The International Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony is usually celebrated the second weekend in June in Canastota, New York. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IBHOF was forced to cancel its events in 2020 and 2021. This weekend, however, three classes of inductees will get their place at the Hall, including Floyd Mayweather, Wladimir Klitschko, Roy Jones Jr., Bernard Hopkins, Christy Martin and Laila Ali, among others.
Nine men and six women in the modern boxers category (their last fight had to happen not earlier than 1989, according to the IBHOF rules) have been waiting for this moment since they officially retired from the sport, and we decided to rank them all.
Using our ESPN pound-for-pound panel, we created a modern era boxers Class of 2020, 2021 and 2022 P4P rankings, based on who was best at their peak during their careers.
Our panel of Mike Coppinger, Timothy Bradley Jr., Michael Rothstein, Teddy Atlas, Nick Parkinson, Andre Ward, Ben Baby, Eric Raskin, Michelle Joy Phelps, Eric Woodyard, Claudia Trejos, Kel Dansby, Bernardo Pilatti, Charles Moynihan and Salvador Rodriguez shared their votes.
1. Floyd Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) — Five-division champion — Class of 2021
Mayweather is the highest-grossing fighter of all time, quite a feat in a sport built on monstrous paydays, but he’s much more than that.
“Money” Mayweather is perhaps the greatest defensive-minded boxer of all time, a virtuoso able to use his jab, footwork and ring smarts to befuddle elite opponents. He was virtually untouchable and possessed an uncanny ability to evade punches while also dictating the action with his precise jab. In his early days as “‘Pretty Boy” Floyd, he was willing to use his power to finish foes.
The fighter from Grand Rapids, Michigan, won his first title in his 18th pro bout, an eighth-round TKO of Genaro Hernandez at junior lightweight to win the WBC belt.
Mayweather went on to stop Diego Corrales in the 10th round before he scored a controversial decision win against Jose Luis Castillo in 2002 to win the WBC lightweight title. He left no doubt in the rematch later that year with a far more convincing unanimous decision victory.
Mayweather also captured titles at 140, 147 and 154 pounds. His best moment came in 2007, when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya to win the WBC junior middleweight world title in what was then the highest-grossing fight of all time. That’s when Pretty Boy Floyd truly transformed himself into Money Mayweather. Now a 154-pound champion on the heels of a victory over the sport’s top star, Mayweather entered a new stratosphere.
His next three fights: wins over notable names Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and “Sugar” Shane Mosley.
Of course, Mayweather’s watershed moment came in 2015, when he finally met Manny Pacquiao in a welterweight title fight that shattered revenue records. Floyd retained his three titles in a tactical affair that failed to live up to the hype.
He fought twice more, including a TKO victory over UFC star Conor McGregor that ended up as the second-highest-grossing fight of all time (after Mayweather-Pacquiao).
Along the way, Mayweather also scored a dominant decision victory over Canelo Alvarez along with a victory over Miguel Cotto and a pair of wins over Marcos Maidana.
Most of all, Mayweather will be remembered for his ability to antagonize and sell tickets along with his otherworldly defensive ability and ring acumen. — Mike Coppinger
2. Roy Jones Jr. (66-9, 47 KOs) — Four-division champion — Class of 2022
Before Mayweather there was Jones, whose skills were mesmerizing as he wowed boxing fans with his power and speed.
For those who followed Jones’ career later on, when he was a sad imitation of his younger self, they might find it hard to believe that the Florida-born fighter became so imperious at light heavyweight he had to jump up two weight classes just for a serious test.
Jones gave away 33 pounds when he challenged, outclassed and outpointed John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title in 2003 to become a four-weight world champion.
The following year it began to fall apart for Jones, who was at his best when ruling the 175-pound division during 12 unified title fight wins (a record in the division), which marked him as the best boxer of the 1990s and pound-for-pound No. 1 for years.
Jones, who last fought in 2018, won titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight — but had the fast hand speed of a flyweight.
Jones produced unorthodox moves and punches we hadn’t seen before. He bewildered opponents with convincing feints and there was no limit to his showboating and showmanship — he once knocked out an opponent with a punch that started with Jones having his hands behind his back. His hand speed was unmatched and it was only when his reflexes slowed on his return to light heavyweight in 2004 that he began to get caught.
