The International Boxing Hall of Fame’s accomplished class of inductees for 2020 includes Bernard Hopkins, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and promoter Dan Goossen, who died in 2014, among others. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ceremonies have been postponed and will be combined with the 2021 Hall of Fame festivities.
What was already a star-studded affair will now be fortified by the possible additions of Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward.
The 2020 class will have to wait a year for its day in the sun, but several inductees shared what the moment means to them. They pinpointed the time they knew they might be HOF-worthy and discussed how they feel about having to wait a year for the official induction.
Your thoughts on this year’s induction ceremony not taking place?
Bernard Hopkins, two-division world champion: Listen, who would ever think that when my day was up to go into the Hall of Fame, there would be a worldwide pandemic? [But the induction in] ’20 and ’21, you’re talking about Floyd Mayweather, you’re talking Andre Ward, you’re talking myself, you’re talking “Sugar” Shane Mosley — what a team. What a team combined of that era. That’s crazy. Think about that.
It’s a blessing, I mean… This is huge, this is the All-Star team of Hall of Fame classes. That will never happen in my lifetime again, those two years combined in one. Just think about that.
Juan Manuel Marquez, four-division world champion: I feel very sad not being able to be there, to not get recognized by the Hall of Fame this year. I didn’t like it [when] I got the call from Ed Brophy [IBHOF executive director], he was the one who called me [to let me know of the cancellation]. At this point I don’t want to celebrate, it’s no time to celebrate, a lot of things are going on. I’d rather just stay with the family at home, I will have time to celebrate when this happens next year.
Shane Mosley, three-division world champion: I mean, it could be a good thing. I’m a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It’s a great feeling, and I guess we’re going in with the other Hall of Famers in 2021. And to have more on the roster, it’s going to be a better event.
I don’t mind sharing the spotlight at all. I think it’s a great thing that we have all these exceptional fighters. They showed this sport’s greatness. So I’m definitely happy to be on the dais with the rest of them.
Kathy Duva, boxing promoter: Well, what are you going to do? It’s disappointing, but there are people with a lot worse problems than that. So I’ve got to just take it in stride.
Lou DiBella, boxing promoter: There’s so much going on in the world, the ceremonies are the least of my worries. I had a crazy number of people going to Canastota [New York, site of the HOF]. So it’s a bit of a bummer, but the honor is still there and we all have more to worry about right now than the induction ceremony. Hopefully by June of 2021, everything is back to a greater semblance of normal and we can party in Canastota.
But it means a tremendous amount for me to get in, boxing and baseball are my first loves as sports since I could walk. My first sports hero was Muhammad Ali, my first sports event I ever watched with my grandparents and my dad was a boxing match. I got to meet so many heroes, I got to travel all over the world. I got to meet incredible individuals, presidents, musicians, all sorts of amazing people. All of whom shared a love for boxing.
So boxing afforded me a lot of experiences; it’s nice to be recognized in a business and a sport that has meant so much to me.
Joe Goossen, brother of promoter Dan Goossen: For Dan not to be able to be there, of course is the biggest heartbreaker for us as a family, because we would have loved to celebrate with him and shared the experience. I think that’s pretty much to put it concisely, what the feeling would be.
Now that being said, look, we’re still going to celebrate Dan, and his induction into the Hall of Fame, one way or the other. And that’s what we’re planning on doing. We’re well aware that Dan won’t be there. We’ve had a few years to digest all of it. But it’s most likely to be an emotional thing once you get there. There’s usually a lot of emotion at these types of events — and for good reason.
It’s one heck of an accomplishment, I’ve got to tell you. I never thought that when we started this that my brother would end up in the Hall of Fame. That’s pretty incredible to me.
What was your greatest/crowning achievement?
Note: The Bernard Hopkins-Felix “Tito” Trinidad bout for the middleweight championship, originally scheduled for Sept. 15, 2001, at Madison Square Garden in New York, was postponed until Sept. 29 because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Hopkins: Felix Trinidad, 2001, because of the state of the world, at least in the United States at the time. It was my first big, big superstar opponent, and with the world the way it was, the fight may not even go on. There was so much distraction, and I never got distracted. The fight itself was historic, that really got me to the table and I’ve brought a lot since then, but to be honest, that fight really got me at the table of the Hall of Fame.
