Mexican legend Erik Morales, heavyweight superstar Vitali Klitschko and defensive master Ronald “Winky” Wright were elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, in balloting results announced on Tuesday.
The three, elected in the modern boxer category, will be enshrined among boxing immortals during the 29th annual induction ceremonies on June 10 in Canastota, New York.
To be eligible in that category, fighters must not have boxed for at least five years but have had their last fight no earlier than 1989. Klitschko, Morales and Wright all fought for the final time in 2012. They were elected by full members of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a panel of international historians.
Also elected were broadcasters Jim Gray and Steve Albert in the observer category and German promoter Klaus-Peter Kohl in the nonparticipant category.
Elected posthumously were Sid Terris, a New York lightweight contender in the 1920s, in the old-timer category, and ring announcer Johnny Addie and promoter Lorraine Chargin in the nonparticipant category.
“We’re extremely excited about the Class of 2018 and are very much looking forward to paying tribute to the new inductees in Canastota next June,” Hall of Fame executive director Edward Brophy said.
Morales (52-9, 36 KOs), 41, turned pro in 1993 and became one of the greatest fighters in Mexican history. He grew up in an apartment over a boxing gym in Tijuana and was taught to box by his late father, Jose. He made his name with a series of exciting slugfests and became the first fighter from his country to win world titles in four weight classes, capturing belts at junior featherweight, featherweight, junior lightweight and junior welterweight.
Morales, however, will forever be tied to 2017 inductee Marco Antonio Barrera, his countryman with whom he engaged in one of the fiercest trilogies in history. Morales prevailed in their first epic battle, a junior featherweight unification fight in 2000 that is one of the greatest fights in history. But perhaps even bigger than Morales’ victory over Barrera was his 2005 unanimous decision against the prime Manny Pacquiao in the first sensational fight of their trilogy.
Morales defeated Hall of Famer Daniel Zaragoza to take his junior featherweight world title and send him into retirement in 1997. Morales also scored notable wins against Junior Jones, Wayne McCullough, Kevin Kelley, Guty Espadas (twice), In-Jin Chi, Paulie Ayala, Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez.
“It’s an honor to be elected into the Hall of Fame and recognized for my achievements,” Morales said. “I’m overwhelmed by the news. It is a dream come true to be part of the Hall of Fame and I can’t wait until next June to be in Canastota.”
Now the mayor of Kiev in his native Ukraine, Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs), 46, turned pro in 1996 and went on to win versions of the heavyweight crown three times even though he was retired from 2005 to 2008 because of injuries. After his comeback, he and younger brother Wladimir Klitschko held all four of the major heavyweight belts simultaneously.
“It’s a dream of many boxers to be a member of the Hall of Fame family,” Klitschko said. “I’ve thought about the Hall of Fame, but I never expected one day that I would be among the legends who were always examples for me such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and so many world-famous boxers. It’s a big honor for me.”
Klitschko lost his first title to the much smaller Chris Byrd in 2000, retiring with a badly torn rotator cuff after the ninth round in a fight that Klitschko dominated. He took enormous criticism but shook off the quitter label in 2003 in his most memorable fight and his only other loss.
It came when he challenged then-champion Lennox Lewis in what turned out to be Lewis’ final fight in a hastily made bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. They were set to appear in a doubleheader as a way to build toward their eventual showdown, but when Lewis opponent Kirk Johnson pulled out with an injury, HBO worked out a deal for Lewis and Klitschko to face each other on less than two weeks’ notice.
It was a classic heavyweight brawl. Lewis was trailing on the scorecards after the sixth round, but he had torn open a horrible cut around Klitschko’s left eye, forcing the fight to be stopped.
Two fights later, Klitschko knocked out Corrie Sanders in the eighth round in 2004 to win the belt Lewis had vacated upon retiring. Klitschko made one defense against Danny Williams at the end of 2004 but then retired because of debilitating back and knee injuries.
He ended his retirement in 2008 and came back strong as ever. He crushed Samuel Peter in eight one-sided rounds to reclaim his belt and went on to make nine defenses, all one-sided victories, including against Chris Arreola, Shannon Briggs, Tomasz Adamek and Dereck Chisora. After stopping Manuel Charr in September 2012, Klitschko retired to pursue his political career in Ukraine, where he is a champion for government reform.
