Boxing’s Hall of Fame Should Uphold Stricter Standards Regarding Fighter Resume & Steroid Usage
In the modern era of widespread grade inflation, maintaining stringent standards becomes more important than ever. Whether it be handing out too many military medals or too many A’s at America’s (supposedly) top universities, accomplishments just don’t seem to mean as much as they used to. Standards slide, categories proliferate, and everyone has to go home satisfied.
It is against that backdrop that I applauded the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s refusal to induct any living player this year. Among others, PED-abusers Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were turned down. In so doing, at least one major body in professional baseball is drawing a line in the sand and declaring that cheaters won’t prosper, if for no other reason than their cheating calls their inflated accomplishments into question.
This isn’t even the first time the Baseball Writers Association of America (who elect members to the Hall of Fame) hasn’t found anyone worth of induction during a given year. It’s the eigth time. That “we have high standards, we demand consistency, and we won’t compromise” attitude is refreshing in today’s world, as well as modern sports, and it’s something I’ve found so lacking in boxing.
The first thing that came to mind when I heard that baseball wouldn’t induct anyone (or anyone living, that is) into the Hall of Fame was “Arturo Gatti.” The Boxing Writers Association showed a dearth of standards and consistency there. The arguments continue to fly back and forth over whether Gatti was worthy of induction, but ultimately I don’t think being a fan favorite who was tragically murdered should be enough to merit entry into pugilism’s Valhalla.
Gatti is best known for his trilogy with Micky Ward, and as exciting as that three-parter was, Ward was never better than straddling the line between top journeyman and fringe contender. Gatti was a good fighter, but not a great one, and if greatness isn’t a minimum for induction into the Hall of Fame, then why have one in the first place?
The same lack of reverence for boxing’s standards and legacy shows with the Pacfans, who rabidly attack as racist the notion that Pacquiao’s status as an eight-division champion might somehow be inflated when the number of weight classes has grown from 8 to 17, and the number of major world titles from just one to four.
Or at least they did back when Pacquiao looked like an unstoppable knockout machine. Since Pacman was kayoed by Juan Manuel Marquez, the Pacfans have become so quiet one wonders if they haven’t lost interest.
This brings me back to boxing and the Hall of Fame. If they inducted Arturo Gatti, a good fighter but not a great one, what are they going to do when it’s Shane Mosley’s turn? Let us not forget that Mosley has admitted to “unknowingly” using PEDs in the past.
Will the Boxing Writers Association give him a pass? Probably. What if it turns out down the road that Floyd Mayweather was right all along, and Manny Pacquiao really is the Lance Armstrong of boxing? Will the Boxing Writers Association give him a pass too? Probably.
The current consensus in sports is that greatness doesn’t come from a bottle, finding it there is cheating, and cheating disqualifies the cheater from true greatness. If a Hall of Fame does not exist to enshrine and preserve the standard of greatness in a given sport, it serves no purpose whatsoever. In its 2012 inductions, baseball got it right. Boxing yet again got it wrong.