The heirs aren’t so apparent
By Rob Scott (March 9, 2005) 
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The boy who would become a man, the prince who would become king and the challenger who would become champion all are distinct progressions; but the boxing reality is just because the man becomes champion, doesn’t make him king. This sport isn’t like yesteryear when we had eight weight divisions with one recognized champion in each. With the added weight classes and multiple organizations of modern times, the champion roster is overloaded with names; all claiming to be ‘the’ champion.

I have a question, who is the heavyweight champion? The WBC says that distinction goes to Vitali Klitschko. The WBA thinks Jon Ruiz is the true champ. IBF champion Chris Byrd always has his hand raised just like Arnold Horshack of ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ fame, when the question of who is ‘the’ champion is asked. Just who is correct in their assessment? Inquiring fans want to know.

Throughout history there have been so many champions, ones that were the unquestioned best in their respective class. With every champion, there was that hungry fighter itching to rise from challenger status to top dog. Where there are many hungry talented fighters in today’s era, there seems to be a famine amongst the fans and boxing public as a whole when it comes to a recognized king in the respective divisions. In this sport the words ‘heir apparent’ has been used a great deal because we have our share of divisions without clarity. There is a definite need to differentiate who is a belt holder, and who is king; who has made a pit stop as champion, and who is here to stay.

Its funny, when Lennox Lewis was champion, many had little interest and respect for the Brit. Now that he has retired, many of those same detractors would definitely welcome his return. The reason for this change in attitude is because, before he hung up his gloves, he did eventually establish himself as ‘the heavyweight champion’; but since his absence, no one has truly stepped up and been his heavyweight heir. So starved are we for a 2005 version of Mike Tyson, that there are those who are entertaining names like Sam Peters in the quest for someone new. A few years ago, would you have thought James Toney would be considered a knockout danger in the land of the heavyweights? There may be some debate when it comes to the answer to that question. Exactly who is the real heavyweight champion? Inquiring fans want to know.

Bernard Hopkins has turned 40 and says 2005 will be his last year as an active fighter. Stars like Felix Trinidad aren’t too far behind him, so who then will take over the middleweights? Maybe as not to fall in the same dilemma as the heavyweights, Jermain Taylor is being touted as the future of the division. He just may be, but the proposed game plan is to pass the baton to Taylor ‘in the ring’, not in the media. With a potential match-up with Hopkins looming, is the Arkansas native a real threat to the ‘Executioner’s’ reign, or will Hopkins snatch up the youngster and make him respect his elders? In our hunger for a middleweight heir, are we setting up Taylor’s career for an ending like that of a David Reid? At this point, the combined words of ‘champion’ and ‘Taylor’ have an oxymoronic sound to it when it’s at the expense of Hopkins. Again, who will eventually be the next Bernard Hopkins and establish themselves as the best? Inquiring fans want to know.

The reference to champions that ‘just make pit stops’ wasn’t one directed solely at short-lived titleholders who lose their belts in their first or second defenses. It was also directed to the ambitious fighters who choose to face further challenges. If a Floyd Mayweather had chosen to continue to campaign at the lightweight limit, who knows, eventually we could all have been saying, “Roberto who?” but now at this point we’ll never know. If Roy Jones Jr. had stayed in the middleweight division, would Bernard Hopkins be getting the attention that he garners today? To that again, we will never know. Jones’ departure served as a benefit to Hopkins’ though, as Hopkins made the middleweight division his home and evolved into the best fighter of his generation. In essence ‘The Executioner’ has become the authentic heir to the middleweight throne. This is evident when we think of mythical match-ups involving Hopkins, as we mostly couple his name with names like Hagler, Monzon and Robinson. This is a testament to Hopkins’ impact. Will Jermain Taylor truly serve as Hopkins’ heir? Inquiring fans want to know.

There are many fighters that have the potential to be not only a divisional heir, but also boxing’s heir. Growing up, my siblings and I were always accused of having ‘eyes bigger than our stomachs’; this was in reference to asking for more food on our plate than we were going to eat. It sometimes meant, in our hunger, we often asked for food that my mother knew we weren’t even going to like. Are we so hungry that we want Miguel Cotto to fight ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd Mayweather or Kostya Tszyu when it was shown in Cotto’s match-up with Demarcus ‘Chop-Chop’ Corley, that realistically, now is not the time? Boxing’s serving of dishes like Cotto and Taylor need to be prepared properly to truly leave a good taste in our mouths. If prepared properly, we will all eat every bite.

There is a truism in the notion of ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’, and having the Arums, the DiBellas and the others as their mouthpieces have served some fighters well. They have been presented as the fighters of future. They will undoubtedly play a part in the future of the boxing landscape. Inquiring fans know this as well, but who will be truly be the heirs – that’s something not so apparent
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