The Lack of Heavyweight Pride

Heavyweight Pride – At one time the most treasured title in sports was being the heavyweight champion of the world. Starting with John L. Sullivan and continuing through Mike Tyson, there wasn’t a time when the heavyweight champ wasn’t the biggest celebrity among Hollywood stars, athletes and politicians. And in the sports world it wasn’t close – Jack Dempsey was a bigger star than Babe Ruth, Joe Louis was more celebrated than Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali dwarfed Joe Namath, Wilt Chamberlain, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and yes, Mike Tyson was bigger than Michael Jordan until he was incarcerated for rape.

Back in the day it wasn’t hard for Dempsey, Louis, Ali or Tyson to find challengers. In the current climate, it seems that being or at least shooting to be the alpha heavyweight isn’t nearly the priority it once was. As of this writing, there’s a Cuban heavyweight named Luis Ortiz 24-0 (21) who holds the WBA Interim title and was tentatively scheduled to fight March 5th on HBO. Ortiz looked sensational in his last bout when he stopped the ever willing and tough Bryant Jennings 19-2 (10) in the seventh round. Well guess what? Nobody wants to fight the 6-foot-4 240 pound Ortiz because they say there isn’t enough time to get ready or enough money involved to take the risk?

According to ESPN.COM the list is growing in regards to the fighters or their handlers who have turned the fight down: Andy Ruiz, Andrey Fedosov, Carlos Takam, and former title-holder Bermane Stiverne. And to the heavyweights that said five weeks wasn’t enough time to get in shape – shame on them. A professional fighter should always be in shape. Big fights on short notice are a staple of professional boxing.

Fringe contender Alexander Dimitrenko 38-2 (24) who was supposed to be Ortiz’s opponent recently pulled out. Can you believe Dimitrenko, 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, could walk away from a high profile fight against Ortiz, even after Ortiz’s promoter Golden Boy upped his purse? Moreover, he hasn’t won a noteworthy bout since 2008 when he stopped Luan Krasniqi, and then lost the biggest fight of his career against Eddie Chambers in his next outing eight months later.

How’s this for perspective? Archie Moore took $800 to fight Joey Maxim in the 1950’s, just to finally get the light heavyweight title. And Moore also mounted a campaign to challenge heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano a few years later. Have things gotten so bad that a supposedly hungry heavyweight won’t take $300,000-$500,000 for a chance at the title against the guy who just may be the best heavyweight in the world? Exactly where does Dimitrenko think his career is going? If he lost to Ortiz but was moderately competitive he’d get another decent fight. Not to mention he’d probably be the next man up to fight the winner of the Fury-Klitschko rematch.

Today, there aren’t any great heavyweights, I mean authentically great. With Wladimir Klitschko having lost to Tyson Fury, I wouldn’t be surprised if the title changed hands every time it’s on the line by the defending belt holder. And with the talent pool so pedestrian it’s paramount to be in peak condition at all times.  How many heavyweight bouts have we seen over the years where if the lesser talented fighter was in great shape, he just might have defeated the man for whom he was supposed to be just a stepping stone? Since most of the top fighters in the heavyweight division are somewhat equal in talent and skill…..heart, determination and conditioning makes a huge difference. Add in a technical tweak here or there and the results might be different.

Granted, Luis Ortiz is a very skilled southpaw heavyweight. He’s a sound boxer with power and is more than adequate fighting inside or outside. But let’s be honest, he isn’t the hardest working heavyweight you’ve ever seen and even against Jennings, despite controlling most of the fight, he did need to come up for air and catch a breather after owning the first three rounds. Ortiz may be the best heavyweight on the scene today, but he is 36 years old and isn’t unbeatable by any means.

Former title challenger Tony Thompson 40-6 (27) stated that he would fight Ortiz but it’s up in the air as to whether HBO would approve Thompson, 44, a 6-foot-5 southpaw with no power and best known for being stopped by former champ Wladimir Klitschko twice in title bouts in 2008 and 2012. Thompson also lost his last bout via decision to Malik Scott in October of last year, so it’s easy to glean why Thompson is willing to get paid for being a sacrificial lamb knowing that he’s never going to get another shot at the ultimate prize in boxing again.

