While there have always been boxers who have transcended the need to hold world titles to receive acclaim, a world title was still always a factor or at least added some shine. In the modern world of boxing, however, we seem to have gone beyond that.
We now have boxers who outgrow world titles. A prime example is the showdown between Bernard Hopkins and Oscar Da La Hoya. Who cares if there’s a title on the line? In this case it’s just another statistic. What we care about is that these two greats are going to trade leather and at the end of it, we will know who’s the best. We don’t need a title to tell us that.
One of the latest inductees into the “beyond world title” realm is Erik Morales, the WBC and IBF junior lightweight king. Although speculation is rife that Morales will be relinquishing his titles in October to continue his legacy in the lightweight division, he has two # 1 contenders—WBC # 1 Mzonke Fana and IBF # 1 Robbie Peden—hoping to land mandatory fights against him. Even if Morales doesn’t relinquish his throne, it’s unlikely that either one of these boxers will get a crack at him.
Being # 1 and even, in Fana’s case, fighting an official world title eliminator against the # 2 contender does not guarantee a fight. Morales’ management will be looking at matching their man in super-fights. Fights which are guaranteed to generate big bucks. Although theoretically it should be the case, fighting the # 1 contender (even when there are two of them) isn’t always the biggest fight out there. It’s names that sell fights, not ratings.
Keeping this in mind, perhaps when a boxer does reach the “beyond the world” title status, the best thing would be for him to relinquish his crown so that other would-be champions can use them as stepping stones to further their own careers. What use is it to have a champion who only takes the glamour fights? How is the average # 1 contender supposed to get a shot?
Fana’s been offered a blank check to contest the IBO junior lightweight world title against Cassius Baloyi, but why should he compromise? Wisely, he’s turned it down in the hope that he will still get to fight for the WBC crown, albeit against Morales or for the vacant title. If Morales does make the move, wouldn’t it be interesting to pit Fana and Peden against each other for the vacant unified WBC/IBF title? That way, at least we’ll maintain continuity and one of them could move closer to the “beyond world title” status.
Realising that there is more and more a prevalence of some champions becoming too high profile to defend their world titles against meagre # 1 contenders, some sanctioning bodies created the “super world champion” category. This is, of course, in itself ludicrous. All it does is to further devalue the term “world champion,” and all future world champions will live with the feeling that unless they were acclaimed a super world champion, they were merely second best.
The task of labelling somebody a super world champion best be left to those who write and record the history of the game. In the old days “super world champions” were referred to as legends.
Somehow that still has a sweeter ring to me.