Lennox Lewis and Showtime Wrangle Over the Definition of “Undisputed”
By: Eric Lunger
Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis has taken to Twitter in recent days, unleashing a barrage of criticism at the Showtime commentators for claiming that Lewis was not the “undisputed” champion of the world in 1999, since Vitali Klitschko held the WBO belt at that time. Lewis, 53, has become somewhat of an elder statesman in the boxing world, weighing in on the sport with his accustomed thoughtfulness and gravitas. His recent remarks on Twitter, while critical of Showtime, show the marks of someone who believes in rational and balanced dialogue. This is rare in our hyperlinked age, where hysteria is often mistaken for passion.
So, when someone of Lewis’ stature speaks out, and speaks out in a considered and thoughtful way, he deserves to be taken seriously. Lewis took exception to Showtime’s build up of the Wilder vs. Parker fight as a step on the path to the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Mike Tyson in 1988. In a nutshell, Lewis argues that the WBO belt was, in the 1990’s, an irrelevant belt, one that fighters either vacated at will or were not interested in pursuing if better options were available. “The politics of my era, and the amount of Mickey Mouse belts made it difficult to impossible to own every fringe belt there was at the time,” Lewis wrote on Twitter, “the WBO belt was not a major or coveted belt in my days.”
.@ShowtimeBoxing The politricks of my era and the amount of Mickey Mouse belts made it difficult to impossible to own every single fringe belt there was at the time, so I only focused on fighting the best of the best and collecting the major belts of the time.
— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) March 20, 2018
Showtime did respond, trying to walk the line between standing by their original assertion and giving Lennox the respect he deserves as a great champion and hall-of-famer. Arguing that in Tyson’s time there were only three “recognized” world title belts, Showtime via their Tumbler page further said, “In 1999, when Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield for the WBC, IBF, and WBA world titles, Vitali Klitschko held the WBO heavyweight belt. At that time, the WBO was widely recognized as a legitimate world sanctioning body.”
In a further effort to smooth the ruffled feathers, Showtime concluded: “having said that, we recognize that the term ‘undisputed’ is somewhat subjective… In no way do we intend to devalue or denigrate Lewis’ accomplishments, which stand as the greatest of his era.”
So, is this dispute about the definition of “undisputed” just quibbling over words? Words do matter, definitions matter. If Showtime wants to promote their fighter, Deontay Wilder, who has a real shot at unifying the heavyweight title, we can understand going to the well of hyperbole. But Lennox has the stronger argument here. Becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world is a feat unique in world sport — it’s a title that should be used accurately and with the spirit that it represents the pinnacle of boxing greatness. Adhering to the technical requirements of the alphabet soup of sanctioning bodies breeds cynicism and boredom from the broader boxing public.
Wilder? Joshua? Parker? Fury? Given the excitement over the possibility of unification in the heavyweight division, let’s celebrate Lennox Lewis as an undisputed champion, and let’s hope for another one in the near future.
Ronda Rousey Returns After “Biggest Upset in Combat Sports History”? Not By a Long Way
Ronda Rousey Returns After “Biggest Upset in Combat Sports History”? Not By a Long Way
By: Matt O’Brien
Friday night sees the long-awaited comeback of“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey following her shocking defeat to Holly Holm last November, in a result infamously described by UFC commentator Joe Rogan as, “the biggest upset in combat sports history”. Prior to her defeat,Rousey had demolished a string of 12 opponentswith only one of them making it out of the first round – a devastating record by any standard, and there’s no doubt that Holm’s knockout was a truly enormous upset, with the challenger overcoming odds of up to 12-1 against her.
That being said, it takes two people to make a fight, and the bookies’ published odds are not the only ingredient that goes into a big upset – the wider context of the underdog’s role is also vital. Ronda’s record was indeed formidable, but keen observers had noted that it could be a far more difficult task than anything she had faced before, with Holm being a former world-boxing champion and arguably the first bona fide world-class striker “Rowdy” had faced off against.
