Just Short of Hall Honors: Fighters Who Could Have Been Hall Bound (Part I of II)

In celebration of recent International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees Arturo Gatti, Virgil Hill, and Myung-Woo Yuh, I thought it would be kind of interesting to talk about the fighters who at one time in their respected careers were tagged as unanimous hall of fame worthy candidates. There's too many to talk about in one post but I did narrow down the list to a select few in particular who I believe should be in the Hall of Fame if not have strong consideration for induction down the line. I'm not too familiar with the induction process, is it like Major League Baseball or football where guys come up for consideration more than once if they weren't officially voted in the first time they were eligible, I suspect it's the same format.

Riddick Bowe (43-1-1, 33 KOs)

Former Lineal/Undisputed Heavyweight Champion

1988 Silver Medalist (Seoul)

Career: 1989-2008

Notables: Trilogy with Evander Holyfield

Think back, for those of you who are much older than myself, I started watching boxing in the 1990's and I can't think of a more naturally gifted heavyweight than Riddick Bowe. Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis were had better careers than Riddick Bowe, and Lewis beat him in the '88 Summer Games in Korea, but for a moment in time Riddick Bowe was easily the best heavyweight in the world. Sadly, like most gifted individuals who lack discipline and focus, Bowe fell victim to his taste buds and his unwillingness to take his own career serious during the moments which he needed to the most, namely the second Holyfield fight. Though he would beat Evander in the rubber match, Bowe would forever struggle with the lasting damage from their legendary three fight battle.

He fought Polish hot head Andrew Golota in 1996 at Madison Square Garden. The fight, which was at first billed as a tune up bought until Mike Tyson got out of jail, turned into one which the so called "show case opponent" Golota proved troublesome Riddick. But for Golota's mental nuclear meltdown and continuous low blows, Riddick Bowe would have lost that fight. Then the fight went from farcical tantrum fest to all out disgrace as Polish and African American fans turned the Garden into a reenactment of the LA riots. That more than Andrew Golota's strange behavior overshadowed Riddick's performance in the fight.

Bowe and Golota fought again, Golota started fighting dirty, yet again, and the fight was called because Golota was disqualified for continuous low blows. After those two unfortunate meetings with Andrew Golota Bowe was never the same mentally or physically. I watched Legendary Nights which was a special on HBO about certain fights of significance within the sport of boxing, and they talked about how Riddick Bowe's mental and physically conditions dramatically shifted between his first fight with Evander Holyfield and his first fight with Andrew Golota. And in so doing they talked about how everything from his speech to his overall boxing skill had declined in such a way that was quite alarming.

They also talked about Bowe's well documented out of the ring issues with his wife and his odd entry into the Marine Corp where he signed up for the corp then out of the blue he decided he didn't want to join because he didn't know the work was so strenuous and he didn't like the drill sergeants telling him what to do.

He fought his final bout in 2008 winning a unanimous points decision against Gene Pukall in Germany. Since then he's been around doing interviews on Sky Sports and elsewhere. He claimed during an interview on Ringside that it was Lennox Lewis who didn't want to fight him and not the other way around. Be that as it may, Riddick Bowe is one of the more tragic stories in boxing because here was a man who could easily have been the greatest natural talent we've ever seen in an American heavyweight. But so it goes with people who just don't take life serious enough to want to succeed for themselves.

Michael Moorer "Double M" (52-4-1, 40 KOs)

Former Light Heavyweight Champion (WBO) (9 Defenses)

Former Lineal Heavyweight Champion (IBF, WBO, WBA)

Career: 1988-2008

Notables: Defeat to George Foreman in 1994 (Foreman became oldest world heavyweight champion in history at age 45)

Let's see, at 175 pounds he fought less than recognizable opposition even though he did defend his WBO crown nine times. He became the Lineal heavyweight champ after beating Evander Holyfield but really, folks credit having Teddy Atlas in his corner for that win against Holyfield. He lost to Holyfield some years after becoming the historical footnote to George Foreman in 1994 when George knocked him out and became the oldest heavyweight champion in history. He defended the IBF version of the crown twice before losing to Evander Holyfield in 1997.