The way he overcame James Toney’s slippery defense and shoulder roll to capture a super middleweight world title was arguably Jones at his best, when he scored a knockdown with a leaping left hook on his way to a unanimous decision win. — Nick Parkinson
3. Bernard Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs) — Two-division champion — Class of 2020
Hopkins’ run through four decades of boxing started with a loss. Unlike many fighters who end up becoming world champions, Hopkins lost his first career bout — in 1988 to Clinton Mitchell. He returned in 1990 and would lose just once in the next 15 years, to Roy Jones Jr. in 1993.
Hopkins’ longevity in the sport was astounding, as was his decade-long hold of at least one middleweight title after defeating Segundo Mercado on April 29, 1995, for the IBF crown — a belt he defended 20 consecutive times (a record for the division).
However, it was his ninth-round KO of Oscar De La Hoya on Sept. 18, 2004 — his last fight in his 30s — that might be considered his best. It made him the undisputed middleweight champion and a household name in more than just boxing. Hopkins told Ring Magazine in 2017 that was the biggest win of his career, followed by his knockout win over Felix Trinidad — the first loss of Trinidad’s career — in 2001.
Hopkins, in a career of greatness, became The Ring light heavyweight titlist at age 41 in a unanimous decision over Antonio Tarver and then won the WBC light heavyweight title at age 46 in a unanimous decision victory over Jean Pascal — making him the oldest man to win a world title in boxing. He broke his own record two years later, when he won the IBF light heavyweight title over Tavoris Cloud by unanimous decision at 48. He defended that belt twice — in decision wins over Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov, when he also won the WBA “super” light heavyweight title — before losing belts for the final time in a unanimous decision loss to Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 8, 2014, at 49. — Michael Rothstein
4. Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) — Two-division champion — Class of 2021
Boxing legend Andre Ward explains what the Hall of Fame means to him and reveals the fight he’d most like to see happen.
Ward was one of the greatest fighters of his generation, an Olympic gold medalist who conquered two weight classes and enjoyed a lengthy run as the pound-for-pound king.
Revered for his ability to fight on the inside, elite jab and excellent defense, Ward announced his arrival in 2009 when he upset Mikkel Kessler in dominant fashion to win his first world title, the WBA “super” super middleweight belt.
The bout was the opening round of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, a rare tournament that featured the best super middleweights in the sport. Ward went on to score lopsided wins over Allan Green, Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham before he met Carl Froch in the finals.
With a convincing decision victory over Froch in the finals, Ward added the WBC 168-pound title and became the unquestioned No. 1 super middleweight in the world.
“S.O.G.” scored a TKO victory over former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson in his next fight, another super middleweight bout, before he embarked on a title quest at light heavyweight.
When Ward met Sergey Kovalev in 2016, the Russian puncher held the WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles and was universally regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
Ward was floored by Kovalev in Round 2, but rallied to score a controversial decision victory to become the top guy in a second weight class. The rematch seven months later settled any dispute. Ward rocked Kovalev with a right hand in Round 7, and Kovalev never recovered. After Ward pinned Kovalev on the ropes and unloaded a barrage of shots to the body, the referee waved off the bout.
Three months later, on Sept. 21, 2017, Ward shocked the boxing world when he announced his retirement at age 33. He was at the height of his powers and hung up the gloves while recognized as the best fighter in the world regardless of weight.
Today, Ward is a staple of ESPN’s boxing programming as an expert analyst.
5. Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) — Heavyweight champion — Class of 2021
Klitschko’s reign as heavyweight king lasted as long as some boxers’ careers and it was the Ukrainian’s professionalism, athleticism, consistency and longevity that made him (along with his elder brother, Vitali) the dominant force in his division for a decade.
For 9½ years, Klitschko nullified opponents with a simple yet effective one-two combination as he utilized his long reach, boxing behind a ramrod jab, to pile up 18 consecutive world title defenses. It was the second-longest reign of a world heavyweight champion but it was not always exciting: “Jab-and-grab,” as it became known, never made Klitschko a household name in the United States.