So while Rogan’s assertion that it was the “biggest upset of all time” might be right as far as UFC or even MMA history goes, once we include the sweet science the scale of Ronda’s defeat falls a few rungs down the list of “greatest ever upsets”. Here are five of my favourite shocks in boxing history that eclipse Holly Holm’s upset victory over Ronda Rousey:
1. James Douglas KO10 Mike Tyson, Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship, February 1990
This is the grand-daddy of upsets: not just the biggest upset in the history of boxing; not even the biggest upset in the history of combat sports. This one is arguably the biggest upset in the history of sports, period.
The reason for the scale of Douglas’ shock was twofold: firstly, “Iron” Mike was a destructive force the like of which had rarely, if ever, been witnessed before. Carrying an undefeated 37-fight record, all but four of Tyson’s victims had been knocked out, 17 of them in the first round. Tyson made a habit of making accomplished world-class boxers look like bunny rabbits caught in the headlights of a freight train. Secondly, Tyson’s awesome aura was set against Douglas’ far less-than-fearful persona. A competent yet unspectacular heavyweight, Douglas’ physique was rippled rather than ripped andhis style plodding rather than punishing.
Weeks before the contest though, Douglas’ mother had died, providing him with the kind of motivation and discipline he’d previously lacked. Meanwhile Tyson had fallen into the age-old trap of believing his own hype; his preparations consisted largely of hosting Japanese women in his hotel room and he was knocked down in sparring by Greg Page.
Even so, a listless Tyson was able to floor the challenger and almost pulled off a knockout victory in the eighth round. Douglas beat the count and continued to pummel the champion with a solid jab and powerful right hand. In the tenth, “Buster” unloaded a vicious combination punctuated by a huge right uppercut that sent Tyson sprawling. As he scrambled to put the gumshield back into his mouth, referee Octavio Meyran waved the finish and signaled the greatest upset in history, as the 42-1 outsider stunned the world.
*To his credit, Joe Rogan later admitted that this was actually a bigger upset than Rousey-Holm.
2. Evander Holyfield TKO11 Mike Tyson, WBA Heavyweight Championship, November 1996
It is a testament to Tyson’s fearsome aura and the magnetic grip he held on the public consciousness that six years after the Douglas defeat and following three years of incarceration, he was yet again considered invincible – despite Douglas’ evidence to the contrary. Tyson had demolished four challengers in just eight rounds since his release from prison, though he had yet to face anyone offeringmuch resistance. Frank Bruno looked scared stiff as he walked to the ring and Bruce Seldon put forward probably the meekest capitulation in the history of heavyweight championship boxing, surrendering in just 109 seconds. Evander Holyfield was a different proposition altogether, though few credited him with this distinction at the time.
Once again, the monumental scale of Holyfield’s upset was not just a measure of how highly Tyson was regarded – it also came from a foolish under-estimation of what “The Real Deal” had left to offer. A glut in recent performances in the ring, including a KO defeat to arch nemesis Riddick Bowe and a health scare regarding a heart condition had effectively erased memories of Holyfield’s fighting skills and warrior spirit.Many pundits argued that Holyfield was not just going to lose, but that he was in danger of being seriously injured.
The former champ opened as a 25-1 underdog, but his ironclad self-belief, granite chin and counter-punching strategy troubled “Iron” Mike from the outset. When Holyfield took Tyson’s vaunted power punches, retained his composure and kept firing back, it soon became evident that “the Baddest Man on the Planet” had no back-up plan. They say a picture tells a thousand words, but when Tyson was lifted off his feet by a left uppercut in the sixth round, far less than that were needed to describe the look on his face. Holyfield proceeded to administer a beat down until a dejected Tyson was finally rescued by referee Mitch Halpern in the eleventh round.
3. Hasim Rahman KO5 Lennox Lewis, WBC/IBF/Lineal World Heavyweight Championship, April 2001
Lennox Lewis had been knocked out before, but going into his fight with Hasim Rahman he was in the process of establishing himself as one of the most dominant heavyweight champions in history. He’d already made 12 defences over two reigns as WBC championand was making the fourth defence of the lineal and unified title he won against Evander Holyfield. He had also cut a swathe through potential heirs to the throne, blasting Michael Grant in two rounds and thoroughly outboxing dangerous New Zealander David Tua.
