Boxing historian and author Bert Sugar has commented many times about the heavyweight division. “You can put them all in a police lineup and still not know who they are.” So true and the shape of this division won’t get better as long as the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir remain on top.
The division is dominated by the Ukrainian duo. Vitali the WBC champion easily won his sixth title defense Saturday evening in Germany with a first round stoppage over the previously undefeated odlanier Solis. Wladimir holds claim to the IBF and WBO versions of the heavyweight share, and David Haye of England the WBA version.
Confusion and mediocrity and once the premiere division in the sport, is now a joke. There is no telling when we can make sense of it all. The last disputed unified champion was eight years ago when Lennox Lewis retired undefeated. Oh what is the late and great Rocky Marciano thinking, the first undefeated heavyweight champion who retired in 1955?
And with the mediocrity comes the lack of exposure. Both HBO and Showtime have bypassed the division. The major boxing networks don’t see any market value with the Klitschko’s, and Vitali’s win was shown on EPIX a new television network also broadcast on the internet
And the win over Solis was reduced to being televised live in New York City on the jumbo screen in Times Square. Just two weeks ago we marveled and reminisced, 40th anniversary, the epic fight in New York at Madison Square Garden between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier when the heavyweights were kings.
This is not the way it is supposed to be. And boxing for years did ride on strength of the heavyweight division. You can point to some of the demise on popularity of the UFC, or limited television exposure, or the lack of readership for the sport in the daily newspaper.
However the center of attention with boxing has always been from the heavyweight division, and now it has been reduced to two brothers who have a majority of their fights in Germany. And they refuse to make sense of the division by constantly avoiding the issue of opposing each other.
Haye does offer some hope, however he can never be taken seriously as a legitimate heavyweight. Besides, Haye constantly has a fight and forced to postpone due to constant injuries. He is charismatic but never the fighter like Lewis was.
There is Tomasz Adamek of Poland who resides in Jersey City, New Jersey. He gets either brother supposedly in September because the Klitschko’s have that power. So the networks look at this equation and see that the Klitschko’s have limited popularity in America and go another route.
They go to the divisions that have interest. The middleweights, welterweight divisions, lightweights, and now the bantamweights are gearing interest and keeping the sport afloat. The Klitschko brothers sell out arenas in Germany, as Vitali did again Saturday, but the average boxing fan in America has to question, who holds what title?
This is not to take away from their talent but at this hour, with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament being played, and with other sports on the agenda, the ESPN Sports Networks have yet to acknowledge that a heavyweight title fight took place Saturday.
That alone says enough. Not entirely that the sport is in trouble but the heavyweight division is a joke and there is nobody on the horizon that can come to the rescue.