However, Klitschko was a huge star in his native Ukraine and also in Germany, where he was based and marketed for his professional career. He even gained a high profile in the United Kingdom because of his fights against David Haye, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
Klitschko’s quality was the length of his reign, rather than bringing guaranteed excitement and KOs. His best wins were decisions over Haye (2011), Samuel Peter (2005) and Alexander Povetkin (2013), before he was punished for a poor performance by an on-form Fury in 2015.
Klitschko was 39 when Fury beat him on points (his first loss in 11 years), but he was better at age 41 in an 11th-round KO defeat to Joshua in 2017. “Dr Steelhammer” floored Joshua in a courageous display, and he went out on his shield after a 21-year career. He is considered one of the best heavyweights in history. — Nick Parkinson
6. James Toney (77-10-3, 47 KOs) — Three-division champion — Class of 2022
A defensive wizard who mastered the art of lying on the ropes while avoiding his foe’s attack, “Lights Out” Toney was one of the most charismatic characters in a sport filled with them.
Plagued by weight issues his entire career, Toney wasn’t always focused. That resulted in some disappointing performances, such as his lopsided defeat to Roy Jones Jr. in a 1994 meeting between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters of that time. Toney reportedly weighed more than 200 pounds when he started training camp for the 168-pound fight.
But when Toney was on his game, he was one of the toughest outs in the sport.
The trash-talking boxer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is an all-time great middleweight who also went on to win titles at super middleweight and at cruiserweight. Toney even won a heavyweight title in 2005 when he dominated John Ruiz. However, the victory was changed to a no decision after Toney tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.
Another attempt at a heavyweight title came in 2006, but a lethargic and out-of-shape Toney was held to a draw by Hasim Rahman. Amazingly, the fighter who won his first title at 160 pounds was able to dismantle Evander Holyfield in a 2003 heavyweight fight. Holyfield wasn’t in his prime, but he was only two fights removed from a win over Rahman.
Toney was a fit 217 pounds for the clash with Holyfield, a fight he won via ninth-round TKO. The victory followed Toney’s decision win over Vassiliy Jirov earlier that year to capture a cruiserweight title. The thrilling bout was named the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2003 Fight of the Year. Toney was also named the fighter of the year for his wins over Jirov and Holyfield (Toney scored a knockdown apiece in those bouts).
His chin is regarded as one of the best in boxing history, and so is his excellent jab. Toney also owns wins over Michael Nunn and Mike McCallum. He fought on well past his best days until he retired in 2017 at age 49.
7. Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) — Four-division champion — Class of 2020
Marquez will forever be known for his iconic rivalry with Manny Pacquiao. Despite all the other things they did in their careers, this four-fight rivalry is what catapulted each man to new heights. In 2004, Marquez and Pacquiao fought to a split draw as featherweights. Pacquiao won in 2008 and 2011 before a much stronger version of Marquez knocked Pacquiao out in their welterweight bout in 2012.
Marquez had other impressive victories over Joel Casamayor, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Diaz. At his peak, Marquez was one of the best counterpunchers in boxing and a quality champion who put pressure on some of the world’s top fighters. He hit his ceiling in 2009 when he lost a lopsided decision to Floyd Mayweather, who is one of the best defensive fighters of all time.
Marquez and his relationship as Pacquiao’s top foil make him a vital part of boxing’s storied history. — Ben Baby
8. Miguel Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) — Four-division champion — Class of 2022
Cotto’s appetite for fistic violence, his courage and educated boxing style earned him world titles in four weight classes and saw him share a ring with the best boxers of his era.
Floyd Mayweather described Cotto as the “toughest guy” he had faced after winning their junior middleweight title fight by decision in 2012.
The Puerto Rican came up wanting when he faced the likes of Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez, but he was a popular fighter. Cotto fought 10 times at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and his revenge win over Antonio Margarito in 2011 was one of his finest moments at the legendary arena.
Cotto held belts at junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight, with standout wins over Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, Ricardo Mayorga and Shane Mosley.
Sending Martinez down three times en route to a 10th-round win for the WBC middleweight title in 2014, becoming Puerto Rico’s first four-weight world champion, was perhaps Cotto’s greatest achievement. — Nick Parkinson
9. Shane Mosley (49-10-1, 41 KOs) — Three-division champion — Class of 2020
You have to be able to back it up if you call yourself “Sugar” in boxing — and Mosley definitely warranted the nickname for a period when he was the pound-for-pound No. 1 boxer in the world.