Unfortunately, Lewis had also spent time during preparation for his title defense schmoozing on the Hollywood film set of Ocean’s Eleven, while unheralded challenger Hasim “The Rock” Rahman grafted in the intense heat and high-altitude of a South African boxing gym.But while Rahman was a motivated and respectable contender, he’d done little in his career to indicate he posed a serious threat. Indeed, two years prior he had been brutally knocked out by Oleg Maskaev.
In the ring though, the difference in each man’s preparation showed, as a complacent Lewis blew heavily and struggled to assert himself. In the early rounds, there were warning signs that Rahman’s overhand right posed danger, but even so the end came suddenly and unexpectedly in the fifth round, as Lewis backed against the ropes and the 20-1 outsider unleashed a haymaker that landed flush on the jaw. The champion crumpled into a heap and minutes later was still in disbelief about what had occurred. To his credit, Lewis returned the favour when properly focused for the immediate rematch, knocking out Rahman in the fourth round to reclaim his title.
4. Muhammad Ali KO8 George Foreman, World Heavyweight Championship, October 1974
The 4-1 odds on Ali for this fight really don’t do justice to the monumental scale of the task he overcame on this momentous night. Foreman – much like Tyson years later – was considered to be an unstoppable force that had brutally manhandled some of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world. Joe Frazier, the undefeated heavyweight champion, conqueror of Muhammad Ali and one of the finest fighters the division had ever seen, was bounced around the ring like a rag doll and brutally stopped in two rounds.Ken Norton, a fighter who’d also taken Ali to the wire on two occasions (going 1-1 with The Greatest) was similarly dispatched by Foreman in less than 6 minutes.
In contrast, Ali was 10 years removed from his initial title-winning effort against Sonny Liston, had barely squeezed by Norton in their second fight, and looked sluggish in a dull rematch victory over Frazier.
A 32-year-old Ali offered his usual, charismatic, confident predictions before the bout, but few took him seriously, and even his own camp appeared to fear the worst. Norman Mailer described the atmosphere in Ali’s dressing room as, “like a corner in a hospital where relatives wait for word of the operation.” The dark mood failed to stop the irrepressible Ali, who boxed one of the most brilliant, bold fights ever witnessed to recapture the Heavyweight Championship and cement in his place in history with a truly unbelievable upset of epic proportions.
5. Ray Leonard W12 Marvin Hagler, WBC Middleweight Championship, April 1987
In 1982 “Sugar” Ray had retired following surgery to repair a detached retina, returning to the ring in 1984 in what should have been a routine victory over Kevin Howard, but announced his retirement again following the fight after suffering his first ever career-knockdown. Now, having only boxed once in five years, Leonard was moving up two weight classes from his favoured welterweight division to take on one of the greatest middleweight champions of all-time. It looked liked Mission Impossible on Viagra.
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler hadn’t lost a boxing match since dropping a majority decision to Bobby Watts over a decade earlier, had won 13 consecutive middleweight title matches, and was ranked as the No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by KOMagazine. It’s therefore a testament to Leonard’s star power that he opened only as a 4-1 underdog, and had even shortened these odds to 3-1 by the time of the fight. Among the “experts”, few gave the challenger a chance though, with 18 in a poll of 21 writers picking Hagler to prevail.
The eventual split decision in Sugar Ray’s favour is still bitterly disputed to this day. While there is a strong argument that Hagler did enough to win, there is no denying the success of Leonard’s psychological games, and the fact that he pulled one of the greatest examples of mind over matter in the history of boxing.
The fights above comprise my personal favourite selection of huge boxing upsets greater than Holm’s defeat of Ronda Rousey, though there’s arguably a host of others than should make the cut. Here’s a brief selection of the best of the rest…
Randy Turpin W15 Ray Robinson, World Middleweight Championship, July 1951
Englishman Turpin probably caught the original “Sugar” Ray at the perfect time, as he came to the end of a busy European tour. Still, defeating arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time was a stunning achievement.
Cassius Clay TKO7 Sonny Liston, World Heavyweight Championship, February 1964
On paper the 8-1 odds were even steeper than when the older version of Clay [Ali] defeated George Foreman, as the Greatest “Shook up the World” for the first time in his amazing career.
