By Matthew Hurley: Every year when I receive my International Boxing Hall Of Fame (IBHOF) ballot there is one name I always hesitate at when I see it. In past years I’ve bit my lip and then moved on, not putting pen to paper. In my mind potential inductees into IBHOF should be held to the same high standard that voters for the baseball hall of fame hold those who play on the diamond.
But the IBHOF is a completely different beast.
The hall resides in the small town of Canastota, New York and induction weekend, held in June, is a cash windfall for local businesses and the museum. It’s incumbent upon the IBHOF to have living inductees there to hype the event.
And what an event it is. Nowhere else can boxing fans literally bump into their favorite fighters. Be it on the grounds of the museum, at the memorabilia show at the local high school or at Graziano’s Bar right across the street. And fighters, with a few possible exceptions, are the nicest most compliant athletes on the planet. They genuinely love the attention and the camaraderie of the fans and their fellow combatants. If you haven’t been, go!
One of my favorite memories is meeting both Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor, chatting them up, and then watching them embrace and pull away from the crowd to enjoy one another’s company and reflect on their unique friendship – a friendship born from fierce combat in the ring.
But the IBHOF can be a source of irritation for many, including voters. There are fighters, not to be belittled, who simply should not be in the hall. Some people can’t believe promoters Don King and Bob Arum are in there, and just about everyone outside of employees of the WBC are appalled that Jose Sulaiman has a plaque on the wall.
As a voter there are names on the ballot that probably shouldn’t be there and there are names missing that should. Boxing writer Marty Mulcahey has passionately championed the “International” in the hall’s title, pushing for the induction of Asian fighters not generally seen on American television. That advocacy has opened the eyes of many voters, myself included, extending our research and really taking the voting process seriously.
As for that fighter whose name I stumble over, this year I put a check mark next to his name. It took several years and a recent look back at nearly twenty-five of his ring appearances thanks to a career DVD collection (which I did with another personal favorite fighter Danny “Little Red” Lopez who I voted for last year), but I decided to lower the bar, just a bit.
Hell, if Barry McGuigan, another personal favorite who I did not vote for, is in the hall then his contemporary Donald Curry, who achieved more over the course of his career, should be in there too. There are other fighters in the hall such as Ken Norton and Ingemar Johansson that raise a questioning eyebrow so it can make voting a drag when you have borderline cases such as Curry or in a few years the immensely popular Arturo Gatti, who will probably get in because of sentiment rather than achievement.
But Donald Curry was special, albeit for a short period of time. In fact there are many who presumed, back around 1985, that the “Lone Star Cobra” was the best fighter in the world and a legitimate threat to Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
As much of a fan of Curry’s as I was, I never saw it that way. In fact I thought both Hagler and Thomas Hearns were way too big and powerful for him. But so graceful and technically sound was Curry at welterweight that I did believe he could beat future hall of famer Mike McCallum when they met in 1987 for the WBA junior middleweight title, even after the shocking dressing down that Lloyd Honeyghan had given him the year before. McCallum knocked him out with one shot in the fifth round of a fast paced, compelling bout.
And Donald was fun to watch, win or lose. He took the undisputed welterweight championship in 1985 with a career best win against Milton McCrory – and the quick left hook that floored the “Iceman” in the second round was as beautiful a shot as I’ve ever seen in a championship bout. He also won a belt at junior middleweight.
Curry never quite lived up to his potential, but few athletes ever do. His downfall was as dramatic as his ascension, which to me only adds drama to his legacy. He was truly great for a brief moment in time and then fell apart before an incredulous audience.
So this year, ironically a year he can’t possibly get in considering Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Kostya Tszyu command the ballot, I voted for him. I did so because I think there’s just enough there to warrant his inclusion, and there is some sentiment there on my part as well.
Perhaps the requirements for induction into the hall are too lenient. Perhaps I’m giving in to a genuine affection for a fighter who I truly loved to watch ply his craft. Whatever the reason, Donald Curry should be in IBHOF and I will continue to vote for him as long as his name remains on the ballot. He is not a first ballot candidate, he needed to wait a while because he’s one of those borderline cases but someday the “Lone Star Cobra” should have his plaque on the wall and he should have his moment in the sun during the induction ceremony weekend.
October 22, 2010