Heavyweight Unification? Is it Possible?

wladimir klitschko12.03.07 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Saturday night, reigning IBF heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko made the second successful defense of his championship belt when he defeated mandatory challenger, Ray Austin. Klitschko made this one look easy. It took him just two rounds to stop the unheralded Austin. Even more amazing, not only did Klitschko barely break a sweat, he didn’t even have to use his right hand the entire bout. A stiff jab and some well-timed left hooks was all it took.

It’s sad to believe this was actually a mandatory boxing defense. To be fair to Klitschko, he cannot pick and choose his own mandatory challengers, but even still, his reputation is impacted by this. It became clear pretty early that Austin was a couple of classes below Wladimir.

Even Manny Steward looked disappointed when the first round concluded and he noted the vast difference in class between the two. Larry Merchant further cemented this notion when he stated, “…just getting here (into a championship bout) was a victory for Austin”.

Sanctioning bodies often act in peculiar fashion. At times, the top organizations will have top ten lists in the same division that look nothing alike. Other times, it’s often unclear how certain fighters become ranked at all while others are mysteriously omitted from the rankings altogether. There often seems to be no rhyme or reason behind their actions; it is as if they randomly pick and choose contenders without any basis in merit.

Worse yet, sanctioning bodies often represent a major obstacle in unification bouts. To be sure, promoters, fighters, and various other factors also have an impact. Regardless, the fact remains that in the current landscape unification is no easy feat. Even if a particular fighter wanted to unify all the belts in a division, outside influences might prevent him from getting such an opportunity.

In the aftermath of this bout, Klitschko stated a desire for a unification bout with WBA champion, Nicolay Valuev. Valuev, it would seem, is also interested in unification. This is good news, but don’t get too excited yet—there are still a multitude of other obstacles that may prevent this one from happening anytime soon. It would be great if two fighters wanting a particular fight was all that mattered, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.

A fight between Klitschko and Valuev would be great for the division. It would help lessen the confusion left behind when Lennox Lewis retired and it’s the type of thing which might help rejuvenate interest in this lackluster division. For better or worse, when things seem too good to be true, they often are, so I’m not sold on this fight. That both pugilists want this bout is a good first step, but that’s all it is—a first step.

It is a damned shame that there are so many weight classes and so many sanctioning bodies. These are the main obstacles which prevent big fights from happening. To be sure, promoters and fighters themselves have a role in this, but could you imagine the sport wherein there was a lone sanctioning body and just nine weight classes?

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Unfortunately, such daydreams are unfounded in reality. In the meantime, let us hope that the powers that be can sort this mess out and bring the fans what they want to see—a unification bout between Klitschko and Valuev.

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Article posted on 12.03.2007

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