Vitali Klitschko, Erik Morales and Winky Wright headline Hall of Fame's Class of 2018

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, now the mayor of Kiev, was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Tuesday, along with Winky Wright and Erik Morales. (NurPhoto)

Vitali Klitschko never was treated as a future Hall of Fame fighter throughout his boxing career. He wasn’t given the respect for his accomplishments or acknowledged for his skills.

He was 45-2 with 41 knockouts and yet was most known for a spirited 2003 loss to Lennox Lewis. His size — 6-foot-7 and about 250 pounds — gave him an unfair advantage over his opposition, many critics said. Others criticized him for steadfastly refusing to fight his younger brother, Wladimir. And even more blasted him for the level of opposition he faced.

But Klitschko on Tuesday got all the vindication he needed when he was one of three living boxers elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in its Class of 2018. Joining him for induction will be ex-super welterweight champion Winky Wright, four-division champion Erik Morales, Showtime broadcasters Steve Albert and Jim Gray and promoter Klaus Peter Kohl.

Promoter Lorraine Chargin, ring announcer Johnny Addie and lightweight Sid Terris will be inducted posthumously. The induction ceremony will be held June 10 in Canastota, New York.

“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, who is now the mayor of Kiev, Ukraine, lost only to Chris Byrd and Lewis. He was handily defeating Byrd, having won 8-of-9 rounds on two scorecards and 7-of-9 on the other, when he was forced to quit because of a shoulder injury that required surgery.

He fought from 1996 through 2012, though he never fought either Tyson or Evander Holyfield. That was an issue for him, as well, when critics pored over his record. But he had one of the best jabs in the history of the heavyweight division and proved himself in a sensational bout with Lewis in 2003 that ended when Klitschko was deemed unable to continue because of a massive gash above his eye.

He protested the stoppage and pursued a rematch, but Lewis retired after the bout and went on himself to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Winky Wright (L) lands a punch on Paul Williams during their April 11, 2009, bout in Las Vegas. Wright was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Wright was 51-6-1 and at some point in his career held each of the four major sanctioning bodies’ super welterweight titles. He was best known, perhaps, for a hotly disputed loss to Fernando Vargas in 1999 in which most observers believe he deserved to win.

He had notable victories over Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley (twice) and Ike Quartey.

Morales is best known for his epic trilogy with archrival Marco Antonio Barrera. All three were sensational fights and two were chosen as Fight of the Year. Morales was an all-action fighter who was willing to take on all comers and did so with a crowd-pleasing style.

Chargin becomes only the second woman inducted into the Hall of Fame, following Aileen Eaton. Her husband, Don Chargin, was inducted in 2001.

Erik Morales (L), with archrival Marco Antonio Barrera in August at the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony, was elected Tuesday to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)