to become a two-time World champion.
A routine defence against Britain’s Danny Williams would follow, with Klitschko knocking the Londoner down four times en route to another eighth round TKO victory.
The win, however, would be his last for almost four years, after a torn anterior cruciate ligament in preparation for a title defence against Hasim Rahman. The injury, coupled with his growing political influence in his homeland of Ukraine, saw Klitschko sensationally retire from the sport in November 2005, leaving his WBC title vacant in the process.
After being afford ‘Champion Emeritus’ status by the governing body, Klitschko would exercise his right to challenge for the WBC title in October 2008, returning to face fearsome WBC champion ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ Samuel Peter in Berlin.
Klitschko would pummel Peter into submission in eight, brutally one-sided rounds, forcing him to quit on his stool.
Despite losing some of the athleticism that had featured in his early career, Klitschko had returned to the ring with a heightened sense of ring generalship and – more importantly – still in possession of the same heavy-handedness that had yielded 34 knockouts in 35 wins.
Following the bludgeoning of Peter, Klitschko would go on to defend his WBC strap a further nine times, picking up wins over unbeaten American challengers Chris Arreola and Kevin Johnson, as well as former titlist Shannon ‘The Cannon’ Briggs in October 2010.
Briggs, who later staged a prolonged pursuit of brother Wladimir, would be beaten so badly at the hands of the elder Klitschko that he ended up in intensive care for a week following the bout.
A bizarre first-round knockout of former Cuban amateur standout Odlanier Solis would follow, with Solis injuring a knee in the first round of their match-up in Cologne.
Klitschko would go on to defeat former light heavyweight champion Tomasz Adamek in ten rounds, before decisioning teak-tough British contender Dereck Chisora in February 2012 in Munich.
The Chisora fight would gain further notoriety for a post-fight press conference brawl between the Finchley man and former Wladimir-foe David Haye. A match-up with Haye would be mooted for Vitali following the fracas, however, the bout would fail to materialise, with Haye instead fighting Chisora in London in July of that year.
With his political career now in full-flow, Klitschko would admit to finding it difficult to balance both professions and, following a fourth round TKO of then-unbeaten Manuel Charr in September 2012, he would call time on his career for a second time.
Upon his retirement, he would be afforded ‘Eternal Champion’ status by the WBC, a unique position bestowed upon him in recognition of ten successful defences of the title and never having surrendered the belt in the ring.
His entrance into the IBHOF would follow in his first year of eligibility, with Klitschko holding the distinction of being the only heavyweight champion in history to have never been knocked down, as well as coming second only to the great Larry Holmes on the list of longest-reigning WBC World heavyweight champions.
While ruling over an admittedly weak era in heavyweight boxing, Klitschko leaves behind a formidable legacy; boasting one of the greatest chins in boxing history and scary knockout power.
Now holding office as Mayor of Kyiv, there have been several rumours of a potential return to the ring for Vitali in recent years.
However, now 46-years-old, Klitschko has poured cold water on such rumours, stating his intent to continue in office in Ukraine in order to improve long-standing political tensions throughout the country.