|Hard Times for Heavyweights?
By JD Camacho, DoghouseBoxing.com (July 6, 2009)
“Things were much worse after Larry Holmes had gone out of the picture in the 1980s. A whole bunch of guys were called champions: men like Pinklon Thomas, Mike Weaver, Trevor Berbick, Greg Page and Bonecrusher Smith. They were better than journeymen fighters but not real heavyweight champions, not as good as today's top fighters. A young Mike Tyson came along and looked incredible as he beat them. But the division was bad. And go back to Joe Louis's time. For years they said he was fighting the "bum of the month", but now people say Louis may have been the best ever.”
So said longtime broadcaster Bob Sheridan, speaking with the Irish Times on the heavyweight division. However, the good Colonel was not speaking of the current division but of the heavyweight landscape circa 2000. According to Sheridan, the kingdom Lennox Lewis ruled over housed better fighters than the territory Mike Tyson controlled with an iron fist in the late 1980s.
How are things now? Are things much worse now that Lennox Lewis has gone out of the picture, too? After all, a whole bunch of guys were called champions since: men like Ruslan Chagaev, Sultan Ibragimov, Samuel Peter, Oleg Maskaev, and Nikolai Valuev. Were these fighters “better than journeymen fighters but not real heavyweight champions,” as Sheridan might say?
And Wladimir Klitschko, boxing’s resident heavyweight ascendant, has at least looked as dominant, if not as demonic, as the young Mike Tyson. So is it fair to say that this dominant champion presides over a barren and beleaguered heavyweight realm? Sheridan points out that Joe Louis, one of the most celebrated heavyweight champions of all-time, famously fought bums every month for much of his reign.
It seems nearly every respected heavyweight champion fought during what some see as a “weak era.” Jack Johnson dueled white midgets. Jack Dempsey fought sideshows. The aforementioned Louis battled off bums. Rocky Marciano mashed up old men. Larry Holmes doesn’t have a single hall-of-famer among his twenty successful defenses. Mike Tyson waddled too briefly in what was already a shallow pool. Evander Holyfield lost too many. Lennox Lewis lost too big.
It’s as if good heavyweights only fought in the 1960s and the 1970s. And it’s as if Muhammad Ali, for all his bluster and bravado (or maybe because of it), was the only heavyweight perceived by almost all to be truly tested before and after his prime years.
Two more members of this potential “weak era” fight on Saturday. Alexander Dimitrenko and Eddie Chambers aren’t even fighting to get out of the shadow of Wladimir Klitschko. If this is indeed a meager time for heavyweights, Dimitrenko and Chambers are fighting for recognition beyond the Mike Weavers and Greg Pages and Samuel Peters and Oleg Maskaevs of the world. They are fighting to show that they are more than weak, more than meager, more than deserving to be among the top ten heavyweights on the planet.
That distinction used to mean a lot more. Here’s hoping that Saturday’s heavyweights are not only “better than journeymen” but real potential champions, too.
-Aaron Pryor Alexis Arguello I is my all-time favorite fight. When HBO’s LEGENDARY NIGHTS series documented the fight, here are a few of the things that were said of Alexis Arguello: one of the most gracious people in or out of the ring; he embodied everything I love about sports; Arguello the conquistador, the hero figure; kind of a Spanish don; A true sportsman; he exemplifies the word “champion.” Rest in peace, champion…
-What? Top 10 heavyweight contenders fighting each other to earn a title shot? Cris Arreola and David Haye, take note…
-Speaking of the heavyweight division, Deontay Wilder George Foreman III could be a good scrap come 2013. Or not…
-Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao better sign to fight before the boxing world loses its mind. Besides, I need to know if a Las Vegas trip is in order…
-Timothy Bradley Nate Campbell. Is juicy the right word? Na, that doesn’t sound right. Tasty? No, not that either. How about Desert-y? Galaxxy? Don’t worry, I’ll think of something…
-I don’t need to hear any of that double-talkin’ jibber-jabber from Golden Boy Promotions and Victor Ortiz about his verbal self-hanging last Saturday. Ortiz was honest about it then. If he really wants to make statement, he should do the talking with his fists…
-Teddy Atlas? Alexander Povetkin? How fluent is Povetkin’s English? Atlas’ metaphors won’t make much sense out of English, I’d imagine. Maybe they’ll both sign a silent contract…
e-mail JD at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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