18.10.05 – By Gabriel DeCrease: The public has always adored heavyweights. That is a fact. The big guys have always drawn the biggest crowds, attracted the most media attention, and taken home the fattest purses. The principle at the heart of this unfortunate trend is that heavyweights are viewed as the toughest, most dangerous fighters on the planet. These stalking giants are very literally larger than life. They tower over common men, and it is thought that they are thus able to stage more brutal and glorious wars in the ring. This erroneous belief has been the bane of boxing for as long as fighters have been lacing up gloves. As long as a handful of good heavyweights were active this fallacy survived because people, in general, would rather watch a good heavyweight fight than a great middleweight clash or a legendary flyweight war.
Currently, the heavyweight division is unable to produce decent, if not good, saleable fights with any regularity. And the title-belts are largely tied by inactive, unspectacular fighters. The very allure of the heavyweight division lies in the probability of huge, skull-crushing knockouts. No one applauds John “Huggy Bear” Ruiz grabbing and tapping his way to split-decision wins. No one will buy slap-happy Chris Byrd fights on pay-per-view tickets. Lamon Brewster and Vitaly Klitschko seem like bad impersonations of former champions like Sonny Liston and Max Schmeling, respectively. Don King, de facto ruler of the heavyweight division, only exacerbates the problem by maintaining the ugly stasis.
Based on what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of black-against-white fights, and I’m still wondering why Andrew Golota has been shifted into the title mix as the key to that particular castle. King also tends to keep fighters, who I personally consider to be shot, around a decade past their natural stopping point. The list of things working against the heavyweight division is long and storied. People are disappointed when heavyweights turn out careful, technical decisions, and they should be. Guys in a weight-class with no upper limit are generally not made for that kind of fighting. Conversely, fighters in the lower weight classes are made to keep up a high-punch output and move gracefully and deftly even into the championship rounds. Their hindrance is that it is commonly thought that they cannot provide hard-punching knockouts. One could make arguments for and against the presence of exciting power punching among non-heavyweights throughout the history of boxing. But in our world and our time, there is a growing presence of brutal intensity in the lower weight classes, and a decided lack of power in the heavyweight division.
The time has come to turn our attention to the pulse-pounding thrills of the fighters who have to make weight to make a fight. The fighter that makes, perhaps, the strongest case for the lower weight classes is Jorge “Travieso” Arce. Arce is a pure fighter whose interests are solely in making great fights and testing himself beyond the call of duty in the ring. The boxing public spends so much time asking why heavies are so reluctant to take tough fights, when they should be wondering why Arce’s always-exciting trials-by-fire are not on television internationally in place of shameful shams like the fight between Hasim Rahman and Monte Barrett, or Chris Byrd’s latest snore-fest against DaVarryl Williamson.
Arce has been an utterly bankable fight-maker since he stepped up to Yo Sam Choi in 2002, and took the WBC light-flyweight strap with a brutal TKO. Even his blowouts of outclassed competition are ferocious and electrifying. Arce’s iron chin, incredible power, and good-humored love of his profession made for two great, though quite different, fights with Hussein Hussein. Whether dancing and singing around a hapless victim or rampaging through heavy fire to score a knockout, Arce provides all the best aspects of boxing. He is now looking toward unification battles with P. Wonjongkam, Vic Darchinian, and Lorenzo Parra. The mere thought of these fights makes a promise of vicious combat to come. In such fights boxing fans get the stamina, credible technical skills, and the power punching that they so crave.
Take any division below heavyweight and make a list of all the great, thrilling, brutal, and/or nerve-shredding fights it has produced recently, and compare it to a list of those produced by the heavyweight division. The heavyweights would lose by a significant margin when stacked up against any other division.