If I'm Antonio Tarver or Glen Johnson, I'm turning my championship belt in with a touch of remorse and a smile the size of Fort Knox.
Sure, the belts are nice. They're glitzy and shiny and fun to show at parties. More important, they mean something special to those few fighters who have one. But if you look at it from the practical side, they won't hold up your pants, they don't match any of your clothes and they're so big and clumsy, they take up a lot of room in your closet.
But that's not why Tarver and Johnson returned their WBC and IBF championship belts. They did it because – gasp – after all these tough years in the fight game, they'd like to make some serious money in this business before they saddle up, tip their hats to the ladies and ride off into the sunset.
Isn't that what the fight game is all about? The last time anyone checked, money still talks in this business. Sometimes it screams. So Tarver and Johnson, being reasonable men, decided the best way to insure happiness in their retirement years was to fight each other now rather than face their mandatory challengers in the WBC and the IBF.
Besides, the Tarver-Johnson fight is the one everyone wants to see, considering both fighters have fresh notches in their guns after winning shootouts against Roy Jones Jr.
So-long, title belts.
Hello, financial security.
The two “former” light-heavyweight champions will face each other Dec. 18 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The winner, with or without a belt, will be considered the best light-heavyweight in the world by most of us. And both fighters will be a lot richer coming out of that fight than they were going into it.
You wouldn't expect this drama to play out any other way. Why would Tarver and Johnson – who have been struggling to make it big for most of their fighting careers – risk everything by fighting the two mandatory challengers for pocket change when they can fight each other and be set for life?
Isn't that the American way? Isn't that how Donald Trump does it? Isn't that what King would do if he had the chance?
And isn't the Tarver – Johnson fight the one everyone wants to see? Aren't they both among the top two or three light-heavyweights in the world? Don't they deserve this shot and this payday?
This fight is a natural and it offers a refreshing new concept known as “give the boxing public what it wants,” not doing what the sanctioning bodies demand.
If the WBC and IBF had their way, Tarver would be defending his title against No. 1 contender Paul Briggs, while Johnson would be fighting Rico Hoye, the IBF's No. 1 contender.
I've got nothing against Briggs or Hoye, but away from their hometowns, they couldn't fill a country church. Besides that, both Hoye and Briggs can actually fight a little, meaning Tarver and Johnson would be risking their titles. And by putting their titles on the line, they risk losing that big payday they've been chasing most of their adult lives. They're the best thing in the world for each other.
Forgive the cliche, but win or lose, they'll be smiling all the way to the bank.