Dreaming of a New Era: An Optimistic Look at the Future of Heavyweights

01.08.05 – By Peter Cameron: Out there, somewhere in the dark reaches of the world, there stands a man as tall as a tree, legs like trunks, arms like cannons. Controlled fury in his eyes, a granite-chiselled face on concrete-thick neck, he can generate Herculean power through concussive fists, delivered at blistering speed and pinpoint accuracy.. His stamina is boundless, he moves with perfect balance, both graceful and terrifying to behold. He is colossal but agile, heavy with bulging muscle but lithe and nimble on his feet. Fast and powerful, ferocious and intimidating, he is the future of heavyweight boxing.

This is not the time to give up on the heavyweights. This is a time for patience. The division is perhaps the weakest it has ever been, with no dominant champion and a paucity of great fights. Middleweights like Roy Jones and James Toney are now stepping up to challenge the heavies, seeing an opportunity to make history. Limited fighters are being packaged and marketed as credible contenders. Yet the future of the heavies may not be so bleak. There is good reason to believe that within the next decade, the division could be restored to its rightful place at the pinnacle of boxing, with an undisputed champion fully deserving of the title of the most feared man on Earth.

The current talent drought is caused by various genetic, social and economic factors, many of which have already been discussed in depth on this site. Many other sports now offer much safer routes to fame and riches. Certainly the talent pool in America, historically the best production line of great heavyweights, has dried up because of the lure of rival sports. There are probably a number of basketball or football stars who could have forged successful boxing careers but chose otherwise.

The trend over the last fifteen years, whether intentional or otherwise, has been for heavyweights to be bigger, taller, heavier than ever before. When Rocky Marciano faced Joe Louis in 1951, their combined weight was a shade over 27 stone. In 1974 in the Thrilla in Manilla, the combined weight of Ali and Frazier was approximately 30 stone. When Vitali Klitschko fought Lennox Lewis in 2003, the combined weight of the boxers was 36 stone! In terms of height, Marciano was 5 feet 10 inches, Louis 6 feet 1; Frazier was 5 feet 11 inches and Ali 6 feet 3; Lewis was 6 feet 5 inches and Klitschko 6 feet 7 Rarely in the past was there a fighter comparable in size to today’s giants. When one did appear, such as 19+ stone Primo Carnera, he was usually ponderous and immobile. Indeed Carnera, “The Ambling Alp”, is considered by many to be the worst heavyweight champion in history (excluding the current crop). It is argued that many of today’s fighters, like Carnera, are simply too big to be great boxers. Their bulk restricts their movement and reduces their speed. It is believed by some to be
impossible to shift 18+ stone of weight around a ring for 12 rounds at anything other than a plodding, unexciting pace. Yet smaller, more agile heavies such as Chris Byrd find it difficult to cope with the sheer size of the big guys. People have even suggested that the answer is to create a new, super-heavyweight division, to split out the ogres from the rest.

Personally I think this move would be a disaster. What makes the heavyweight division so popular is that these are the biggest men in the world, the men who would beat (except in the case of Ruiz!) all other boxers out there. Creating a new weight category would merely divide the talent pool in two, with all the focus inevitably falling on the super-heavies. The emergence of larger heavyweights is not unexpected when taking into consideration wider physical trends. The average male height and weight have steadily risen throughout the centuries.

In the early 1970s, Arnold Schwarzenegger won Mr Olympia, the most coveted prize in bodybuilding, a staggering six consecutive times, a record many people thought would stand forever. Experts reckoned Schwarzenegger, competing at 235 pounds, had the most developed body a human could ever hope to achieve. Yet this year Ronnie Coleman goes for his eighth Mr Olympia in a row competing at an incredible weight of 287 pounds. Although improved technology and advances in nutrition and supplements have contributed to these statistics, they are also a result of natural evolution. Eventually heavyweight genes will improve, adapt and evolve so that their talent matches their size. Whilst the current bunch plod, grapple and bore us for 12 rounds, the genetics of the next generation will allow the new kids to bounce, dance and excite us with thunderous power allied to exquisite skill. Natural physical progression will see the beginning of a new golden era for the heavyweight division, an era to rival the great periods of the past. “Ladies and gentlemen, now for the main event. Please welcome to the ring the youngest heavyweight champion in history, weighing in at 295 pounds, standing 7 feet 2 inches tall, with an undefeated professional record of 25 wins, all by way of knockout, considered the most talented, exciting and ferocious heavyweight in the history of boxing ….. “.