Frankie Randall W12 Julio Cesar Chavez, WBC Super Lightweight Championship, January 1994
Chavez was lucky to escape with a draw against Pernell Whitaker four months earlier, but was still officially undefeated after 90 fights, 27 of them for world titles, and he entered the fight as a massive 18-1 favourite.
Max Schmeling KO12 Joe Louis, June 1936
The young, undefeated “Brown Bomber” was widely perceived as unbeatable, but the German had studied his style and exploited his weaknesses to great effect. A more experienced Louis destroyed Schmeling in a single round in their famous rematch two years later.
Lloyd Honeyghan TKO6 Donald Curry, Undisputed Welterweight Championship, September 1986
Curry was considered one of the elite fighters in the sport and was being groomed for super-stardom, but he was struggling desperately to make the weight limit. Meanwhile Honeyghan paid short shrift to the champion’s undefeated record and bet $5,000 on himself at odds of 5-1, shocking the bookies and the boxing world in the process.
More Boxing History
How Will Frampton Compare to his British Counterparts on American Soil?
How Will Frampton Compare to his British Counterparts on American Soil?
By: Jordan Seward
In 17 days’ time Carl Frampton (22-0-KO14) will be facing off with Leo Santa Cruz (32-0-1-KO18) for the WBA Super world featherweight title in the Barclays Centre, New York.
This will be ‘The Jackal’s’ first world title fight up at featherweight after he vacated the WBA and IBF world super-bantamweight titles. The highly rated 29-year-old’s prompted move up to featherweight came after he convincingly beat bitter rival; Scott Quigg (31-1-2).
The Northern Irishmen displayed superior ring intelligence and punch prowess to defeat Quigg and claim the WBA and IBF world super-bantamweight titles. His journey so far has been a fruitful one, but his only previous experience of fighting in America didn’t go according to plan.
Prior to the domestic dust-up with Quigg, Frampton defended his IBF world super-bantamweight title against Alejandro Gonzalez Jr (25-3-2) with a unanimous decision victory, at the Don Haskins Convention Centre, El Paso, Texas.
Despite getting over the finish line, it undeniably was not the American debut Frampton would have dreamt about. He struggled to perform and was forced to climb off the canvas twice in the first round. Sometimes a champions grit, willingness and determination is called upon and Frampton duly responded, unfortunately it just wasn’t the ideal setting for that moment.
This time round, in the ‘Big Apple’, Frampton will be eager to set the record straight and show his true talents to the American boxing fans against Santa Cruz. Hitting America as a boxer is like becoming a partner at Nike, it’s like reaching the top of Machu Picchu, it’s like vacationing in Bora Bora. It’s the big time.
And for years, some of the best British boxers have crossed the Atlantic in an attempt to conquer America. Some of Frampton’s British counterparts have succeeded, some have failed. The undisputed heavyweight king, Lennox Lewis (42-2-1), initially struggled to win over the American public until he put on a dominant performance in the controversial draw with Evander Holyfield in 1999.
Out of the 44 professional fights Lewis had, 22 of them were in the United States. It was not until he became undisputed champion in Las Vegas against Holyfield that he reached superstar status alongside with the likes of Mike Tyson.
Another Brit that took America by storm was ‘Prince’ Nassem Hamed. His American debut; similarly, to Frampton but with a whole lot more drama, was a thrilling encounter that made him an instant hit. Hamed climbed off the canvas three times before stopping fan favourite Kevin Kelley in Madison Square Garden, New York.
In more recent times, Kell Brook and James DeGale have tasted success in America both winning world titles against homeland opponents. Carl Froch experienced the highs and lows of America, he was on route to a points loss to Jermaine Taylor before sensationally knocking him out in the last round, but was outclassed on American soil by Andre Ward two years later.
British hero Ricky Hatton, has hurtful memories of Las Vegas as he suffered two career-damaging losses to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. So how will Frampton compare to his British counterparts on June 30?
The Northern Irishmen made his professional debut as a featherweight and he was always a big super-bantamweight. There were strong rumours that Frampton often struggled to make the 118lb limit and there was obviously some truth in those rumours, so weight shouldn’t be an issue.
