Heavyweight unification? What happens next with champions Klitschko, Ibragimov, and Chagaev

wladimir klitschko05.06.07 - By Paul McCreath: With the defeat last weekend of Shannon Briggs in a WBO title match, Don King has lost his last belt holder in the heavyweight division. Many posters and writers have put most of the blame on King for the fact that we currently have four different alphabet champs instead of one unified world champion, due to his prior reluctance to match Briggs against the other champions. It is no secret that while Don King talked often about unifying the titles, his actions spoke louder than his words. Nothing ever happened.

A few months ago for a short time, all four belt holders were Don King fighters, yet we saw no unification fights. Later, he had three of the four champs for an extended period, but still no unification took place.

Clearly, it is not hard to figure out that it was much more financially rewarding for Don to keep the titles separate and make money from three or four belt holders instead of maybe one. If Wladimir Klitschko happened to come out on top, King would have been left with none.

Well, now Don has none anyway, at least for the time being. Will it make any difference now that this roadblock has been temporarily removed? I would suggest that the answer is no. While King was undoubtedly a hindrance to unification, he was by far not the only one making it difficult to unify. We cannot for one minute forget the part the alphabet boys play in all this, who have the same financial interests in separate titles as Don King had. They can take in more money from their own champions than they would get if all four bodies split the sanctioning fees four ways as would be the case with one champion, so we will get no help here.

Other promoters play a role, too. Don King is not the only one to demand options from any fighter getting a voluntary shot at a title. Remember any unification bout would be considered in all probability to be a voluntary defense. What belt holder is likely to risk his title if he has to give options to another promoter?

The fighters themselves are part of the problem too. While many of them talk big, do they really want to take any risk? The caliber of their opponents pretty well answers that question. Only the very best welcome a challenging match. There are not many of them, maybe one right now.

So what is going to happen now? Let us look at the belt holders one by one. WBC champ Oleg Maskaev is committed to meet Samuel Peter next in a mandatory defense and then the winner must meet Vitali Klitschko, if he gets by his tune-up fight against Jameel McCline in September. The surviving title holder will obviously not be available for at least a year, and if it turns out to be Peter, a Don King fighter, who will want to fight him? If Vitali wins, he certainly won't fight his brother Wladimir.

Currently, Wladimir Klitschko, the IBF heavyweight champion, is signed to defend against Lamon Brewster on July 7, 2007. This is a voluntary bout, so he might squeeze in one more before his next mandatory is due but against whom? Who knows what they might demand?

Ruslan Chagaev holds the WBA belt. Chances are, he will be looking for an easy voluntary bout next. There might be a small chance he could get together with Wladimir in a few months but there seems little interest right now from his camp.

The new WBO champ, Sultan Ibragimov, has already stated he is planning a medium risk defense next, possibly against Evander Holyfield, if Evander gets by Lou Savarese on June 30. After that, he will be obliged to meet the Tony Thompson-Luan Krasniqi winner from the July 14 eliminator in his mandatory defense. As you can see, there are very few possibilities for any unification bouts any time soon.

I think in spite of the fact that most fans want unification, we will be lucky to see even one unification fight in the next year. The most likely would be Sultan Ibragimov against Wladimir Klitschko. It is not good news but it is the way things are.

I would welcome the usual comments on this situation.

Article posted on 06.06.2007

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