Today’s Heavyweight Rankings Are Tainted

23.10.06 - By Bill Calogero, I have to admit, I was definitely intrigued by the WBA Heavyweight Title fight between Nikolai Valuev and Monte Barrett BEFORE I actually watched it. I too wanted to see the seven-foot phenom fight. Unfortunately, what I witnessed made me realize how terrible the Heavyweight Division really is.

First off, let me give credit where credit is due. Nikolai Valuev, 45-0 (32 KOs) won the WBA Heavyweight Title. Forget about the way he won it, or even how Ruiz managed to “get it back” in the first place. He won it in the ring, or at least via the judge’s score cards. The bottom line is he won it. He is the WBA Heavyweight Champion, but I personally feel that the title of World Heavyweight Champion, whether it’s an undisputed world title or a piece of the title, should stand for something. Primarily the label of being the best, or one of the four best Heavyweights out there. Valuev is DEFINITELY not one of the top four Heavyweights in the world. He may be the biggest, but he certainly is not the best..

Nikolai Valuev looked like and is a giant. He stands over seven feet tall and weighs over 330 pounds. In the ring against Monte Barrett, it looked like a man fighting a boy or better yet, as billed, David vs. Goliath. Barrett is not a small man. He is six foot three and weighs over 225pounds. Compared to most men, HE is a giant, but next to Nikolai, he resembled a small man.

The fight itself was hard to watch. Valuev has virtually no boxing skills. He has power, of course, and appeared to take the best that Barrett had to offer, but he is in no means a World Heavyweight Champion caliber boxer. I thought if Barrett were a little better, he would have worn Valuev down and ultimately knocked him out, which made me wonder of the current Heavyweights out there, who IS the best?

First off, of the four major sanctioning bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF & WBO) the number one contender is different. As a matter of fact, of the top ten in each body, there isn’t one that appears in ALL of the rankings. Better yet, of the four “current” Champions, not one is ranked in any of the others bodies. How can that be? The truth is the ranking system is not working and it’s far from accurate. How should these fighters be rated if we can’t rely on the current ranking system? How can people like me say a fighter, like Valuev is not a quality boxer when there aren’t better fighters in the rankings? I can sit here and complain about the rankings all I want, but the truth is what can REALLY be done about it?

The FIRST thing we can do (and I have been saying this for years) is to make sure that boxers fight quality opponents as they proceed with their careers. There is nothing wrong with progressively increasing the level of opponent as a career advances. The problem with today’s managers and promoters is that they are SO concerned with “protecting” their fighters that it’s ruining the sport. The level of opponent never gets better, thus resulting in severely padded records. THEN, when the fighter DOES get his/her shot, they usually are out-classed, which makes them look bad because they are in a lopsided contest. This end result helps no one. It doesn’t help the boxer who was just beaten up. It doesn’t help the fan and it certainly doesn’t do anything but pad the record of the winner.

One of the reasons why boxing was better years ago was because the fights were better. They were more competitive. It was common to see two 6-0 or 10-0 fighters fight each other. As a matter of fact, the boxers of yesterday fought the same guy several times. What we ended up with was QUALITY fights. Quality fighters plus quality fights equaled accurate rankings. What can a 10-0 boxer gain from beating a 6-15, or a 3-7 fighter? Nothing but a win. Sure, the fighter with the losing record could conceivably win, but unless he wins by KO, he is not going to get the W. How many times have we scratched ours heads after sitting through a fight and felt 100% certain that one guy won only to find the judges give it to the other side? I can’t tell you how many times I wondered what fight they were watching.

By demanding more competitive fights is definitely a step in the right direction. What is better for boxing and for its fans; an undefeated boxer that fought all pushover fights, or a boxer that may have a few losses but has fought quality opponents? If those same two fighters all of a sudden had the opportunity to fight for a title, isn’t the fighter with more experience of fighting quality opponents in a better position to not only win but to be able to defend his title a few times?

Take a look at WBC number 14th ranked JD Chapman for example. How does this guy get ranked in the top 15? Who has he fought? Where has he fought? Look at the fighters they pulled out of the crowd to fight this guy. Do you think for a minute that JD Chapman will have a chance at winning a fight against a legitimate top-ten fighter? Do you think he would have even a remote chance at winning a title in a real fight? For arguments sake, lets say the powers that be position him to get a shot at a world title. How will he do? I mean really…..have you seen him fight? He will get KO’d, that’s what will happen. Will we ever see JD Chapman again? Who benefits from him in the fight to begin with? Not the fan. Not either boxer, him or his opponent. The only person that could benefit would be the promoter. Not that the promoter doesn’t have a right to make money on fights, but in the long run, this same promoter or manager that positions a kid like Chapman into a Championship fight will only make a little money. Most likely not even enough to cover the initial investment made into a Chapman caliber boxer.

If that same promoter or manager progressively increased the level of competition for that same fighter, not only would they get the chance to see how, when, or if their investment will pan out, the boxer himself would get better and better as time goes on. THEN, when and if the guy gets his shot, he will be in a better position to win and then go on to defend his title. NOW the promoter, manager AND fighter gets a better and more stable chance of making money over the long haul. The “Build Them Up, Get a Title Shot” approach may make a few bucks, but in the long run is pennies compared to what could have be made if the “Earn Your Shot” approach is followed.

I have coined a phase, “Every Body Wants To Fight, But No One Wants To Fight Any Body”. It is so true. Of the currents rankings today, there are fighters that just hang around. Can you believe that Oliver McCall is ranked at number five by the WBC? How about Evander Holyfield at number fifteen? McCall, Holyfield, Davaryll Williamson, John Ruiz, Shannon Briggs, Luan Krasnigui, Henry Akinwande, JD Chapman, Larry Donald, Monte Barrett, Jameel McCline and Fres Oquendo should not be rated as one of the Top-15 fighters IN THE WORLD, as they currently are by either the WBC, WBA, IBF, or WBO. There are two reasons why. The first is they have not been active enough against quality opponents and the second being simply; they are just not good enough at this point of their careers.

If the younger fighters were matched in more competitive fights, the fan would get to see and PAY for better fights AND in the long run, will fill the rankings with better quality boxers. Since professional boxing does not have a League, or an overseeing commission per say (which is an entirely separate topic) there is no way for the up and coming prospects to be evaluated properly and thus be ranked because they are not fighting the right guys. Is the boxing fan going to continue to be force-fed BS fights only to watch a one-sided title bout on PPV? What is wrong with putting two good fighters against each other early in their careers? What are the fighters, promoters and managers afraid of?

What the sport of professional boxing needs are legitimate boxers. Kids that eat drink and sleep boxing. Fighters that put their profession of boxing first, that have the kill or be killed attitude. They must feel they can’t be beat. They must feel that they will fight any body at any time. Professional Boxers. We also need managers and promoters that actually KNOW the sport of boxing and do NOT have the “Get Rich Quick” attitude. But what we need most of all to police the boxers, managers and promoters are the boxing fans. We need the educated boxing fan back. The fan that will demand quality fights. The fan that refuses to pay for BS bouts. The fans that will look at rankings and actually know who the fighters are because they have gotten a chance to see them fight either on TV or live. The fan that will force promoters to do shows that have QUALITY cards. We need to eliminate “Every one who wants to fight, but doesn’t want to fight anybody”! If we can accomplish that, the accuracy of the rankings will move in the right direction and we will finally see young or seasoned fighters get the shots they deserve.

Article posted on 23.10.2006

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