As recently as Saturday 2/6/16 it started circulating via the Internet that Ortiz may fight Alexander Ustinov 33-1 (24) in place of Dimitrenko. Ustinov is 6-foot-7 southpaw who lacks any semblance of hand and foot speed and isn’t much of a puncher. His best win was against then 40 year old David Tua in late 2013. Tua was so out of shape and far gone as a fighter he couldn’t get out of his own way, and that was before he touched gloves with Ustinov. Ustinov flailed through 12-rounds with Tua and won a unanimous decision. Alexander understands if he fights Ortiz that he was chosen simply because he has an impressive record on paper.  However, he’s 39 and knows time is not on his side. If he loses, he was supposed to and if he won he’d be in position for even bigger money in his next fight. But if nothing else, he gets it and realizes if you don’t take a chance you don’t stand a chance. Alexander understands that he’s not a special fighter and is in boxing to make money, and in the heavyweight division, because they all can punch, once he’s in the ring with Ortiz, he’s never further than one shot away from being an overnight sensation.

With the landscape of the current heavyweight division, fighters should be making all the noise they can with the hope of getting Ortiz in the ring so they could be the first to beat him. Yet, all we hear are crickets. With the division being so wide open today, you’d think there would be more fringe contenders stalking Ortiz the way Shannon Briggs stalked Wladimir Klitschko before Klitschko lost to Tyson Fury.

Based on the silence when it comes to finding a worthy opponent for Luis Ortiz, I must conclude that there’s a real lack of pride in the heavyweight division. And that is said with the notion that I fully get that Ortiz’s management may be low-balling potential opponents. And it’s not like Ortiz is the next Joe Louis or Sonny Liston, so why not take the money and give it your best shot, fully recognizing that the deck is stacked against you?

Being the heavyweight champ in 2016 certainly isn’t what it used to be, and because of that the fighters seem to lack the pride and gumption their title-holding predecessors had.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: After this article went to press it was revealed that Ortiz’s management, in consultation with HBO, had selected Tony Thompson as Ortiz’s next opponent. The fight will be staged at the D.C. Armory in Washington D.C., which happens to be Thompson’s hometown.

 

Check out this video about the heavyweight division at The Boxing Channel

Comment on this article

COMMENTS

Radam G :

OMG! Super Scribe F-Lo nailed it. There is surely a lack of pride nowadays among the once most prestigious division of pugilism. Holla!


deepwater2 :

Used to be boxers wanted to fight the best to prove they are the best. There is a lack of pride across all divisions. Instead of listening to boxers say they can beat any man in the house it's more like " A- side vs B- side." "Most money for the least risk." "Heath is #1" Instead of boxers fighting for peanuts just to get a chance, some boxers today are making good money fighting peanuts. The paper champ -Wilder is fighting guys outside the top 50 for so called title defenses. The excuse is the paper champ needs more experience. WTF?! is that. Does his handlers actually acknowledge the man has had over 30 fights and he still looks like a fool in there. Butterbean beats Wilder in 4 rounds! Wilder vs Potvetkin- Wilder says he is only fighting Potvetkin in America. In other news, Wilder says he will go to England to fight Fury. Last week , Floyd says powerful boxing people run things behind the curtain and that is why Andre Ward has to move up and face Kovalev. Today, Floyd says that Haymon and Floyd still call all the shots in boxing. Jeez Floyd! You racist son of a ........... It is all because of you and Haymon that Ward is being sacrificed on the altar of Kovalev.


Bernie Campbell :

Very clearcut coherent article for a change but too long winded.


Kid Blast :

Ivan Drago-lookalike, Alexander Dimitrenko apparently wised up and killed his upcoming fight with by supposedly asking for too much money, but the suspicion is that upon reflection, he wanted no part of Ortiz. Either way, he avoids a quick and definitive mugging. The Russian joins Carlos Takam, Andy Ruiz, Alexander Ustinov, Andrey Fedosov, and Bermane Stiverne in taking a pass on the imposing ?Kong,? or at least so says Dan Rafael. Now Tony ?The Tiger? Thompson, 44, says he will gladly step in to face the talented and undefeated Cuban who is eight years his junior and who is coming off of an impressive seventh round TKO win over Bryant Jennings in December. Malik Scott, who recently beat Tony, makes far more sense, but ?The Tiger? seems to be lobbying hard for this inevitable beat down so money must be his incentive. [B] One again, the fans lose out because of a system that prevents the best from fighting the best.[/B]


