On the Horns of a “Heavyweight” Dilemma
By Jason Petock, DoghouseBoxing (Sept 12, 2009)  
Once upon a time in the great history of the United States there was a title and a Championship in this country that was more coveted than any other at the time. Those who held this position and title were revered and respected across the entire nation, and even observed and acknowledged from overseas and afar. Children looked up to these title bearers and aspired to be them. Men more often than not considered such individuals a true representation and example of utter strength, fortitude and resolve. Other athletes in other disciplines regarded Champions of this caliber far superior and tipped their hats out of respect to these leaders and conquerors of men. This title was the Heavyweight Championship of the World, and these men were designated as true Heavyweight Champions in the sport of boxing, characters that remained in the spotlight of fame and distinction back when being the Heavyweight Champion was worth its weight in gold and then some and meant something to us all. People loved its Champions back then and writers wrote from their hearts about them as they chronicled these titans’ careers and voyages to the title.

Those days have long since passed from the fiber of sporting Americana, now to be replaced with a nation of avid football fans and a newer emergence of a UFC entity in a long forgotten positions wake. No one cares who the Heavyweight Champion is these days, and if they do they’re definitely not going to let anyone know about it, lest they be ridiculed for even following a sport that many have thrown to the wayside in favor of other far more spectacular and largely hyped novelties in its place. Sadly, a reign and throne that meant so much to this country and lifted all of us up from the depths of despair and calamity as a nation has been reduced to the very rubble that it once reached its hand into to carry us all out of. No longer do children desire to be the Heavyweight Champion of the World, throwing mock punches in bunches while their parents look on in wonder and confusion as to what their child is doing, even though the youth is always aware of what is to come. That aspiration is no more.

Gone are the days when Jersey Joe Wolcott KO’d Ezzard Charles in Pittsburgh on July 18, 1951 and the nation roared with approval as they strode on the edge of their seats during their heated battle. So too has passed December 26, 1908, the day after Christmas of that very year, when the mighty Jack Johnson KO’d Tommy Burns in the 14th round of their bout in Sydney, Australia to further his legacy, and slowly begin the progress of cementing a better future for African Americans in this country by using his fists to batter a way to eventual equality. Long past is June 14, 1934, when the animated and always charismatic Max Baer KO’d a questionable Primo Carnera in the 11th round of their fight in Long Island City, New York over 70 years ago, and stamped his mark on boxing once again. All of these bouts held great significance in regard to boxing, the Heavyweight Championship of the World (all of them were title fights), and this country’s attitudes about how important the Heavyweight Championship crown truly was at each time in history.

Who can forget such greats as Joe Louis? A man who served his country honorably and fought for our national pride and freedom against Max Schmeling. He gave his all in the ring while he remained a gentleman outside of it. Unfortunately this country turned its back on Louis, and while the government attacked him and took every penny he had, those who had respect for Joe Louis the Champion never forgot what he represented or stood for. We have had legends like Muhammad Ali, whose life and times speak for themselves and whose accomplishments surpass that of boxing and sport in general. There was big George Foreman, who continues to grace us as a commentator at live boxing events, offering up his expert insights into the art that some of us all still love so much. The names go on and on. Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, and Gene Tunney are but a small fraction of such greats. These men and all the others who held the title when it meant something more will never be forgotten and will always remind us of what such a Championship used to mean, and what it should stand for today.

So now the inevitable question remains. What can we as a boxing public do about it? What are we responsible for? What do we owe the sport of boxing and its fighters who have given us so much over the years? Well the first thing we owe them is a little dignity and respect. Next we could re-establish the one true Heavyweight Championship of the World and its importance. Get everyone’s hands out of the cookie jar and into the baking process, remolding and defining the title, building it up again instead of just manipulating and exploiting its contenders, challengers and Champions (both paper and legitimate) in the process. Start making real fights against real fighters and remove padded records and shifty dealings from the mix. Establish one belt and one belt only and make everyone in the division fight one another for that honor and esteemed position. Take the Championship far more seriously that it has in recent years and give the bigger men something to fight for by allowing those who haven’t had a chance at the title a shot for once, instead of making lackluster fights, easy paydays and soft touches the norm. Bring back some of the dignity to being the Heavyweight Champion of the World by returning it to its glory, and making the victor an important part of this incentive by making him fight for that position. Then and only then can we return to a more golden age of boxing with a stronger Heavyweight Championship and the backing and support required to make such a dream a reality.

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