- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, two of the most decorated and popular champions of their era -- and rivals in one of the biggest fights in modern boxing history -- will be together again.
But instead of being in a ring, they'll be on stage together, as both were elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility in balloting results announced Wednesday.
Joining them in the modern category of inductees (voted on by the Boxing Writers Association of America and a panel of boxing historians) is the other superstar fighter on the ballot for the first time, former super middleweight world champion Joe Calzaghe, who retired undefeated and is widely considered the best fighter to come out of Wales.
They will be enshrined June 8 during the 25th annual inductions ceremony at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. Also elected were British promoter Barry Hearn and referee Richard Steele in the nonparticipant category, journalist Graham Houston and photographer Neil Leifer in the observer category, George Chaney, Charles Ledoux and Mike O'Dowd in the old-timers category and Tom Allen in the pioneer category.
De La Hoya -- "The Golden Boy" from East Los Angeles -- won a 1992 Olympic gold medal before rocketing to professional stardom that resulted in his winning 10 world titles in a then-record six weight divisions (junior lightweight to middleweight) while becoming the face of boxing and a pay-per-view mega star during his 1992 to 2008 career.
"I am honored and appreciative to be chosen for the International Boxing Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 and I thank everyone who has been a part of this journey with me," said De La Hoya, who has struggled with substance abuse issues during retirement but also founded Golden Boy Promotions, one of the leading promotional companies in the world.
"This is the dream of everyone who puts on a pair of gloves and steps between the ropes, and through the good and the bad, you always hope that when all is said and done, you put on good fights, entertained the fans and will be remembered for what you did in the ring. To know that I will be in the Hall of Fame with the greats of this sport is humbling, but it's also put a smile on my face that isn't coming off anytime soon."
De La Hoya, whose titles came at 130, 135, 140, 147, 154 and 160 pounds, faced a who's who of top opponents, including beating Hall of Famers Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. (twice), Pernell Whitaker and Arturo Gatti. He also faced the likes of Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Ike Quartey, Shane Mosley (twice), Fernando Vargas, Hector Camacho Sr. and Genaro Hernandez.
De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs), a Mexican-American, was a heavyweight when it came to selling pay-per-view as fans of all kinds, including women and a passionate Hispanic fan base, flocked to his fights. His 2007 junior middleweight championship fight against Mayweather set numerous revenue records, including selling nearly 2.5 million pay-per-view subscriptions, still the all-time high.
De La Hoya and Trinidad were undefeated champions in their prime when they met in a 1999 welterweight unification fight in Las Vegas that resulted in a highly controversial majority decision win for Trinidad and 1.4 million pay-per-view buys, a record at the time for the biggest selling non-heavyweight pay-per-view fight.
Trinidad (42-3, 35 KOs) is arguably the most popular fighter in Puerto Rico history. He won five world titles in three weight classes -- welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight -- and thrilled fans with his electrifying punching power throughout his 1990 to 2008 career, which included two retirements before he walked away for good after a decision loss to Roy Jones Jr. in a meeting of two superstars past their prime.
Besides Jones and De La Hoya, Trinidad also faced such stars as Hopkins, Vargas, Whitaker, Camacho and Winky Wright. At one point, Trinidad defeated three U.S. Olympic gold-medal winners in a four-fight span, Whitaker, De La Hoya and David Reid.
"This is tremendous news. I've spent many years in boxing, and I am very happy," Trinidad said. "This is a great honor for me, my father [and trainer, Felix Trinidad Sr.], my family and my whole team. I'm extremely happy to be inducted with all the Puerto Rican boxers already in the Hall of Fame. This is the biggest triumph in my career."
Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs) fought from 1993 to 2008, a career in which he unified super middleweight world titles and won the lineal light heavyweight championship. But he is also the rare fighter who retired undefeated.
He won a vacant super middleweight world title by outpointing British great Chris Eubank in 1997 and defended the belt 21 times, including unifying titles by beating Jeff Lacy in 2006 and Mikkel Kessler in 2007 in one of the biggest 168-pound fights in history.
After beating Kessler, Calzaghe came to the U.S. and outpointed Hopkins to win the lineal light heavyweight championship. He made one defense, easily outpointing Jones, but then retired despite big-money offers for other bouts.
"I'm so excited. I'm very proud and humbled," Calzaghe said. "I think it's amazing to be inducted. This is a massive, massive honor, just fantastic. To receive this honor and be up there with all the legends is the ultimate honor for me. I'm so happy right now, and I can't wait to come to Canastota."
Steele, a former amateur boxer, began refereeing in the 1970s and eventually became one of the most prominent ring officials in the world with countless world title assignments, mainly in Las Vegas. He refereed more than 150 world title fights before retiring in 2006.
Although he worked many famous fights -- including Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard-Hagler, Aaron Pryor-Alexis Arguello II, Chavez-Camacho, Mayweather-Diego Corrales and Mike Tyson-Razor Ruddock I -- Steele will always be remembered for his stoppage of the 1990 junior welterweight unification fight between Chavez and Meldrick Taylor. In perhaps the most controversial stoppage in boxing history, Steele stopped the fight with two seconds remaining after Taylor, way ahead on two scorecards, rose from a knockdown in the waning moments of the 12th round, handing Chavez an unlikely comeback victory.
Steele was heavily criticized for the stoppage, which can still start an argument between boxing fans. But he has said for years that he doesn't regret it.
"I appreciate this so much," Steele said of his election. "It really feels like my life has been completed. This means the world to me. It's an honor for me and my family."
Hearn got his start when he co-promoted Frank Bruno's heavyweight showdown with Joe Bugner in 1987. It was the first of more than 600 cards he's promoted since, including fights involving many of the biggest stars from the United Kingdom, including Eubank, Nigel Benn, Lennox Lewis and Prince Naseem Hamed. His Matchroom Sport remains the most significant promoter in the U.K.
"I never dreamed in my wildest dreams I'd receive such an accolade," Hearn said. "My immediate reaction is shock and terrific pride and gratitude for such an honor. In my 30-odd years as a boxing promoter, this is without a doubt one of my proudest moments. To share the company and be in the same conversation with all the legends in the Hall is a real honor for me, and I'm so grateful for it."