During a 24-year career, Mosley won world titles at three weight divisions and was a thrilling fighter in his prime, beating Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC welterweight title in 2000. It was Mosley’s breakthrough moment and the launchpad to more big fights.
Mosley, from California, went on to have big fights against Vernon Forrest (both defeats, 2002), a De La Hoya rematch that he won by decision, back-to-back KO wins over Fernando Vargas (2006) and decision defeats to Miguel Cotto (2007), Floyd Mayweather (2010), Manny Pacquiao (2011) and Canelo Alvarez (2012).
Mosley, who last fought in 2016, rocked Mayweather early on during their encounter, and that, along with his first win over De La Hoya, were the biggest moments of his career. In 2000 and 2001, Mosley was boxing’s pound-for-pound No. 1, and he was No. 3 by the time he fought Mayweather.
But Mosley was perhaps at his best when operating at lightweight. He made eight world title defenses at 135 pounds, winning all by knockout. — Nick Parkinson
1. Christy Martin (49-7-3, 32 KO) — Junior middleweight champion — Class of 2020
As women’s boxing enters an era when there could be a real jump in popularity and attention paid to the sport, the fighter who perhaps helped push it to the forefront for the first time will get her spot in the International Boxing Hall of Fame as part of the first class of female inductees.
Martin worked through her early career in obscurity — her highest-profile fight was a draw with Laura Serrano on a stacked card featuring three title bouts in 1994. When she landed on the Mike Tyson-Frank Bruno undercard on March 16, 1996, against Deirdre Gogarty, Martin won a unanimous decision, knocking Gogarty down in the second round.
That the fight was on a Showtime PPV undercard at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas helped propel the sport, and Martin, into a different light. It was in the midst of a 35-fight streak without a loss for Martin, who eventually lost to Sumya Anani by majority decision on Dec. 18, 1998. By then she’d been a guest star on the TV show “Roseanne,” had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and had been promoted for years by Don King, then one of the biggest names in boxing, who put her on numerous Mike Tyson undercards.
Martin had big fights with Mia St. John in 2009 (a unanimous decision win) and Laila Ali in 2003 (a fourth-round knockout loss) on pay-per-view. She didn’t fight for over a year after the loss to Ali — at that point the longest layoff of her career. Her last win came Sept. 2, 2009, when she won the WBC junior middleweight title by majority decision over Dakota Stone.
During her career she also survived years of controlling abuse by her then-husband, James Martin, who attempted to kill Martin in 2010. ESPN reporter Allison Glock detailed Martin’s life in a story on ESPN that explained in detail what she went through throughout most of her career. Martin recovered from the attempted murder, for which her husband was convicted, to fight twice more before retiring following a loss to St. John in 2012.
By then, Martin had become one of the biggest names in the sport and set in motion so much for the current group of female fighters who are landing seven-figure paydays and major promotional contracts. — Michael Rothstein
2. Laila Ali (24-0, 21 KOs) — Super middleweight champion — Class of 2021
Ali fielded a pressure not many children will ever experience — living up to the lineage of one of the world’s greatest athletes. But Ali more than held her own and showed she was more than just the daughter of “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali. Ali pummeled most of her opponents on her way to an undefeated career. Twenty-one of her 24 victories came via knockout.
In 2001, Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde became the first women to headline a pay-per-view card, something that didn’t happen again until Claressa Shields did it 20 years later. The best run of her career arguably came in 2002 and 2003, when she beat Valerie Mahfood twice and also stopped an older and overmatched Christy Martin in what was billed as one of the biggest women’s boxing matches ever, according to an Associated Press report at the time. At her peak, Ali was an imposing fighter who helped elevate the sport. Because of her career and last name, she is arguably the most recognizable female boxer of all time. — Ben Baby
3. Ann Wolfe (24-1, 16 KOs) — Three-division champion — Class of 2021
Wolfe was absolutely ferocious. She was a devastating, no-nonsense fighter who was very intimidating in the ring.
Wolfe, of Austin, Texas, had a strong run as a super middleweight champion, with two wins over Marsha Valley in 2002 during that span. But her most iconic moment came in 2004 with a scintillating one-punch, first-round knockout over Vonda Ward to become the unified light heavyweight champion.
