Will a real heavyweight star please stand up
By Rob Scott (October 15, 2004) 
In a past article, I commented on the state of women’s boxing, in which I referred to it as being on a virtual respirator. While there is a sense of truism in what was said, I realize I can’t make that comment about the ladies and be oblivious to the current status of the heavyweight division in men's boxing. A code blue has been declared as the glamour division of boxing has been suffering from its version of cardiac arrest. Don King plans to administer his version of CPR when he returns to Madison Square Garden on November 13, 2004 with a pay-per-view card aptly labeled 'Struggle for Supremacy'.

Eight of today’s top heavyweights will headline on a card filled with past and present world champions in an attempt to bring more focus to the blurry state of the heavyweight division. The card will have two of the major belts on the line as IBF champion Chris Byrd, 37-2-1 (20), makes a defense against challenger Jameel ‘Big Time’ McCline, 31-3-3 (19); and WBA champion John ‘The Quiet Man’ Ruiz, 40-5-1 (28), goes up against Poland’s Andrew Golota, 38-4-1 (31). Two former champions will also be featured as four-time heavyweight king Evander ‘The Real Deal’ Holyfield, 38-7-2 (25), continues his undisputed title quest when he meets Larry Donald and former WBC/IBF ruler Hasim ‘The Rock’ Rahman, 39-5-1 (32) takes on recent WBO title challenger Kali 'Checkmate' Meehan.

Don King has been accused of many things in this sport. Where there are ills, King has been said to be the virus that caused it. The reality of the heavyweight division is it has a lack of a needed star. King is rolling with the punches as only he can by working with what he has in the hope that a star emerges.

Historically, the heavyweights who have made the biggest impact were the ones that stimulated the imagination. Fighter like Joe Louis, Sonny Liston and a young George Foreman left spectators in awe with their sheer knockout power; Muhammad Ali grabbed many with his bravado and quickness; while Jack Dempsey and Mike Tyson had a bit of both power and personality. How ever many reasons these fighters excelled, one that stands out at the forefront is that on the surface they were all winners. All had that sense of dominance.

This absence of a true winner is actually the virus that currently hampers the big boys. 'The heavyweight division is wide open' has been the cliché of the sport for some time now. There hasn’t been that fighter to step-up and rightfully claim dominance. Current WBC king Vitali Klitschko, 34-2 (33), is ‘the’ perceived champion, off of his performance against then-champ Lennox Lewis in 2003; but can we discard the fact that the IBF champ Chris Byrd has a victory over Klitschko and was sidestepped by Lewis? Byrd himself has shown an all out willingness to face any and all, but his evident lack of power, a loss to Wladimir Klitschko and coming off questionable decisions over Golota and Fres Oquendo makes it debatable as to whether he can claim supremacy.

Just who are today’s heavyweights? Who are the fighters that will be the stimulus needed to spark the imagination of the fans? The ones who currently compete in the division either need an identity enhancement or are boxing’s versions of senior citizens. They are either unknown or they may have notoriety for what they have done, but there isn’t a belief that they can do it again. New arrivals like James Toney, 68-4-2 (43), may add a personality and presence that can make heads turn. Maybe an ascension by light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, 22-2 (18), can add a bit of interest.

The heavyweight division has always been Don King’s baby. He has always known that this is where the prestige has always been. He also knows that because of the current heavyweight lull, his baby is truly sick. The November 13th fight card is the first of hopefully many treatments to nurse the division back to its proper health. King hopes that decent performances on this evening can produce some necessary sparks. Those sparks along with those of fighters the likes of V. Klitschko, Toney and even a come-backing Riddick Bowe just may ignite some flames that will ultimately make the division hot again.

Will we ever feel the heat of yesteryear? The answer to that is still up in the air, but the hope is that it happens. Asking for the heat that Ali, Louis or a young Tyson brought is probably a bit much with the current crop, but let’s hope that at least one has what it take to bring the heavyweight ranks out of the cold.
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