31.03.06 – By Craig Parrish: I am as guilty as anyone of bashing the current crop of Heavyweights we have out there. Every day, it seems that we read a new piece on how lame they are, how they are no real Champions, too many belts, too much corruption, too many greedy promoters. All of this is true to a large extent. When will the next great Heavyweight Champion arise and come forth to clean the division? Where can he be? Why is this Division, the glamour division, so unpopular?
I became a boxing fan when I was a kid in the seventies. That was truly a golden age of Heavyweights.Ali, Foreman, Norton, Frazier, Shavers, Holmes, Quarry, etc., etc., etc. I cut my teeth watching greatfighters on Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoons. The big fights were free. FREE!
The Heavyweights dominated pop culture in America, fueled even more by the success of the movie “Rocky” and later “Raging Bull.” The title “Heavyweight Champion of the World” was a mythical, almost God-like status, the pinnacle of achievement in all of sports. It was a great time to be a boxing fan.
The 80’s came and there was a bit of a lull, and then Tyson came along ripping through the Division. Then came Holyfield, and then Lewis. Was it as good as the Seventies? No, but there were still some good bouts and some great boxers, some perhaps destined for the Hall of Fame. The luster had somewhat fallen away from the division, but it was still entertaining and still held a prominent place in the hierarchy of sports.
Then it seems the bottom fell out. Tyson lost it. Lewis retired. Evander got old. And the new crop of up and comers just weren’t that exciting. They just didn’t seem to have the talent, the skills of even the previous Champs. Oh, they were decent fighters, but years back you certainly wouldn’t have considered them world-caliber fighters. The thought of most of them even stepping in the ring with Ali or Foreman seemed ludicrous. What had happened? Where had all of the great fighters gone?
As a pretty hardcore fan, I was still interested. I bought the pay-per-views and usually wound up disappointed. I sat there thinking “I paid 50 bucks for that?!” The other divisions still had a multitude of good fighters, so my interest in the Heavyweights waned and waned, and I diverted my attention to the more talent rich divisions. I could still tell you who the Champions were, but I definitely didn’t have afavorite fighter. I sat in disbelief as some fighters who may not have been hired as sparring partners for some of the great ones, won titles. And finally I said the words that seem to have come from 99% of fightfans mouths: all of these guys suck!
For several years, I’ve kept pretty much the same mindset. But recently, I’ve decided that maybe I’m judging these guys too harshly. After all, the fighters themselves cannot increase their natural talent. They are simply working with the tools that they are given. Not everybody can be Ali. Ali was an anomaly, and something I may never see again in my lifetime. I also believe that the explosion of talent that hit the scene in the 1970’s was something that we’re also likely never to see again. What are the odds of the many great heavyweights hitting their primes at the same time? It must be astronomical! If I continue to use that as ameasuring stick, chances are I’m always going to be disappointed. And I like to watch boxing.
So I’ve decided to give the Heavyweights a break. That’s the fighters themselves, not some of the promoters, who I personally feel are killing the division with meaningless Pay Per Views! I can’t give a break to people who are willing to sacrifice the sport to put a few more dollars in their already well-lined pockets. But fighters are fighters. Are these guys the most talented we’re ever seen? No way. But they’re what we’ve got. And I can either just completely ignore it, or take it for what it is. Someday, that great Heavyweight will rise up and make things more exciting. But until then, I’ll just observe and cut these guys some slack. And try not to think of the “Thrilla in Manilla” too often.