Bernie Campbell :

Every time wildest name is mentioned I think of a fat Albert cartoon. By the way thankyou for censoring my original post.


brownsugar :

Ivan Drago-lookalike, Alexander Dimitrenko apparently wised up and killed his upcoming fight with by supposedly asking for too much money, but the suspicion is that upon reflection, he wanted no part of Ortiz. Either way, he avoids a quick and definitive mugging. The Russian joins Carlos Takam, Andy Ruiz, Alexander Ustinov, Andrey Fedosov, and Bermane Stiverne in taking a pass on the imposing “Kong,” or at least so says Dan Rafael. Now Tony “The Tiger” Thompson, 44, says he will gladly step in to face the talented and undefeated Cuban who is eight years his junior and who is coming off of an impressive seventh round TKO win over Bryant Jennings in December. Malik Scott, who recently beat Tony, makes far more sense, but “The Tiger” seems to be lobbying hard for this inevitable beat down so money must be his incentive. [B] One again, the fans lose out because of a system that prevents the best from fighting the best.[/B]
I agree...... Furthermore ( and not related to what KidBlast said) It's interesting that Fury doesn't want any part of Ortiz and has publically said so. The entire business culture of the heavyweight division is to "Prey on the old and weak" and give lip service to the strong. Thompson has been the only one to step up, but the alphabet soup sanctioning body in charge doesn't want to bestow its blessings on the old man. Wilder to his credit has been calling out Provetkin's team to make the fight ....his mega wealthy promoter Raybinski has been threatening to use his considerable wealth to buy out the purse bid and force the fight to Russia, like he did to Klits and K2. If I was champ,....even a paper one..... I wouldnt follow the challenger to his hometown where I'd have to wear a polar bear skin to stay warm in the corner in-between rounds while trying to contend with the hometeams shenanigans. Bring the fight to New York where its supposed to be made. Besides NY is home to multitudes of Russians if Provetkin needs more support. If he wins Provetkin can hold the strap hostage in Siberia if he want to. Ironically former title challenger Duhaupus is getting a shot at an ex WK victim for yet a 6th interim title thingy.


Radam G :

Cuban LO is a pretender. He is taking on Old "Tiger" Thompson, as he was going to do from the jump. Most of these nowadays pride-less heavyweights lie more than drunken sailors. Nuff said! Holla,


New York Tony :

Completely agree. The heavyweight division today is in a state of complete collapse, which bodes ill for boxing in general.


Gabrielito :

Seth Mitchell was unavailable?


Radam G :

Seth Mitchell was unavailable?
The ex AmerKano footballer is long retired is what I heard. He learned that pugilism ain't anything like football. Holla!


Kid Blast :

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. We need a system that demands that the best fight the best. If they will not do it on a voluntary basis as they did in the 70's, then make them do it on an involuntary basis. Make fights mandatory based on rankings that reflect an average of all of the ranking systems out there. Include a suitable penalty for failure to fight.


Kid Blast :

Ortiz-Thompson is not an appropriate matchup and screws Ortiz badly. He can?t force any much higher rated Heavyweight to fight him? There?s no mechanism in Boxing to force appropriate matchups. Tennis has a seeding system The top seeded players play each other until a Champion is determined. This could work if given enough time.


Bernie Campbell :

I keeaalways hearing it's a business. Deantay wilder is a frigin cartoon, fat Albert or John Henry. Get a frigin life the guy is a creation.


brownsugar :

