Tony Thompson: The unfair world

tony thompson28.11.07 - Andrew Wake: A large portion of the boxing world rejoiced last week when it was announced that Ukrainian IBF and IBO champion Wladimir Klitschko will meet Russia’s WBO king, Sultan Ibragimov, at New York’s Madison Square Garden in late February. The match up, which is to be broadcast on HBO, is the first unification in the heavyweight division since Lennox Lewis famously outpointed Evander Holyfield, at the second time of asking, in November 1999 and, while this partial joining of the world crown is much appreciated, there is one man that has the right to feel aggrieved.

On the evening of Saturday Feburary 23rd Tony “The Tiger” Thompson will switch on the TV at his Washington home and, as the two champions from the former Soviet Union begin to trade punches, say to himself “I should be in that ring”..

It took right handed southpaw Thompson (31 – 1, 19 KOs) sometime to gravitate towards the boxing gym. Like most of us, he was your average slave, working a normal day job to pay his bills and, despite some bouts as a teenager, did not consider himself a natural fighter. He had reached the ripe old age of 27 when he felt the itch to put the gloves back on and have his first amateur contest as an adult. He joined the paid ranks 12 months later and, in the eight years that has passed since, he has remained focused and determined while working his way gradually up the rankings. During that slow climb up boxing’s greasy pole he has beaten competent opposition in Timor Ibragimov, former title challenger Vaughn Bean, and the man who was once regarded as America’s premier heavyweight prospect, Dominic Guinn but, due to a lack of major network exposure [he has never fought on Showtime or HBO], he has remained a low-profile figure. Personally I find it astounding that the TV giants haven’t picked up on his ability, after all, with Holyfield now ten years past his prime and Tyson retired, it has long been stated that the sport needs an American heavyweight who is not fat, crap, or Hasim Rahman.

In July of this year it seemed Thompson’s stock would finally rise and a world title shot was on the horizon, he had just been to possibly the toughest country a fighter can travel to [Germany] and won a WBO eliminator by stopping Luan Krasniqi in the fifth round. He felt that he now could not be ignored and was readying himself for a tussle with Ibragimov. However, things have not panned out as he anticipated, firstly he was overlooked in favour of a man only days shy of his 45th birthday, the aforementioned Holyfield, and now misses out again to Klitschko.

“Boxing is such a political game that you never know what can happen,” Thompson told the Washington Post recently, “You could be fighting all your life and never get a title shot.”

While it seems that the big man, originally from Silver Spring in Maryland, accepts that chances don’t always materialise, I feel that he should make a stand and complain to the WBO. He has earned his shot and should get it.

The unification bout is, with doubt, good for the health of the division but it begs the question, why are the WBO building up fighter’s hopes and making them box eliminators (and probably charging sanctioning fees for the privilege) that don’t amount to anything? In a fair world, Ibragimov would face Thompson first and the victor would then face Wladimir. Unfortunately, as all boxing fans know, the world is far from fair.

Article posted on 28.11.2007

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