Dan Rafael: Prince Naseem Hamed

How I voted on 2014 HOF class

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
1:47
PM ET
The International Boxing Hall of Fame class of 2014 was announced Wednesday, with the 25th annual induction ceremony set for June 8 at the Canastota, N.Y., shrine.

Inductees were voted on in five categories: modern, old-timer, pioneer, nonparticipant and observer. As a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, I vote in the "modern" category (for fighters whose last bout came no earlier than 1943). I am here to unveil my ballot, which I cast shortly after receiving it in early October.

Each year, only three new names are added to the 45-man ballot to replace the three elected the previous year, although voters are allowed to vote for up to 10 candidates. (I have my issues with the lack of deserving names added, but that's a gripe for another day.)

This year was an exceptionally easy ballot to vote on. I voted for four candidates, including all three newcomers -- Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Joe Calzaghe -- and one holdover -- Prince Naseem Hamed -- whom for years I have steadfastly been voting for and making the case to anyone who will listen that he deserves to be in the HOF.

Voting for the three newcomers was a no-brainer.

De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and 10 professional world titles in a then-record six weight divisions during his career from 1992 to 2008. For most of that stretch, he was the face of boxing. He was exciting, one of the pound-for-pound best and easily boxing's biggest star.

He didn't win all of his big fights -- including getting ripped off against Trinidad when they met as undefeated welterweight champions in 1999 (in a pay-per-view that, at the time, set the record for a non-heavyweight fight at 1.4 million buys) -- but "The Golden Boy" from East Los Angeles accomplished a lot.

De La Hoya won world titles at 130, 135, 140, 147, 154 and 160 pounds and faced a who's who, including Hall of Famers Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. (twice), Pernell Whitaker and Arturo Gatti, all of whom he beat. He also defeated Ike Quartey, Fernando Vargas, Javier Castillejo, Ricardo Mayorga, Felix Sturm, Hector Camacho Sr., Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Genaro Hernandez, James Leija, Rafael Ruelas and John Molina.

And when De La Hoya lost, it was only to the best: Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr. (in the best-selling fight in history, nearly 2.5 million PPVs), Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley (whom he was robbed against in their rematch).

Even if you think Trinidad (42-3, 35 KOs) got a gift against De La Hoya, he's still a slam-dunk HOFer and one of the best in Puerto Rican history. He won five world titles in three divisions (welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight) and thrilled fans with electrifying punching power throughout his 1990 to 2008 career, which included two retirements before he walked away for good following a decision loss to Roy Jones Jr. in a meeting of two superstars well past their prime.

Trinidad was just 20 when he pulverized Maurice Blocker to win a welterweight title in 1993 and made 15 defenses before moving up in weight after the De La Hoya fight. "Tito" also beat Whitaker, Vargas (in an epic 2000 junior middleweight unification fight), Camacho, David Reid, William Joppy and Mayorga.

His three losses came in his final five fights, to Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight title in 2001 and decisions to Winky Wright (2005) and Jones at 170 pounds.

Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs) is the best fighter to come out of Wales and is the rare fighter to retire undefeated after a career from 1993 to 2008 in which he unified super middleweight titles and won the lineal light heavyweight championship.

He won a vacant super middleweight title against British great Chris Eubank in 1997 and defended it 21 times, including unifying titles against Jeff Lacy in 2006 and Mikkel Kessler in 2007 in one of the biggest 168-pound fights in history.

Then Calzaghe came to the United States and outpointed Hopkins to win the lineal light heavyweight championship and defended it once, easily outpointing Jones and then retiring despite big money offers for other bouts.

I think the case for England's Hamed (36-1, 31 KOs) to be voted in is an easy one also. I explained my reasoning on a 2011 column in which I wrote this:

He was flashy and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with his outlandish trash talk and arrogant attitude.

Sometimes I think people let that get in the way of the fact that, yes, he could fight, even if his technique was flawed and relied too much on his massive one-punch power. He also only fought for only 10 years (1992 to 2002) and lost his biggest fight, a clear decision in a showdown with future Hall of Famer Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001, after which he only fought once more. I also dock him points for blatantly ducking Juan Manuel Marquez.

However, a fighter must be judged on whom he did fight and Hamed fought everyone else. When he was active, he brought excitement like nobody else and should be respected for many accomplishments.

Not only did Hamed have massive power and a strong resume, he gets points from me for changing the economics of the smaller divisions. Before Hamed, featherweights -- and fighters even smaller -- making seven-figure purses was almost unheard of. After the Hamed era, it became the norm for the smaller superstars.

Hamed was, for years, considered the best featherweight in the world, ranked on the pound-for-pound list and, in an era of watered down titles and four major belts, should have held all four simultaneously but for boxing's politics, which actively work against that. He defeated alphabet titleholders Steve Robinson (TKO8), Tom Johnson (TKO8) and Cesar Soto (W12) to claim belts. He also beat Wilfredo Vazquez (TKO7), who had been stripped of his version of the title for facing Hamed.

Other notable names Hamed beat: Kevin Kelley (their 1997 fight was one of the most exciting fights of the decade), Wayne McCullough, Paul Ingle, Vuyani Bungu and Manuel Medina. Overall, Hamed defended his WBO version of the title 15 times and held the lineal 126-pound championship for three years, all while bringing extraordinary excitement and showmanship to a small weight class that had never seen the infusion of money it enjoyed during Hamed's heyday.

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