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Calzaghe, Golden Boy and Tito worthy of Canastota parades

(SportsNetwork.com) - All the signs of October are here.

My football team has teetered on the brink of irrelevance through five games played. My baseball team made this year's renewal of what's become an annual postseason flameout. My hockey team managed, over its first 120 minutes on ice, to snuff out any lingering optimism from the preseason.

And in the mail the other day, a big white envelope arrived from Canastota, N.Y.

In it were the stapled-together bios of this year's crop of nominees for the International Boxing Hall of Fame, along with the form that will need to be sent indicating my picks for the Class of 2014.

It's a task that's among the very best parts of sitting at a keyboard and writing about boxing for a living. But, for those who've been reading this space since I got started several years ago, also know it tends to be one of the most conversation-inducing duties as well.

Last year, I was bombarded from all directions for pointing out that Arturo Gatti's candidacy was far more a product of popularity than greatness, and for writing that the former action hero's acumen was more indicative of a 50-lap feature at the local fairgrounds than of the Indianapolis 500.

People didn't like it, but I still believe it's true.

A couple years back, I got taken to task from more than a few readers for claiming -- gasp! -- that the halls of Canastota are filled with a lot of fighters for whom sentiment has clearly overtaken accomplishment when it comes to their lifetime bodies of work.

Case in point, ex-heavyweight champ Joe Frazier. He won a splintered version of the championship when its previous possessor, Muhammad Ali, was banned from the ring. And, while he indeed did beat Ali in the first of three matches, he lost the final two decisively -- and was bounced off the canvas repeatedly upon meeting the other Hall of Famer of his era, George Foreman.

Possessor of a spectacular left hook? Absolutely. A terrific ambassador for the fighting city of Philadelphia, whose suburbs I called home for 10 years? Without question. But a fighter whose resume -- with other title fight wins over the likes of Stander, Daniels, Foster, Ellis, Quarry, Zyglewicz, Bonavena, Ramos and Mathis -- was as substantial as his legend? Not a chance.

He's not the worst fighter in the Hall by any stretch, but he was certainly the one -- until the arrival of Gatti last year -- whose career had been overinflated to the most seam-bursting proportions.

Again, it's a stance for which I still get flak, but I have no problem taking it.

But all that said, the contents of this year's envelope appear to be significantly less debate-prompting than what's been included in past years.

Eligible for the 2014 class are newcomers Joe Calzaghe, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, a trio that accounted for 18 title belts and a combined 127-9 win-loss record across parts of 18 years before each appearing for the final times -- Calzaghe and Trinidad against Roy Jones Jr., De La Hoya against Manny Pacquiao -- in 2008.

One twist this year: Rather than including the bios for each fighter who's on the nomination form -- some of whom have been there for several years and whose fighting careers were long before I was born -- I've only included those who were active since I've been around. If you're a fighter whose wheelhouse of activity came significantly before 1969, I'll leave it to others, either older voters or better researchers, to determine your fate.

Read on for capsule looks at the more "modern" 2014 nominees, along with this column's vote on whether they ought to be part of the upstate New York celebration in June.

NEW NOMINEES

Joe Calzaghe

Career: 1993-2008

World championships: WBO Super Middleweight; IBF Super Middleweight; WBA and WBC Super Middleweight

46-0 (32 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 10-0

VOTE: YES

Oscar de la Hoya

Career: 1992-2008

World championships: WBO Super Featherweight; WBO Lightweight; IBF Lightweight; WBC Super Lightweight; WBC Welterweight; WBC Super Welterweight; WBA Super Welterweight; WBO Middleweight; WBC Super Welterweight

Record: 39-6 (30 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 24-5

VOTE: YES

Felix Trinidad

Career: 1990-2008

World championships: IBF Welterweight; WBC Welterweight; WBA Super Welterweight; IBF Super Welterweight; WBA Middleweight (2001)

Record: 42-3 (35 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 20-1

VOTE: YES

HOLDOVER NOMINEES

Donald Curry

Career: 1980-1997

World Championships: WBA welterweight; WBC welterweight; IBF welterweight; WBC super welterweight

