One of the most exciting aspects of the Olympic Games is seeing people from clear across the world competing against each other in their chosen sports.
How often do we get to see a Swedish boxer take on a US fighter? That too is the magic of World cup events, like the soccer, rugby and cricket world cups. (Although the US are not yet factors in any of the sports just mentioned – other than women’s soccer) The word world truly means the world.
While not all nations are represented at the finals, all countries are given the opportunities of qualifying for the event. This is something I’ve felt for many years is missing in professional boxing. I’m not merely speaking of international fights, that’s something we’ve always had. I’m talking about world champions who are truly representative of the whole world.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find a couple of world champions, who never fought anybody from another country, let alone continent. Let’s be honest, in the twentieth century if you were not an American or affiliated with an American promoter, it was extremely tough to ever contest a world title. From the earliest days of boxing with the John L Sullivan’s and the like, how do we know our historical champions were truly the best in the world? Now in the 21st century times have changed and opportunities have increased.
Europe has come to the fore more frequently and I suspect there is a slight shift of power towards that continent in the sport. Africa and the Far East, with exceptions, still remain by and large untapped resources. Be that as it may, I’m not questioning the credibility of our past fistic heroes, I’m suggesting we look at boxing as the global sport it is and encourage the development of it in that direction. On that basis when Vitali Klitscko (Ukraine) fought Corrie Sanders (South Africa) for the number 1 spot on the heavyweight ladder, it was a historic shift towards globalisation of the sport.
Imagine having a world champion who travels around the world and fights the best boxers from each country or continent. Elimination tournaments of course need to take place to identify the best each has to offer. This in turn would add value and more meaning to being a country’s champion.
Former two time junior lightweight champion Brian Mitchell came close to doing that in the late 1980’s early 1990’s when he was forced to defend his WBA world title away from home for political reasons. Nicknamed “the Road warrior” for his many travels, Mitchell had 14 world title fights in 7 different countries and 12 different cities. Undefeated as a world champion, Mitchell also claimed the IBF junior lightweight crown from Tony “The Tiger” Lopez in Lopez’s hometown of Sacramento.
By making the dream of fighting for a world title an attainable reality for all, by setting up real structures to do so (aren’t world title sanctioning bodies supposed to be doing this?), it will boost boxing back to where it belongs. Perhaps it is another motivation for the establishment of an official international boxing controlling body like all other big time professional sports have, similar to the International Olympic Committee.
In the spirit of the Olympic Games wouldn’t it be great to look at a world champion’s record and see an array of different nationalities represented there, and to know that he is undeniably a “world” champion having earned the respect of all?
Having witnessed a number of world cup events, there is nothing quite as exciting as a heavy underdog from a country where the sport is still developing, coming from behind to beat a firm favourite. It inspires and reminds us all why we love sport in the first place.