The Tiger’s Bay boxer is in with a shrewd customer in Leo Santa Cruz though, his style is bullish and aggressive and he is yet to taste defeat. It’s proven that Carl can be hurt, Gonzalez put him down twice and he isn’t renowned for being a massive puncher. ‘El Terremoto’ is the bigger fighter, standing two and a half inches taller and has an 18cm reach advantage. It’s a menacing task. Cruz’s style is problematic, Frampton will be cautious to fight on the inside, but his opponent is rangy as well.
However, Frampton has the mental attributes to stick to a game plan and possess’ the boxing tools to pick the Mexican apart. Providing the mental scars of the Gonzalez fight have healed – which they should have after the Quigg fight, he will be filled to the brim with confidence and certainly has the skills in his locker to do the job.
‘The Jackal’ prides himself on his ring intelligence and footwork and he will need to implement these skills if he is to win. His trainer Shane McGuigan is one of the hottest and most sought after trainers in boxing right now and he will be fundamental to Frampton’s chances.
Despite Britain being the desired location for the biggest fights right now, highlighted by the super-fight between Gennady Golovkin and Kell Brook, America is still the place boxers want to make a name for themselves, mainly for the financial prosperity.
In recent times, the success of British boxers in America has been auspicious, although that all goes out the window at the Barclays Centre in 19 days’ time as far as Frampton’s concerned. it’s his moment now, to put his name in the spotlight and become a two weight world champion and create more British success on American soil.
British Boxers Leading the Way
British Boxers Leading the Way
By: Jordan Seward
Is boxing under British rule? British boxing is soaring in the professional and the amateur game. 12 World champions and Nine boxers qualified for Rio 2016 so far, with more places up for grabs.
Nicola Adams, Galal Yafai, Muhammad Ali – fortunate name, Joshua Buatsi, Lawrence Okolie and Joe Joyce all booked their place by winning gold medals at the European Continental Qualification Event in Samsun, Turkey. Qais Ashfag and Joe Cordina qualified with silver medals and Antony Fowler picked up a bronze medal.
The largest GB boxing team at the Olympics was back in 2012, when ten boxers (seven men, three women) qualified for the home Games. The women have a chance to add to the nine already qualified at the World Championships in Kazakhstan in May – four places are available in each weight class. The men will have two more opportunities to make it to Rio at qualification events in June (Baku, Azerbaijan) and July (location to be confirmed) when eight more places at both light-welterweight and welterweight are up for grabs. With nine qualified already and several places still available, there’s every chance Team GB will have its largest team ever at an Olympics this year in Rio.
By law of probability, the more competitors there are, the greater the opportunity is to win more medals. At the London Games, Team GB’s boxing team won five medals – Nicola Adams, Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell all picked up gold medals while Fred Evans won a silver and Anthony Ogogo took home the bronze. Despite the ludicrous inclusion of professionals in Olympic boxing – which undermines the hard work put in by amateurs, Team GB are hopeful of surpassing the medal tally from 2012. Historically, Cuba have produced the best amateurs, but Britain has taken over the baton in recent years. Team GB won the most medals in 2012 which is confirmation of that. Over the last ten years or so, Britain have produced some wonderful amateurs, some of who have gone on to prosper in the professional game.
One of the latest to do so is Anthony Joshua (16-0). He made a seamless transition from the amateurs to the professional ranks, and the fact he is the current IBF World heavyweight champion after just 16 fights, is testament to that. Another hero from 2012, Luke Campbell (13-1), is thriving in the professionals and is currently the Commonwealth lightweight champion. Campbell did come unstuck two fights ago, losing his WBC International lightweight belt to Yvan Mendy. But he remains a great prospect who is tipped for future success.
There has been no point in history where Britain have boasted so many world champions. 2007 was the last time Britain had an even comparable amount of world champions, then there were six, which indicates how far British boxing has come. Featherweight Stephen Smith missed out on the opportunity to become Britain’s 13th world champion when he lost his world title fight with Jose Pedraza. But Silver medallist at the 2004 Beijing Games, Amir Khan, fights for the WBC middleweight title on May 7 and Tony Bellew fights for the vacant WBC cruiserweight title on the 29 May, so the number of British world champions may well rise to greater heights.
