(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.