22.12.04 – By Marcus Wood: The term ‘Superfight’ is being thrown around a lot lately so before I begin lets clarify what this word means. To everyone with an interest in boxing, Superfight means big fight. Normally two big name boxers whose fight is guaranteed do well box office wise. It is regardless of what happens in the ring though. What qualifies as a Superfight seems to differ for different people. Some will say two champions fighting will be a Superfight regardless of who it is. Others will say a champion and his no.1 contender. Some will say as long as one superstar is involved it will qualify while others will say both fighters need to be big names. Many more have variations on those definitions..
It’s usually easier to stack the fight in question against fights in history most will say are Superfights. Everyone familiar with boxing’s history will say Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali was a Superfight. Most will say Tyson-Holyfield and Lewis-Tyson were Superfights.
Some will say Lewis-Klitschko and Tarver-Jones Jr were while a select few will say Klitschko-Williams was. While the first three of that list certainly were, while Lewis-Klitschko was a great fight, the hype leading up to it didn’t do it justice and Tarver-Jones Jr is in sort of a grey area. Klitschko-Williams wasn’t.
What makes a Superfight? In my eyes it MUST have two top fighters. By top I’m talking top five ranked by at least two universally recognized lists. They should both be fighting at a world class level at the time and have won most of their fights prior to the Superfight. That excludes a certain Mr. Tyson. Preferably it should be for at least one of the big threes World titles but this isn’t essential. It should also have a significant hype proceeding it. Before you complain, would Frazier-Ali I been what it was if the only hype was a few harsh words at the weigh in? No.
So to the point. I believe Superfights will be nearly gone in a year or so at the rate things are going. Bernard Hopkins-Oscar De La Hoya and Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera were arguably the only true Superfights of the year. Not necessarily a bad thing as there would be no such thing as Superfights if there was one every month. Johnson-Tarver wasn’t mainly because 1) lack of hype and 2) The real reason for this match is that they both knocked out Roy Jones Jr and a side effect was that this made them the two top Light heavyweights in the world. Neither are Superstars and no attempt was made to make then seem that they were prior to the fight.
A look through history shows most Superfights are comprised of Heavyweights, mainly for the reason that the Heavyweight division has been overwhelmingly the most popular throughout history. The depressed division has now allowed for more attention to the lower divisions allowing for more Superfights for the lower weights. But don’t kid yourself only the very top lower weight contests, e.g. Hopkins-De La Hoya, are being billed as Superfights whereas alot of potential heavyweight matches could be billed as Superfights. Doesn’t mean they should be though.
Chances for possible Superfights are decreasing rapidly. Lewis-Klitschko II could have been the biggest thing since Lewis-Tyson but the retirement of Lewis killed that. While Lewis had only Klitschko as a Superfight possibility, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. had many possibilities in 2003. Both look doubtful for any future Superfights. After Tyson was dismantled by Lewis, two failed comebacks later, Tyson looks spent. He can’t challenge for titles until he starts beating fringe contenders which looks unlikely in his present form. Jones Jr. has more of a chance as all he really has to do his win a rematch against either Antonio Tarver or Glencoffe Johnson to get back to the top of the heap, which would be Superfights in themselves.
The decline of these two fighters greatly contributes to the decline of the Superfight. In the past few years any fight Tyson has been involved in has been bigger than it should have. Tyson-Klitschko/Byrd would have been a Superfight which could have happened had Tyson beaten Williams. With his defeat, future Heavyweight Superfights have been cut in half. Jones Jr. had Tarver III, Hopkins II, Byrd, Toney and a doubtful Tyson fight to look forward to before his loss to Johnson. The most likely thing for Jones Jr. now is retirement.
Why does it matter? Superfights are crucial to Boxing. The sport has no annual events so they are the equivalent to the Superbowl or Champions League Final. Its Superfights that provide big P.P.V audiences and publicity so it hurts Boxing when there’s a lack of Superfights.
In the way of legitimate Superstars left we’ve got Bernard Hopkins whose 37 and James Toney who still remains unproven at the top level of the heavyweight division (Holyfield is no longer ‘top level’). Realistically it looks like Toney-Klitschko and maybe but probably not Lewis-Klitschko for the foreseeable future. Don’t forget though this whole thing is based on the prediction nobody will bulldoze to the forefront of boxing Tyson style or that there’s a tournament that elevates someone to the next level. If Hasim Rahman, for instance, were to win a Heavyweight tournament and became undisputed champion we’d take him more seriously than we do now. And he’s a top contender now. Suddenly a possible Rahman-Toney is looking pretty good.
But I stand by my prediction that next year there will be a maximum of two Superfights and it aint gonna get any better.
Marcus Wood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org