Braithwaite and Mormeck – Cruiserweights in a class of their own

01.04.05 - By JE - Tonight Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite (21-0, 17 KOs) of Guyana and Jean-Marc Mormeck (30-2, 21 KOs) of France square-off to unify the WBC and WBA cruiserweight titles. Much will be made of the division’s weakness and some will question will the reason the cruiserweights exist at all.. While its true that numerous “junior” and “super” weight classes, as well as a proliferation of sanctioning bodies, has made the word “champion” much less meaningful, the cruiserweight division is the one truly necessary add-on to the original eight.

If we were to accept the removal of the cruiserweight division we would in effect be saying that a 200 pound man or below would have a reasonable chance to win the heavyweight championship. In view of the increasing size of current champions, such as Vitali Klitschko, or contenders such as Samuel Peter such a possibility is unlikely.

The only real chance the smaller guys have is to cherry-pick one of the numerous heavyweight champions. Such was the case with Roy Jones’ race past John Ruiz. He would not have done so against Lennox Lewis, the real champion at the time. He more than likely would have ended up in the third row.

For the only successful challenge by a light-heavyweight champion for the heavyweight title, Michael Spinks v. Larry Holmes, Spinks weighed 200 pounds for the challenge. (It is in fact true for history's sake that Spinks actually weighed 199 pounds but was listed at 200 at the suggestion of a promotionally-minded Larry Holmes). Both Spinks-Holmes bouts resulted in disputed decisions. It must also be said that the fights occurred past Holmes’ prime.

Consider the other great light-heavyweight champions who unsuccessfully challenged for the heavyweight title, such as Billy Conn and Bob Foster, and we can quickly surmise that a division should indeed exist to provide opportunities for gifted 200 pound fighters or for light-heavyweight fighters who legitimately outgrow the 175 pound limit. Foster was a dominant boxer-puncher as a light-heavyweight, but couldn’t crack Ali or Frazier in any meaningful way.

Finally, thinking of great of fighters in history it is likely we would never have known the names Tunney, Charles, Marciano, Patterson or maybe even Joe Louis, had they been forced to compete with today's 230-250 pound champions. In his record 25 title defenses, Joe Louis weighed an average of 203 pounds. Evander Holyfield, often considered a "small" heavyweight, or even a "blown-up" cruiserweight, has always weighed above that mark as both a heavyweight contender and champion.

No one writes articles questioning the existence of the junior lightweight – junior welterweight divisions. A fighter can win three titles within ten pounds. Even worse, a fighter can become a triple crown champion fighting between 115 and 122 pounds.

Anyone who has fought against light-heavyweights and heavyweights understands instantly the huge jump in power a 200 pound-plus fighter possesses. The difference is not replicated between any other divisions.

Champs and chumps enter the ring at all weight classes. The cruiserweight division is no different. In its short history, the class has had some champions of note including Carlos DeLeon, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, and of course Evander Holyfield.

Either Braithwaite or Mormeck can add luster to a division that will continue to grow in importance. Both have proven themselves as high quality fighters and they are to be commended for engaging in a unification when they could instead settle for “manditories” forever.

*photo: Tom Casino/Showtime

Article posted on 01.04.2005

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