Last Tuesday, December 15, the International Boxing Hall of Fame issued an official press release identifying the newly-elected boxers and non-participants who will comprise its Class of 2021 and be inducted (we all hope) next June 13 in Canastota, New York.
Marian ‘Lady Tyger’ Trimiar was chosen as 2021’s Women’s Trailblazer and will enter the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the company of fellow pioneer Barbara Buttrick, who was the first female to be recognized in this category last December. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, of course, this year’s induction ceremony was postponed and both groups will be enshrined concurrently.
Competing in the first women’s bouts to be held in both Connecticut and Pennsylvania in 1976 (opposite Gwen Gemini in both no-decision contests), Marian Trimiar would become one of the three first females to be granted a boxing license by the New York State Athletic Commission in 1978 (Cathy Davis and Jackie Tonawanda being the others) after having been denied four years earlier, resulting in prolonged legal battles. Tonawanda, who first applied for her license at the same time as Trimiar in 1974 and was known during her career as ‘The Female Ali’, will be inducted posthumously into the IBHOF as well. She passed away in 2009.
‘Lady Tyger’ Trimiar headlined the first-ever all-women’s boxing card held in Hawthorne, California in 1979 by outpointing Carlotta Lee, and won the world lightweight title later that same year when she decisioned Sue ‘KO’ Carlson in San Antonio, Texas. Although she hung up her gloves in 1985, there was still plenty of fight left in Trimiar, who staged a month-long hunger strike two years later to draw attention to the injustices suffered by female fighters.
Always conscious of the fact that her accomplishments were designed to open doors for the women who would follow in her footsteps, ‘Lady Tyger’ had been an outspoken advocate for the participation of female boxers in the Olympics as early as 1974, something that would take 38 years to become a reality at the London games in 2012. Marian had previously been honored as an inductee by the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016.
Because Muhammad Ali inspired ‘Lady Tyger’ to want to become a boxer when she just ten years old, it will undoubtedly be a tremendous thrill for Marian to be inducted in the same class as her hero’s daughter, Laila. Debuting in 1999 with a 31-second knockout of April Fowler at the Turning Stone Casino (one exit away from the IBHOF), Laila Ali would win eight of her first nine fights before the final bell. She would venture back to the Turning Stone during 2001’s Hall of Fame weekend to take on Jacqui-Lyde Frazier, none other than the daughter of her father’s arch rival. Laila was given her toughest test to date, escaping with a majority decision victory in an eight-round slugfest which was billed as the next-generation sequel to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s Thrilla in Manila.
Ali won her first world championship in 2002 with a second-round stoppage of Suzette Taylor for the vacant IBA super-middleweight belt, supplementing her collection of gold hardware with Valerie Mahfood’s IWBF and WIBA titles three months later by way of eighth-round TKO. Laila would additionally earn the WBC super-middleweight belt, and become a two-division world champion by knocking out Gwendolyn O’Neil for the unclaimed IWBF light-heavyweight title.
Her most impressive victory would occur on August 23, 2003 when Laila destroyed Christy Martin inside of four rounds in their highly-anticipated bout. Martin and her would-have-been ‘Million Dollar Ladies’ adversary Lucia Rijker were elected to the IBHOF on the 2020 ballot and will be enshrined next summer as well. They were likewise simultaneously honored by the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame which inducted them together among its inaugural Class of 2014. Laila Ali followed them into the IWBHOF the year after.
Ali would retire undefeated in 2007 after putting Gwendolyn O’Neil down for the count for the second time, with only three of her 24 career victories going the full distance. One marquee matchup that fans clamored for but were unfortunately denied would have seen Laila Ali exchange leather with the feared and fearsome Ann Wolfe.
Fighting out of the Lone Star State under the ring moniker ‘Brown Sugar’, Wolfe was an intimidating presence on the women’s boxing scene who was deliberately avoided not only by Ali, but many of her contemporaries. This should come as little surprise when viewing Ann’s one-punch obliteration of Vonda Ward in 2004 which is routinely featured in highlight reels of the most devastating knockouts in boxing history, male or female.
A split decision over Brenda Drexel kicked things off somewhat unceremoniously six years prior, and Wolfe suffered her first loss in only her seventh fight by way of a technical knockout at the hands of Laila Ali’s future nemesis Valerie Mahfood. Not only would Wolfe avenge this defeat two times over by decisively outpointing Mahfood on a pair of subsequent occasions, but she would never lose again.
An eight-time world champion who held titles in three weight divisions (super-welterweight, super-middleweight, and light-heavyweight), Wolfe last competed in 2006 at which time she boasted a career record of 24-1 with 16 KOs. As Ann likes to say, she never officially retired, she simply ran out of women willing to fight her. She was, after all, in her own words, “a beast with punching power.” Ann Wolfe was similarly in the same class of 2015 inductees into the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame as her fellow 2021 IBHOF honoree, Laila Ali.
Preceded by her unblemished reputation as a tireless champion of safety reform throughout the world of mixed martial arts, Margaret Goodman is also being acknowledged for her significant contributions to the fight game as a 2021 inductee by way of the IBHOF’s 2021 non-participant category. A well-respected neurologist, Dr. Goodman was called upon to conduct evaluations of fighters by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in 1993, eventually overcoming a succession of gender-biased hurdles to earn well-deserved appointments as NSAC Medical Advisory Chairman and Chief Ringside Physician.
Among her multitude of achievements, Dr. Goodman later served as a medical advisor to the International Professional Ring Officials as well as a consultant to both the New York State Attorney General’s Office and New York State Legislature. She currently serves as President and Board Chairman of VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Besides contributing dozens of articles to various publications, Dr. Goodman edited and co-authored Ringside and Training Principles, a highly-regarded 2001 handbook, and wrote a boxing-themed novel in 2014 titled Death in Vegas. Dr. Goodman will be joined on the dais in Canastota by 2020’s non-participant inductee, longtime promoter Kathy Duva.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. was a no-brainer in his first year of eligibility, joined in the men’s modern category by Andre Ward and Wladimir Klitschko, leaving some scratching their heads at the exclusion of James Toney. Mayweather, Ward, and Klitschko will be enshrined alongside Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Shane Mosley who were all elected on the 2020 ballot.
In addition to Jackie Tonawanda, other posthumous 2021 inductees include the ill-fated featherweight champion (from 1959-63) Davey Moore, trainer and cut man Freddie Brown, manager and trainer Jackie McCoy, television executive Jay Larkin, and longtime Boston Herald journalist George Kimball who also authored the phenomenal Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing.
After enduring an unrelentingly punishing emotional roller coaster of a year with limited travel and minimal personal interaction, I know I am far from alone when I hope that the distribution of effective Covid-19 vaccines will allow the IBHOF induction weekend to proceed as scheduled next June 10-13.
This year’s ceremony will be that much sweeter and all the more significant as fans and peers from across the globe will gather to warmly welcome Marian Trimiar, Laila Ali, Ann Wolfe, Dr. Margaret Goodman, Barbara Buttrick, Christy Martin, Lucia Rijker, and Kathy Duva to their rightful and overdue place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. My hotel room reservation was made months ago and the five-hour drive to Canastota from my home on Long Island will fly by when the time comes. June can’t get here soon enough.