In the early 1900s America dominated the sport, after English colonists bought boxing to the shores of America. The achievements of Jack Dempsey in 1919-26 resulted in personal financial prosperity. He was the first person to produce $1 million and $2 million gates in the sports history. This made him an icon and encouraged working-class youths around the nation to take up the sport in hope they would earn vast amounts of money. This made boxing one of the few sports that actually flourished during the Great Depression. Since the 1950s boxing in the states has been dominated by Puerto Rican, Mexican American and African American fighters. This is evident in the sport today with fighters like Leo Santa Cruz and Miguel Cotto. But there has been a slight change in the balance with the huge improvement of British fighters.
The history of British champions is not a rich one. Instead of having several champions at once, great boxing talent was few and far between. Although there were some great British world champions, such as; Terry Downes; John H Stracey; Charlie Magri; Terry Marsh; Nigel Benn; Chris Eubank; Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis.
Boxers from certain nations and continents have a certain representation and view. The South American and Mexican fighters are well known for their durability, the American fighters are well known for their swagger and slick technical skills. What are British fighters known for, what is a stereo-typically British fighter? Now’s the time to start thinking about that because Britain are on the rise and have boxers at amateur and professional level that posses a lot of talent. America currently have eight world champions, the closest amount to Britain, so is boxing under the reign of the British?
For a British boxer, this is the prime-time, with four world sanctioning bodies and 17 weight divisions there is more chance than ever to accomplish the dream and capture a world title. A plethora of money has been invested into British boxing and there are more television channels showing boxing, more fans are attending and watching fights and more boxers are joining the professional game.
Boxing is in a good place as a whole. The major thing for the sport that has helped increase the popularity is the renaissance of the heavyweight division. Boxing has another Brit to thank for that. The heavyweight division was in a deep, dark abyss before Tyson Fury dethroned Wladimir Klitschko. The win not only exploded the division into life, but it got people talking about heavyweight boxing again. The convention that the heavyweight world title is the greatest prize in sport was well gone, with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Rocky Marciano as a distant memory. But dare I say it is on route back to re-establishing this common viewpoint once again.
This is a golden age for boxing. No doubt. Audiences in the US have doubled over the last decade and there is more boxing on now than ever before. With strong broadcasting rivalries between Matchroom and Sky and Box Nation, it’s never hard to find a great fight on the box. With plenty of amazing upcoming fighters and fights to be seen it should continue this way. From a patriotic stance, why not enjoy it when you’re at the top, the sport is great again and British fighters sit at the top of the pile, long may it continue.
Britain’s Amateur pedigree
The 30-year-old will certainly be aiming for a medal in Brazil after qualifying. The Londoner outpointed Magomedrasul Majidov – the last person to beat Anthony Joshua to confirm his spot at Rio 2016. After the victory, he performed a trademark back-flip and this could become a familiar sight.
If the caliber of his brothers are anything to go by, we can expect big things from Galal. The southpaw’s selection was somewhat of a surprise due to his inexperience but he proved his worth by qualifying. Both his brothers, Khalid and Gamal have both turned professional and are undefeated in their careers so far – (18-0) and (9-0).
The MBE is the first women to win an Olympic boxing title and she will be eager to retain her crown at the Rio Olympics. The 33-year-old is a national hero and is one of the most decorated amateurs in the sport.
British world champions
(36-0) The undefeated IBF welterweight champion of the world is a special fighter. After defeating Shawn Porter to capture the world title the special one has won three easy mandatories and is on the prowl for a huge fight. His next fight will tell us all we need to know about Kell Brook and with Eddie Hearn as his promoter and some huge names in the division, we can expect an explosive fight next.
One of Britain’s best. The Jackal is undefeated (22-0) and holds the IBF super-bantamweight title. The titlist took the WBA world title of rival Scott Quigg in their domestic showdown back in in February, but has been subsequently stripped of it after refusing to face their mandatory. The Northern Irishman has a massive following and his next fight against Leo Santa Cruz up at featherweight will show the world if he really is one of the best in the business.
He needed to be mentioned. The Rings fighter of the year will be fighting Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch on July 9. After a long break Fury is back and has said he still has the motivation to go on and become one of the greats. Time will tell if that last statement becomes true but right now he is one of Britain’s many great world champions.