Former undisputed junior middleweight champion Wright (51-6-1, 25 KOs), 46, a southpaw from St. Petersburg, Florida, turned pro in 1990 and earned recognition as one of the slickest defensive fighters in history.
Unable to get fights with quality opponents, he globetrotted for much of his career, fighting in places such as France, Germany, England and South Africa. But he won a junior middleweight belt in 1996 and defended it three times. In 1999, he got a mandatory shot at then-titleholder Fernando Vargas and lost by controversial majority decision. He eventually won another title in 2001, and in 2004, Shane Mosley, who held two belts, finally gave him the big fight he craved.
Wright outpointed Mosley to become the undisputed champion and beat Mosley again in an immediate rematch. Then he put on a masterpiece in a near shutout of Hall of Famer Felix Trinidad in 2005.
In 2006, Wright came within a whisker of winning the unified middleweight world title but was held to a disputed draw with Jermain Taylor. Wright outpointed ex-welterweight titlist Ike Quartey in his next fight.
“Wow! It’s great. It’s an honor,” Wright said of learning he had been elected. “I love my fans, and I’m grateful that my accomplishments in boxing are being honored. It feels so great to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Former colleagues Gray and Albert spent years working together at Showtime. Gray has been involved in boxing for nearly 40 years going back to his close relationship with Muhammad Ali, but he’s best known as Showtime’s longtime ringside reporter and interviewer who never pulls punches in asking tough questions.
“I got chills. I’m so honored and so grateful to the sport, the fighters and the Hall of Fame,” Gray said. “What an amazing feeling to have this unique recognition. It’s just an amazing feeling to have been able to have observed and witnessed the excellence of so many incredible athletes. To have been able to have played a part in being able to interview them and bring it to the public is an incredible feeling.”
Albert expertly handled blow-by-blow duties for 17 years at the network, including for countless major fights involving the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Julio Cesar Chavez.
“It’s an honor. I didn’t expect this,” Albert said. “I heard from some boxing friends that I was on the ballot, but having been out of the sport for a few years, I didn’t expect it to happen. It is quite an honor, and I appreciate the call very much. It’s a little overwhelming. I’ve never been to Canastota, and I’ve heard so many great things about that weekend through other friends who have been inducted, and I look forward to it. It’s rare for me, but I’m a little speechless right now.”
Kohl founded now-defunct Universum Box-Promotion, which for much of the 1990s through the mid-2000s was the dominant promoter in Germany and one of the most significant promoters in the world until it went out of business in 2011. Kohl promoted numerous top fighters and European stars, including the Klitschko brothers and many other world titleholders, including Felix Sturm, Dariusz Michalczewski, Juan Carlos Gomez, Artur Grigorian, Juergen Braehmer, Istvan Kovacs and a young Gennady Golovkin.
“I’m completely surprised,” Kohl said. “I’m looking forward to coming to Canastota in June for the Hall of Fame Weekend.”
Chargin, who died in 2010, was half of an all-time great promotional team with her husband, Don Chargin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. They promoted shows for decades, mainly at the old Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles from the mid-1960 to the mid-1980s. They were also largely responsible for a thriving Sacramento, California, fight scene during the 1980s and ’90s. Together they helped develop such fighters as former champions Bobby Chacon, Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, Loreto Garza and Willie Jorrin. Many felt it was a big oversight that they were not on the ballot together when Don was elected, but he was thrilled that his beloved wife of 49 years was finally recognized.
“This news has made my day,” he said. “I’m just so happy. I’ve been wishing and praying for this. For her to be the only woman besides Aileen Eaton in the Hall, on many fronts it’s a great honor. I’m really at a loss for words. I’ve dreamt of this.”
Addie, who died in 1971, was the longtime ring announcer at Madison Square Garden and other venues in New York from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. He was the ring announcer for more than 100 world title fights, including the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight.
Terris (93-13-4, 12 KOs), who died at age 70 in 1974, had a standout amateur career and boxed professionally from 1922 to 1931, mainly in New York, where he became a lightweight contender but never got a chance to fight for the world title. The closest he came was in 1925, but he lost a 12-round decision to Sammy Mandell in an eliminator.