Wolfe was plenty impressive once she retired, too. She became a trainer, most notably working with former junior middleweight contender James Kirkland. She also earned a role in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman.”
By avenging a 2000 loss to Valerie Mahfood in their rematch three years later, Wolfe beat every pro fighter she ever faced. — Ben Baby
4. Lucia Rijker (17-0, 14 KOs) — Junior welterweight champion — Class of 2020
As one of the pioneering figures in women’s boxing, Rijker helped pave the way for some of today’s stars.
When women’s amateur boxing made its debut at the 2012 Olympics, it featured the likes of Claressa Shields, Katie Taylor, Savannah Marshall, Natasha Jonas and Marlen Esparza (all current world champions in the professional ranks).
But by 2012 Rijker had already played her part in advancing the sport and had retired. Fighters such as Shields and Taylor would undoubtedly have been inspired by the Oscar-winning film “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) starring Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, which featured Rijker as an opponent of Swank’s main character. The film portrayed the struggles of life as a woman boxer, which Rijker knew only too well.
She competed at a time when women’s boxing did not enjoy anything like the attention it gets now and female fighters had to put up with lousy pay and stereotypical views that held back the sport’s progression.
Rijker, from the Netherlands but based in California, compiled an unblemished professional boxing record after a successful kickboxing career. She won the IBF junior welterweight title in 1997 and beat England’s Jane Couch, another pioneer of women’s boxing, on the undercard of Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko at the then-Staples Center in Los Angeles, in her penultimate fight in 2003. Attempts to make a megafight with American Christy Martin fell through in 2005. It would have been a main event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and Rijker’s career finished without that big moment.
Rijker never got the recognition or accolades her talent warranted when she was fighting, but if she had been boxing today, she would be a superstar. — Nick Parkinson
5. Holly Holm (33-2-3, 9 KO) — Junior welterweight and welterweight champion — Class of 2022
Before she was a star in the UFC and gave Ronda Rousey her first loss, Holm had been in the boxing ring for over a decade. And in it, she had created a Hall of Fame career.
Holm was the first IBA junior welterweight champion — beating Terri Blair by unanimous decision in 2004 — and she won the first WBA welterweight title in a unanimous decision over Angelica Martinez in 2006. In 2005, she beat Christy Martin and Mia St. John by unanimous decision in back-to-back fights on Sept. 16 and Dec. 8. In 2007, she became the WBC welterweight champion in a unanimous decision over Ann Saccurato.
Holm went almost seven years without losing a fight until Anne Sophie Mathis knocked her out in the seventh round on Dec. 2, 2011. Holm won a rematch in 2012, and won her final two boxing fights after that before transitioning to MMA.
What made Holm’s boxing career even more intriguing is that she fought almost exclusively in her home state of New Mexico. She boxed only twice outside the state — a unanimous decision win over Belinda Laracuente on Feb. 7, 2008, in Temecula, California, and a majority draw against Mary Jo Sanders on Oct. 17, 2008, at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan.
She retired from boxing in 2013 to focus on MMA, where she has a 14-6 record, won the UFC bantamweight title knocking out Rousey in 2015 and has fought for UFC belts three more times since.
She’s still fighting in the UFC, but even though she’s going into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, she may not be done with boxing yet. Holm has talked multiple times in the past month about potentially returning to boxing as an opponent for the current pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor. If that fight happens, it would be Holm’s first time in the ring in nearly a decade — and the fight could become one of the most intriguing in boxing. — Michael Rothstein
6. Regina Halmich (54-1-1, 16 KOs) — Two-division champion — Class of 2022
It’s hard to find an era when Halmich was at her most dominant. Why? Halmich was a junior flyweight and flyweight champion for the better part of 12 years and rarely struggled. After a loss to Yvonne Trevino in 1995, Halmich never lost again. She has been considered one of Europe’s greatest female fighters.
Like others in her era, Halmich suffered from an overall lack of depth across the sport. But toward the end of her career, she wasn’t just beating up on fighters making their debuts. She bested some of the established vets with good records. She defeated the previously undefeated Maria Jesus Rosa in 2005. Three months later, she won a grudge match against Elena Reid. The two had fought to a draw the previous year. — Ben Baby