The Heavyweights just got Interesting
Article and Photos by Rob Scott (May 4, 2005) 
Photos © Rob Scott, DHB
Seek and you shall find? Well since Lennox Lewis’ February 6, 2004 retirement announcement, we have been in dire search for a heavyweight savior. With names like Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson continuing their never-ending downward spiral, we remain in search of heavyweight match-ups that will put the spark back in the division and the division prominently back on the sports page. From a viewer standpoint, the drought of the heavyweights has left us all parched.

As I sat down at the James Toney/John Ruiz post fight press conference I did feel a sense of relief though. Then again, maybe I should use the word contentment when describing my feelings, as a definite change for the better was taking place.  Here we are with a new WBA heavyweight champion in James Toney; Hasim Rahman vs. Monte Barrett was announced for the WBC interim championship – the winner to face WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko; and as I hate to rain on someone’s parade, John Ruiz announced his retirement – at least for the moment. I can hear a chorus of ‘so whats’ as I write this as still no one thinks the heavyweight division is back. I never said the division has made its return, but one has to admit the division is more interesting than the day before.

I have personally thought our expectations have been too enormous. I know it is said to reach for the stars, but we have been reaching for shooting stars. The point being, while we are reaching for that impossible rapid star in a supposed immediate savior, we are missing the ones that are stationary. True, they might not shine as bright as we would like, but there can be some momentary luster to keep the heavyweight persona lit up a little bit, as opposed to the division being considered a black hole.

‘What goes up – must come down’ is a saying and subject some in the media need to take classes on. Some promoters have life experience on this subject and understand this well, while others seem to have taken crash courses and just haven’t grasped the concept. Just as there maybe a lull in the action of a fight, there are inevitable lulls that take place in a division as a whole. The heavyweights are definitely going through their lull, as they have done in the past. As inevitable as a lull taking place, resurgence has been shown to be inevitable as well. When will this resurgence happen? Who knows? The positive part of the post-fight press conference was the feeling of fighters and promoters legitimately wanting to pair all to see who is the very best – even if by today’s standards.

That’s just it; it’s by today’s standards and not those of yesteryear. Searching for another Ali, Tyson, Holyfield, Louis and even Lewis is expecting a lot. We are hard pressed to find the likes of those within the current crop, but we aren’t bombarded with straight losers either. I wrote an article in October 2004 titled ‘Will a real heavyweight star please standup’; it was written in acknowledgement that a star was needed in order for the division to move forward, but a lack of a star was the deficiency that has left the division on life support. If the current crop of fighters and promoters are sincere about making fights happen, eventually the clichéd saying of ‘the heavyweight division is wide open’ will make way for a smaller space in the division which will only be occupied by the absolute best.

Say what you want about Hasim Rahman and Monte Barrett, but they have fought hard to get to this point; IBF champion Chris Byrd has never ducked an opponent in his career; newly crowned WBA champ James Toney may rub people the wrong way with his outspokenness, but his willingness to fight the best will serve the division well; WBC champion Vitali Klitschko has also expressed a desire to fight the best. Just maybe – just maybe, all are sincere in finding who is the very best. If this is the case, stars will indeed emerge. Their persona may never reach the magnitude of a Tyson, but maybe they can reach the point in which the question of ‘who is the heavyweight champion?’ could at least leave the tongues and minds of the masses.

When I wrote the article back in October the heavyweight division was on life support; after last Saturday, the division seems to be in more of a virtual rehab. The sincerity of the fighters and promoters will determine if the division makes a full recovery, or if it will be permanently disabled. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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