And to be able to perform, as Malcolm X said, “by any means necessary,” based on being in that situation, Sept. 15 was postponed, 9-11, New York City, we were trapped in. Finally we got out [to Philadelphia], never broke camp, came back to New York City, in the same van we took from Don King. They told us to “get our asses back down here because the fight is going to happen.”
I knew this fight was going to happen in spite of what happened before the fight. There was a lot going on, you wouldn’t have criticized me if I didn’t win and said, “Hey, it was a good performance but I was afraid they might blow up MSG, of all places in New York. I couldn’t get back on track mentally.” But now we had an extra two weeks to get ready to go on.
I mean, every reporter would’ve understood why either of us wouldn’t have been right, if we had that excuse. But I didn’t have no excuse, I was zeroed in, that’s the fight that stands out. But that was a different occasion, a different motivation. I couldn’t lose that fight.
Marquez: My whole career, pretty much. I had a great career, I fought everybody, a lot of good fighters, even some of the losses. If you want to be considered a great fighter you have to face everybody and beat everybody that they put in front of you. That’s what I did.
A key moment was my four fights with Manny Pacquiao, and that was a key moment for him, as well. But the other fights with Marco Antonio Barrera, Joel Casamayor, the Mayweather fight, also. Many people might say it’s the fourth fight with Pacquiao, but not really. It was an important fight, the reason I got those rematches were because of the controversies of the fights. I know many people felt I won the other fights. So after the third fight, Bob Arum went up to me and said, “Don’t worry, this is a business,” kind of meaning that it was a robbery. So he said we’ll do it again.
We do it again, I win the fight, I was so excited and felt so accomplished, that when they offered me the fifth fight, I said, “No, I don’t want to take it because I was so happy about accomplishing what I wanted to do.”
Mosley: The one for me is winning my first title at lightweight, when I beat Philip Holiday. That was one of my great victories because when I was a kid I always believed I’d be a world champion, and that was the start of my greatness, if you will.
When I beat Oscar De La Hoya for the first time, I believe that in California everybody knew we were amateur rivals. That fight was probably a bigger event than when I won the world title, and Oscar was bigger than I was. But winning a world title for the first time was such a big thing for me, like, wow, I won the world title, it was so exciting. It was really the start of my greatness as a pro.
Duva: My proudest achievement was raising my family, but aside from that I think it’s a tie between Arturo Gatti’s comeback after the first [Micky] Ward fight and everything that followed it. And Sergey Kovalev’s career, because those are two things I really did myself [running Main Events].
DiBella: I think the greatest reward of my career would have to be in being involved in a world that I was drawn to, and love so much, and to have met so many people I read about. I would end up having people mentor me that were heroes of mine — guys like Eddie Futch, for example — over the years, Emanuel Steward.
I met so many great people, I had so many great influences in the sport and it was wild. I mean, on the outside looking in, you worship Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns, “The Four Kings” (Leonard, Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran) in the middleweight division, and you end up becoming great friends with them and you’re working with them.
But I got to HBO at a very interesting period when pay-per-view was just being formed and it sort of ushered in a new level of HBO Sports in a new era. The ’90s were probably the glory years of HBO Sports in boxing. So the run I had there for a decade was cool. It’s also been rewarding to have 20 years in as a promoter. So I’ve been a promoter twice as long as I was at HBO.
So to be able to redirect and to know the fighters as well as I have, I think I grew into being a “boxing guy.” Part of the reason I had success, frankly, is that I wasn’t just a “TV guy,” and not letting the promoters dictate the programming and the fights [while at HBO]. I sort of realized that in order to do what I was doing well at HBO, I had to become a “boxing guy.” I had to go to the gyms, I had to know the people, know what the good matches were, I had to go to the club shows, and hang around the industry. I had to earn my street cred in boxing, and I think that’s what differentiated me as a TV executive from other people that have been boxing programmers.
Then when I left HBO I had already sort of made the transition, I was already part of that boxing world. It was not a very difficult transition for me to establish in the new world.