Record: 34-6 (25 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 6-5

VOTE: NO

Betulio Gonzalez

Career: 1968-1988

World Championships: WBC Flyweight; WBA Flyweight

Record: 77-12-4 (52 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 9-9-2

VOTE: NO

Yoko Gushiken

Career: 1974-1981

World Championships: WBA junior flyweight

Record: 23-1 (15 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 6-1

VOTE: NO

Naseem Hamed

Career: 1992-2002

World Championships: WBO Featherweight; IBF Featherweight; WBC Featherweight

Record: 36-1 (31 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 10-1

VOTE: NO

Carlos Hernandez

Career: 1959-1971

World Championships: World Junior Welterweight

Record: 60-12-4 (41 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 4-6

VOTE: NO

Rafael Herrera

Career: 1963-86

World Championships: World Bantamweight; WBC Bantamweight

Record: 48-9-4 (19 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 7-3

VOTE: NO

Santos Laciar

Career: 1976-90

World Championships: WBA Flyweight; WBC Super Flyweight

Record: 79-10-11 (30 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 8-5-1

VOTE: NO

Jose Legra

Career: 1960-1973

World Championships: WBC Featherweight title

Record: 133-11-4 (50 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 2-5

VOTE: NO

Miguel Lora

Career: 1979-1993

World Championships: WBC Bantamweight

Record: 37-3 (17 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 8-3

VOTE: NO

Ernesto Marcel

Career: 1966-1974

World Championships: WBA Featherweight

Record: 40-4-2 (23 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 6-1-1

VOTE: NO

Henry Maske

Career: 1990-2007

World Championships: IBF Light Heavyweight?

Record: 31-1 (11 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 5-1

VOTE: NO

Dariusz Michalczewski

Career: 1991-2005

World Championships: WBO light heavyweight; WBO Cruiserweight; WBA/IBF Light

Heavyweight

Record: 48-2 (38 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 6-2

VOTE: NO

Sven Ottke

Career: 1997-2004

World Championships: IBF Super Middleweight; WBA Super Middleweight

Record: 34-0 (6 KO)

Record Against champions and Hall of Famers: 8-0

VOTE: NO

Samuel Serrano

Career: 1969-1997

World Championships: WBA Junior Lightweight

Record: 50-5-1 (17 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 2-3-1

VOTE: NO

Wilfredo Vazquez

Career: 1981-2002

World Championships: WBA Bantamweight; WBA Super Bantamweight; WBA

Featherweight

Record: 56-9-2 (41 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 8-7-1

VOTE: NO

Myung Woo Yuh

Career: 1982-1993

World Championships: WBA Junior Flyweight

Record: 38-1 (14 KO)

Record against champions and Hall of Famers: 7-1

VOTE: NO

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY

WBO welterweight title -- Las Vegas, Nev.

Timothy Bradley (champion) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (unranked)

Bradley (30-0, 12 KO): Second title defense; Third fight in Las Vegas (2-0)

Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KO): Fifteenth title fight (9-4-1); Held titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140

Fitzbitz says: "The last two men to defeat Manny Pacquiao seem on different levels. Bradley simply isn't as skilled as his 40-year-old foe. If Marquez doesn't turn old, he wins." Marquez by decision

Vacant WBO featherweight title -- Las Vegas, Nev.

Orlando Cruz (No. 1 contender) vs. Orlando Salido (No. 3 contender)

Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KO): First title fight; Lost only career fight in Las Vegas (TKO 5)

Salido (39-12-2, 27 KO): Tenth title fight (4-4, 1 NC); Lost WBO title in last fight (January 2013)

Fitzbitz says: "Cruz is a headline-worthy story and worthy of praise, but he doesn't really belong on the same plane as an experience titleholder and challenger like Salido." Salido by decision

Last week's picks: 1-0

2013 picks record: 55-31 (64.0 percent)

Overall picks record: 518-183 (73.9 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.