Fury – Joshua | The Great and the Glorious
Fury – Joshua | The Great and the Glorious
By: Courtney Riley
Fighters work their whole lives, shedding gallons upon gallons of bodily fluids, to make their ascension to the summit of the sport by becoming the champ – the man who sits above the pile of hungry contenders who are steadily vying for their own chance at glory. Glory, however, comes from a victory in a title fight whereas greatness is attained from the actions that are taken thereafter. For instance, will the likes of Charles Martin (23-1, 21 KOs) be remembered as a ‘great’ after being dethroned in only his first title-defence to Anthony Joshua (16-0, 16 KOs)?
Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) is the lineal world heavyweight champion. In short, he is ‘the man’ in the sport’s ‘glamour division’. He was crowned king after traveling to the champion’s backyard in Germany to claim three of the four major belts. However, it is the new titlist, Anthony Joshua, who is basking in the adoration of the public. History has shown us that winning the belt alone does not automatically win over the hearts of the public. In fact, many losing fighters have transcended to become the ‘people’s champ’. Look at Frank Bruno (40-5, 38 KOs) for example, he lost three world title challenges to Tim Witherspoon, Mike Tyson, then Lennox Lewis before finally winning the coveted WBC belt from Oliver McCall in 1995; only to lose it in his very first defence to a post-incarcerated Mike Tyson in a rematch 6 months later. Frank Bruno was (and still is) one of Britain’s favourite ever boxers – the people’s champ. So what’s the trick? Is there a secret to unlocking hearts?
Tyson Fury is the fighter who took the hard road. He claimed the English, the British, the Commonwealth, then the European titles before taking on the undisputed world heavyweight champion in Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) to challenge for the World WBA, WBO, and IBF titles. He dared to be great but his glory was somewhat dampened when the IBF placed an order for him to fight their mandatory challenger in Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-1, 13 Kos). Fury was contractually bound to fight Klitschko in a rematch so could not fulfil his mandatory obligation to defend of the IBF belt. He was stripped of the title as a result. The IBF then mandated that their mandatory and their next-ranked challenger would fight each other for their vacant belt. Thus ‘Prince’ Charles Martin was born. He claimed the belt after Glazkov was forced to retire because of a twisted knee. Martin will receive no plaudit in this article for that victory.
Martin then proceeded to ‘call out’ the sweetheart of British boxing in Anthony Joshua for his first title defence. We all saw how that ended; the paper-champ flew into London and was torn to shreds inside two rounds by the same counter right hand that had floored him a few seconds earlier. He failed to beat the count after sitting down on what he proved himself to be – a bum. No credit is being taken away from Joshua though. The lad is immensely talented and has all the attributes to go on and dominate the division like a Lennox Lewis or a Wladimir Klitschko before him. He won the title in only his 16th fight after destroying all previous challengers via knock-out. The boy is a beast and is a specimen of a man. His good looks has wooed the women and his humility has resonated with the public. His events are always a sell-out and soon enough, even your momma will know his name, I can bet that your sister already does. The boy is fast becoming a household name under promoter Eddie Hearn’s guidance, but no one can justifiable call him a hype-job. It is true that he has yet to fight anyone of note, and even his world title victory was against what is quite possibly the worst heavyweight world champion that I have ever seen. But the 2012 Olympic Gold medallist can fight. He is still a learning his trade in the professional game and he has already claimed a world title after only 16 fights. That is a noteworthy achievement. Tyson Fury is a veteran in comparison even though he is only a year older than Joshua. Fury has fought much better opposition and has claimed the right to be called the legitimate world champion after his victory over Klitschko. He has a chance to banish any idea that the public may harbour about his victory in Germany being a fluke when he meets Klitschko in a rematch in July. This should pave the way for a massive unification bout for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world against the winner of the WBC title fight between Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) and Alexander Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs). Those big high-profile fights would generate more than enough coin to line the pockets of generations of Furys, as well as solidifying his credentials as a great among the pantheon of boxing legends. He could then go out by having an all-British showdown against Anthony Joshua to win over the hearts and minds of the British public. Joshua on the other hand, should he continue his winning ways, will have the chance to claim all the belts and turn all of is glory into greatness.
It is a fantastic new era to be a boxing fan. And I, for one, I am loving it.