When bigger isn't better
By Rob Scott (August 30, 2004) 
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You don’t have to have a PhD to realize the psychology that exists when something is said to some one over and over again. From politics to religion, from the media to everyday life, the mind seems to be like putty. From a boxing viewpoint, the thought that has been fed to us for generations now is that the heavyweight division is the backbone of the sport. For so long the heavyweights have been the measuring stick of the sport of boxing. There have been many great fighters that have left their mark on the division and the sport as a whole. Names like Sullivan, Dempsey, Louis, Ali and Tyson have left indelible impressions on the minds of millions. Their stories have been documented for all of history.

Before there were mass newspaper circulations, before there were televisions, before there was the Internet, there was the word of mouth. From town-to-town and state-to-state, the word got around about the great John L. Sullivan. There was no guessing of whether this guy could fight or put on a show. That was really the start for the heavyweights' persona. Even before Sullivan and James J. Corbett met in 1892 to determine the first heavyweight champion of the gloved era, all other heavies have jockeyed to be the man – who beat the man – who beat the man… who beat the man. From that point on, there have been real men who have stepped in to take the mantle of being the best in the world. Dempsey had a strangle hold on the American psyche in the 20’s. Joe Louis was the man who beat the German Max Schmeling in a time when the world was at war. Ali was the vociferous one who spoke out against the Vietnam War. Tyson rolled over the division on his way to becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

These and others deserve their credit for the part that they have played in the sport, but not enough credit is given to the ‘little guys’. When there was a lull in the heavyweight action in the early 80s, along came Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler to the rescue. These fighters became the backbone and were special indeed. It seems that we forget eras like that when we say the heavies remain the backbone. Other divisions often shine, but as in every division, they go in spurts. Whenever there seems to be a lull in the heavies, cries of the demise of the sport always surface.

Who is to blame? Should we blame the consumer for being psyched out into believing the heavyweight myth? Should we blame promoters for ignoring the little guys and focusing on the retreads of Tyson, Holyfield and Lewis for so long? Whoever is to blame, the reality is the little guys play an important role in the boxing landscape. If the heavyweights are the backbone, the lower weights are the head and limbs. What is the use of having a backbone without arms and legs?

The saying goes, “He who controls the heavyweight title – Controls boxing.” Don King knows this too well, that is why he focuses on the heavies more than any other weight class. Even if that saying is true, is it so true that this questionable era of heavyweights should overshadow the exciting lower weights of today? The answer to that is NO! King’s job will be much harder with the current crop.

Maybe this will be the chance that the little guys have needed. Not enough acknowledgements currently exist in the sport of boxing. Acknowledgement is not only with more coverage, but better pay. There is a sense of unjustness when an uninterested fighter like Michael Moorer can make $28 million in his career and fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales still won’t make a fraction of what the heavyweights have made. Sure, there have been great heavyweights over the years, but the question of ‘What have you done for us lately?’ can easily be asked. John Ruiz being a millionaire and two-time champion can’t seem to land a bit of justification. The theory that the heavyweights are the best might have been true, but that is more subliminal today than factual. Lincoln and Cadillac use to make big gas-guzzlers. They have come into modern times and acknowledged that bigger isn’t better. It’s time that the boxing world comes to grip with the times and stops letting the heavyweights guzzle up all the attention and fortune.
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