Today at 5 o’clock Wladimir Klitschko (52-3) fights Ruslan Chagaev (25-0-1) for what I consider to be the real heavyweight championship of the world. I think Wladimir, based on the recent history is the true heavyweight champ. Even if you don’t buy that, the fact that the holders of 3 of the 4 major belts are in this fight, should make it a big deal.
I wouldn’t be surprised though, if most of you had no idea. Part of it is that there are no Americans. Part is the rise of MMA. But whatever the reason, a heavyweight title fight is getting almost no coverage; and most American sports fans don’t even realize its happening. Back when I became a fan, any heavyweight title fight was front page news. Not just the big ones. Trevor Berbick versus Pinklon Thomas would get coverage. Later Riddick Bowe versus Michael Dokes would earn some ink. Now a fight between the IBF,WBO and WBA champions gets as much press as the Motor City Bowl.
I’m not going to discuss the reasons why or suggest remedies. I’m not sure I have any answers. I’ll just suggest that if you are a boxing fan at all, watch it. 5 o’clock on ESPN Classic. Take time to watch the fight for the Heavyweight title. I think Klitschko will wear down Chagaev and get a mid to late round knockout; and it might not be too exciting; but heck it’s for the heavyweight title.
On a side note, I have to be a lone voice for boxing in its competition with this UFC/MMA stuff. I don’t hate MMA, but I feel that boxing is a light years more enjoyable sport. I also think it has more refined skill and I finally got something on my side last week.
Watch this short bit on the ray Mercer/ Tim Sylvia fight.
Ray Mercer a 48 year old boxer that hasn’t won a fight of note since he beat Tim Witherspoon in 1996 needed just 9 seconds to knockout MMA veteran Tim Sylvia who was UFC heavyweight champion as recently as 2 years ago. This fight was a joke. Admittedly Mercer has lost to Kimbo Slice, but that is kind of my point. Anyone can almost beat anyone because, fluke endings happen all the time.
Two MMA fight that come to mind are a big one between Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell and a side show where Slice was beaten. In both fights a fighter was stunned more than hurt and then his opponent could sit on him, wail away, and it had to be stopped. There is no chance for a fighter to recover, compose himself and try to changer the flow of the fight. In boxing there can be a one punch KO, but mostly a fighter has to be able to show continued dominance over 36 minutes.
Think how many great boxing matches that had an ebb and flow we would have missed out on with MMA rules. The first knockdown would have been the end of it. Tyson/Douglas, Corrales/Castillo, Pacquiao/Marquez I, Pavlik/Taylor I, all would have ended much earlier than they did, most with different victors. Wladimir Klitschko beat Sam Peter because he showed incredible determination overcoming 3 knockdowns to win a decision. That would have been impossible in MMA when the the first time a guy is hurt and needs a few seconds to gather himself the fight is over.
I understand why people like MMA. It most resembles a street fight, usually has a clearer winner, and plays to our unfortunately short attention span. I’ll still take the back and forth strategy of the sweet science. Rules on holding and pass interference make football a better sport. Not allowing goaltending and charging makes basketball a more skilled game. The rules of boxing make it a better athletic competition.
Finally I’ll say this. If Frank Mir fought Wladimir Klitschko, or Georges St. Pierre fought Kelly Pavlik , they each would be favored in their particular arena. Mir and St. Pierre would most likely win an MMA fight, but Pavlik and Klitschko would have a chance. In a boxing match Pavlik and Klitschko wouldn’t even have to break a sweat.
So anyone that cares at all about boxing. Start watching some fights, starting today.