You know perhaps if he decided to make a longer run in the 175 pound division, fight some of the bigger names he could have built a more impressive record. The loss to Foreman really hurts him because he's now and will forever be known as the guy who was knocked out by a 45 year old George Foreman who came back and beat him after a nearly twenty year retirement from the sport.

And if that doesn't keep him out then perhaps his battle with the media will. Michael Moorer had the personality where you liked him because he was a good boxer, not because he was a good person. You sort of ignored his obvious let's say jerk nature because he was a good champion. But the media hated him and he hated the media which made it easier for them to root for George Foreman in 1994.

Vernon Forrest: (41-3-1, 29 KOs)

Former World Welterweight Champion (IBF, WBC, The Ring)

Former 2X Light Middleweight Champion (WBC)

Ring and BWAA Fighter of the Year (2002)

1991 Silver Medalist (Sydney)

1992 US Junior Welterweight Champion

Career: 1995-2008

Notables: Back to back wins over Shane Mosley

Amateur Record of 225-16

Vernon Forrest had it all: He was 6'1, he had range, he had the defensive skill, he could be aggressive, he could box, he could counter punch, he had punching power, he was long, he had ring intelligence, and he had the amateur background. Unfortunately he couldn't squash the injury bug throughout his vastly and really criminally underrated career both as an amateur and a professional. It's hard to believe that at 6'1 Forrest fought as a junior-welterweight and lost to Kostya Tszyu in the finals at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in 1991. He had 225 wins and only 16 defeats as an amateur which is nothing to sneeze at because 225 fights and you only lost 16; that's highly impressive in my book.

As a pro Forrest was on and he was off. He had the potential to be one of the greatest welterweights in his era, and he certainly made strides toward that mark when he beat Shane Mosley in 2002. People say well it's Shane Mosley he's overrated, which I mean he is but look, I say like this: Who, you always want to ask who did such and such first? Before Winky Wright, Mayweather, Pacquiao, Canelo, who was the first to really dominate Shane to the point where it made Shane look less than what he was at the time? It was Vernon Forrest. They did fight in a very garbage rematch and Vernon won that fight as well.

But he had his off moments like losing to Ricardo Mayorga twice and losing to a fighter no credible champion should ever lose to: Sergio Mora. If there's one thing you should know in boxing it's this: You never lose to Sergio Mora because Sergio Mora is not good in any definition of the word. Like, Sergio Mora is just straight up and down garbage as a fighter. I know he won the first season of the Contender and yes he has some skill or else he wouldn't have been able to win. But you know the lack of power and the at times egregious running and stinking out fights, the guy is horrid in the ring.

Vernon did return the favor against Mora winning his WBC 154 pound title back but you know tragically he was shot and killed just a year later in 2009. It's a shame on all fronts but you know Vernon had real talent and with those back injuries just couldn't quite keep the flame lit long enough. Easily one of the top ten most underrated fighters of the last 25 years.

Fernando Vargas: (26-5-0, 22 KOs)

Former IBF Light Middleweight Champion

Youngest Light Middleweight Champion (Before Canelo Alvarez at 21 won the WBC Light Middleweight Title in 2011)

Former WBA Light Middleweight Champion

1995 Bronze Medalist (Martel De Plata)

Notables: Defeat to Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad

Career: 1997-2007

I know Vargas' name came up during this year's Hall of Fame voting. Um, Vargas was a solid champion but most people feel first off in the big career defining fights against Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya he fell well short of the mark, accurately stated. And second many feel Fernando might have peaked a bit early than he should have. Overall his career is nothing to be ashamed of I mean he was a popular fighter who was involved in big fights and he brought something to the sport, perhaps not on as large a scale as his rivals Oscar De La Hoya and Tito Trinidad but Fernando had a solid career.

In boxing the fights most important to your career are the ones that define your career. It's not how many guys you beat necessarily, but how many of those career making moments you had in which you came out on top.

Part one is in the books I'd like to hear you guys' take on the matter. Is there a name I left off the list or whether you think the guys I talked about are hall of fame worthy or not.

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