I don't like the fact that neither Wilder or Fury seem to want to give the elderly Cuban the time of day, but I'm positively ecstatic that Wilder vs Provetkin appears to be inching closer to fruition. ...and Fury is at least giving the legendary icon WK another crack at the title... The heavyweights have more potential now than they've had in a decade. Martin and Haye were calling out Joshua recently due to the vulnerability he showed against Whyte, but suddenly and very unexpectedly,... Anthony Joshua called the newly minted IBO Champ's bluff and agreed in principle to accept the fight. Charles Martin's response is still forth coming but we hope he reciprocates in kind. Meanwhile British Boxing Mogul, Hearn, has had a change in heart and has decided to remove the training wheels from Joshua's career by publically announcing his blessings upon a title fight between AJ and Charles Martin.....surprise......surprise. And Recently Joseph Parker has announced his arrival to the party by letting the boxing world know he will be ready to throw his hat into the top ten fray as soon as he gets past his upcoming televised showcase bout. Unfortunately for Ortiz there are a lot of options, too many in fact ( for everyone else ) and he probably won't be anyone's top priority if he retires Thompson the same way he sent Jennings to the showers. Stay tuned. I truly believe that despite the occasional hick-ups, we will be in for a very compelling year of heavyweight fights.


Domenic :

The IBF stripping Fury was bad. Monumentally bad. It's not like Fury said he's looking to find the ghost of Jesse Ferguson or Michael Dokes for a couple paydays, like Bowe did rather than deal with Lennox Lewis. No, his opponent has a rematch clause that he immediately announced he'd exercise! The IBF mandatory should've been chucked out the window, with common sense prevailing. Instead, they idiotically chose to splinter the title, and delegitimize themselves within the division completely. Patient Zero on this entire problem in boxing is the multitude of belts that exist, with no identifiable champion. It's such a mess. I'd never thought I'd pine for the pre-WBO days when you had only the WBA/WBC/IBF. Or even before when Joe Frazier was the heavyweight champion because he won the NY title or whatever. This situation is just a cancer that's metastasized. The heavyweights, and every division for that matter, need a bunch of Super Six tournaments. But if you're a heavyweight stuck in the Ortiz bracket, you want the status quo, because nobody wants to deal with him. If you're a middleweight and you know Golovkin's there, you don't even enter due to fear, or you throw the fight the way guys did facing Tyson in the amateurs to avoid the hurt. It's a damn shame. Dead end fights, catchweights, terrible under cards on overpriced PPV's, that's the legacy of the last 15 years.


brownsugar :

Why don't you tell us how you really feel Domenic....just kidding, but I get you, ....I think Fury became even more embedded in the fan's consciousness and ultimately became an object of their admiration because he refused to partake of in the alphabet soup's game of musical champs, ....I mean musical chairs, Fury has literally become the face of the heavyweight division....overnight with his title winning victory as far as public perception goes. No one can deny this... I don't know if it aired yet but even HBO has made a show about his special "Uniqueness" as a fighter. The sanctioning bodies stripping of Fury resulted in a blatant lack of credibility being assigned to the IBF and Fury coming within a hairs breadth of becoming the modern day "Peoples Champ". Too bad it can't be undone but the IBF's fumble has become more of a catalyst for change rather than a mark against Fury.


Skibbz :

Great article. That said - there is a new heavyweight on the English scene, one fight, one win by TKO at the end of last year. Generally I do not follow heavyweight boxing but this boxer I have had my eye on from his time in the amateurs because of his relation to the Late great Bartley Gorman. Nathan Gorman, has fighting pride in his blood. He is a very long way to the pinnacle of the sport and the division, but he carries himself with the pride of his past and people and will be one to watch for the future. For those who may not know of Bartley I have attached a video below. [video=youtube;zvybZLKH7Zk]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvybZLKH7Zk[/video]


Radam G :

Great article. That said - there is a new heavyweight on the English scene, one fight, one win by TKO at the end of last year. Generally I do not follow heavyweight boxing but this boxer I have had my eye on from his time in the amateurs because of his relation to the Late great Bartley Gorman. Nathan Gorman, has fighting pride in his blood. He is a very long way to the pinnacle of the sport and the division, but he carries himself with the pride of his past and people and will be one to watch for the future. For those who may not know of Bartley I have attached a video below. [video=youtube;zvybZLKH7Zk]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvybZLKH7Zk[/video]
Nice! An AmerKano Travellers from Tarrant Country USA with that same fighting blood was the late Dave Gorman. After his gloveless fist fighting days, he managed Donald Curry, Troy Dostrey and Gene Hatcher among other world champion and contenders. Holla!