Goossen: I know that the ones we shared, and I know there are other accomplishments he had which was a solo act, and thank goodness it was because I wouldn’t have been of any help to him. Maybe he had a personal favorite, but I probably have to say the trifecta in the late ’80s, early ’90s of Michael Nunn, Gabe and Rafael Ruelas. It was a payoff to our hard work and really those three guys put us on the map in a lot of ways.
Even though we had some very high-profile fights before that, nothing of that exact level. So yeah, those three woven into one was probably Dan’s real highlight because it set us in motion.
At what point in your career did you realize you had a shot at getting into the IBHOF?
Hopkins: When I started reaching toward 20 [middleweight defenses], so around 15, 16 title defenses, I started to realize it, and people would tell me I’d be first ballot. Now, I don’t think I’d be a Hall of Famer if I didn’t fight Tito, right around that time. I wasn’t a Hall of Famer before that. When I beat Tito and I started racking up those defenses, that’s when I knew I’d get in the Hall of Fame.
So when I got 20 defenses, holding that title — the IBF, which was the first title I won versus Segundo Mercado — and I held that title for over a decade-plus, I knew I was a Hall of Famer. Everything that came after that was another career.
Marquez: When you’re fighting, and you’re getting ready to fight, you don’t really think about it. But when you start facing the big names like the Mayweathers and Pacquiaos, and you’re on the biggest stages, and you belong with those guys, and you see guys like [Erik] Morales, Barrera, and especially Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, pound-for-pound fighters — when I fought Pacquiao he was the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter pretty much every time.
You’re fighting those guys and beating these guys, you realize that Morales is there, Barrera is there — why not me?
Mosley: I thought when I won my first title belt I was definitely headed to the Hall of Fame. I wanted to leave a mark in boxing, in my boxing career. It wasn’t just winning the title and that was good enough. I wanted to be great, I wanted to be one of the best and that’s why I strived to beat Oscar, that led to being the best, going up and defending my titles because I wanted to be recognized as being the best of all time.
What was going through my mind when I got the call was all the hard work, all the dedication, all the love I had for the sport. This is something I’ve been waiting for all my life, since I was 8 or 9 years old. I wanted to be one of the greats. I wanted to be a Hall of Famer.
Duva: I didn’t, I really didn’t till they called me to tell me I was in. But it’s so nice and gratifying, I can’t tell you, I never would have imagined. It’s really special. And they told me they’re going to put my plaque next to my husband, Dan, there couldn’t be a better memorial for the two of us — I like that.
I’ll be thinking of Dan, first, because that’s where it started. And then the fighters that we had. Sadly, most of them are not with us anymore, the really special ones. You tend to get melancholy at times like that, or at least I do. It’s so sad Dan can’t be at the ceremony because he would’ve never believed it.
DiBella: I think when I was still around for 10, 15 years, and I was able to sustain through the ups and downs of alliances, different services, networks, and my promotional company was still there. I always knew I had a great legacy at HBO for a decade. But look, [former HBO Sports president] Seth Abraham is not in the Hall of Fame — and he should be, by the way — but where I started to think that I had a chance is where I established myself as one of the better promoters out there.
I’ve done the Broadway Boxing Series, which is the longest grassroots boxing series, ever, televised in New York. We’ve done 115 shows. I think the inroads we made in helping women’s boxing grow, incorporating more women into the stuff that I was doing. I think the years of succeeding and becoming the most recognized company in New York, and the most active in promoting in the area, I thought maybe if I lived long enough, I’d get in.
To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised and shocked when I got in on the first try.
Goossen: That’s a great question. I would say probably, maybe the 2000s. If you go back to the ’90s, we were still in our 30s, we pushed forward. So to think about the Hall of Fame, that would’ve been a little premature. I think by the time we went to the whole decade of the ’80s, the decade of the ’90s, by the time we were in the third decade, the handwriting was kind of on the wall.
And the James Toney rebuild, that was a testament to Dan. It was an incredible task, nobody believed it was really going to happen. And of course, between Dan’s promotional skills and never-ending belief in his fighters that he worked with, and then combining that with Toney’s talent, him getting back on the horse, back into training, doing things right, the combination of him and Dan was a one-in-a-million thing. They really accomplished a lot.