Rick Wright: Jones, Trout among combat sports athletes worthy of Hall of Fame - Albuquerque Journal

Rick Wright: Jones, Trout among combat sports athletes worthy of Hall of Fame

In this Jan. 3, 2015 file photo, Jon Jones, right, kicks Daniel Cormier during their light heavyweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 182, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

With the official installation of Holly Holm and Danny Romero as members of the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame, the number of combat-sports inductees has risen from three to five.

Now, the question arises: When will that number again increase, and with the induction of whom?

Holm and Romero were honored at Sunday’s NMSHOF banquet, with other members of the class of 2019 – their formal induction delayed more than a year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rick Wright

Their fellow inductees: Jimmy Collins, Rob Evans, Carolyn Thompson, the late Nick Pino (basketball) and Alan Branch (football, though he also was a hoops standout at Cibola).

It will surprise no one that football and basketball players, and those who coached them, are plentiful in the NMSHOF ranks. The Hall of Fame board, though, also has enshrined baseball players, track athletes, race car drivers, golfers, swimmers, tennis players, more coaches, administrators, patrons, balloonists, gymnasts, a bowler, a barrel racer, a pool player, a cyclist and even a few media types.

Among combat-sports inductees, Holm and Romero follow, in chronological order, all deceased:

• Bob Foster, class of ’74, boxer.

• Jim Cleary, class of ’76, boxing referee.

• Johnny Tapia, class of 2017, boxer.

Foster, arguably the greatest light heavyweight boxer of all time – Archie Moore fans, I see you – was a shoo-in, a member of the Hall of Fame’s second-ever induction class while he was still an active fighter.

Cleary is in a class by himself, figuratively and literally. Though he boxed as a youth in New York, he was inducted by the then-Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame solely for his contributions as a referee.

Tapia’s induction clearly was delayed by his out-of-the ring entanglements, but, based on his many boxing accomplishments and the love he engendered in so many New Mexicans, it ultimately became clear he belonged.

The NMSHOF credentials of Holm and Romero are unassailable. World champions both, they’ve on many occasions and in many ways given back to their city and their state.

So, who’s next? Here’s a list of candidates – some already nominated, some not and no doubt incomplete.

• Jon Jones (not nominated): Because of his brushes with the law and his positive tests for banned substances, he is viewed through the same prism as Tapia was for so many years. But, considered by many the greatest MMA fighter in history, his worthiness from that standpoint cannot be denied.

Austin Trout, right, in action against Jarrett Hurd during the IBF Junior Middleweight World Championship match, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

• Austin Trout (not nominated): The 35-year-old boxer, still active, won a national amateur title and professional world title, and he fought at the sport’s highest level for years afterward. An anti-bullying crusader at home in Las Cruces.

• Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn (both nominated): Together, they’ve developed world/UFC champions and made Albuquerque an internationally known MMA mecca.

• Joe Louis Murphy (nominated): One of New Mexico’s better professional boxers from the 1950s-60s, Murphy, 85, became a trainer, worked in boxing promotion and has been a dedicated steward of the sport.

• Diego Sanchez (nominated), Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (not nominated), Carlos Condit (not nominated). None of the three has won a UFC title, though Condit won a WEC title and a UFC interim belt. Their longevity and enduring popularity, though, should put them in the picture.

And don’t sleep on Michelle Waterson, John Dodson and Tim Means (all not nominated).

Finally, a favorite in this corner … Jim Boggio (not nominated).

Jim Boggio (Journal file)

Boggio, who died in 1997, had a long career as an Albuquerque sportscaster and might well merit consideration just for that. But he truly loved boxing, the amateur sport in particular, served as chairman of the New Mexico Athletic Commission and was a boxing historian.

To nominate a candidate for the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame, or simply to learn more about the process, go to NMSHOF.com.

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