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WHY WLAD ISN'T KING

BY Springs Toledo ON November 12, 2012
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The empty throne by VajrasimhaWladimir Klitschko is the premiere heavyweight of this era. With a six-foot six-inch frame that looks like a replica of Bourdelle’s Hercules the Archer and a disposition that evokes Rodin’s The Thinker, he casts an imperial shadow over everything beneath him. His record stands at 58-3 with 50 knockouts and it shines bright enough to bring to mind diadems and golden scepters. It has been over eight years since he lost—since the spirit of Jack Dempsey possessed Lamon Brewster and turned him inside out, and he has gone on to defeat nearly every rival in the division. As a result, his well-earned status as the premiere heavyweight in the world has been upgraded to an unearned status as heavyweight champion of the world.

THE RING was behind his coronation.

On June 20th 2009, Wlad, then ranked number one, induced a global epidemic of narcolepsy when he waltzed to victory in a fight HBO wisely declined to broadcast. His opponent was third-ranked Ruslan Chagaev, a late substitute who lost every round and quit on his stool. Nevertheless, The Ring recognized Wlad as its champion.

Why would the most prestigious ratings body since the 1920s, a ratings body that sought to determine “the true champions” in every division, allow a shortcut to the throne?

In its April 2002 issue, THE RING announced a new championship policy that sought to validate a surge of marquee fighters who had been unifying the alphabet belts, among them Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones, and Bernard Hopkins. While the overriding goal was to return integrity to championship boxing, then managing editor Eric Raskin said, “there’s no denying that we wanted to fill vacancies whenever we felt it was justifiable.” So, in addition to the perfectly sensible criterion of crowning champions after “a box-off” between the number one and number two contenders, the editors stretched the logic a bit: “Or, in certain instances,” they added, “a box-off between our number one- and number three-contenders.”

“We talked it over, and we agreed it made sense,” Raskin said. “If there wasn’t much to separate #2 from #3, if it felt like #2 didn’t have some strong claim to needing to be involved in a title fight, we could sometimes recognize #1 vs. #3.”

At the time Wlad faced Chagaev, the second-ranked contender was elder brother and fellow giant Vitali Klitschko. Despite the obvious fact that there was much to separate him from Chagaev, then Editor-in-chief Nigel Collins buffed up THE RING magazine belt. “A match between Wladimir and No. 3 contender Chagaev meets THE RING'S criterion,” Collins said, because “the brothers have stated many times that they will never fight.”

“We promised our mom not to fight each other,” Wlad said. “I wouldn’t do it, even for $1 billion…you can’t put a price on your mother’s heart.” In other words, the flagship division is being held hostage by Ma Klitschko. Her sons are dutiful all right but the whole thing is hard to fathom in certain neighborhoods where brothers fight like LaMottas every Sunday or so. The Toledo brothers spent years swapping pleather in the parking lot, stone-deaf to Ma in the window and we’re better for it.

The first application of the provision is harder to defend. In February 2004, Lennox Lewis retired and THE RING was eager to fill his throne, no doubt believing it was in the best interest of the sport. A semi-retired Corrie Sanders had stopped Wlad and so advanced to number three in a division as deep as a puddle. Vitali, then number one, vowed to avenge Wlad and THE RING declared this gesture of brotherly love a championship bout. Ignored was Chris Byrd, who owned a stoppage win over Vitali and was ranked number two.

It should be noted that THE RING acted in good faith despite the controversy; and at least one former editor has had second thoughts. “If we had it to do over,” Raskin said recently, “we probably wouldn’t include that provision.”

In May 2012, that provision was expanded into absurdity by a new, Golden Boy-installed editorial board. THE RING, they said, failed to determine boxing’s true champions because so many thrones remain unfilled, which is akin to claiming that coastal erosion is the fault of the lighthouse keeper or smog is the fault of the traffic cop. Their response does away with the concept of “true champions” altogether and suspiciously advances the secondary objective of filling vacant thrones. And who is the beneficiary? Fans fed up with the glut of make-pretend champions? Certainly not. The beneficiary behind the change is the promotional company behind THE RING.

Here’s an eye-opener. If the editors apply the revised policy allowing first or second-ranked contenders to face third, fourth, or fifth-ranked contenders, THE RING can indeed fill more of its vacant championships, but would that be in the best interests of the sport? Look closely: If Floyd Mayweather (#1) fights either Saul Alvarez (#3) or Erislandy Lara (#4) at junior middleweight, if Mayweather (#2) fights Paulie Malignaggi (#4) at welterweight, if Chris John (#2) fights Daniel Ponce De Leon (#4) at featherweight, and if Anselmo Moreno (#1) fights Leo Santa Cruz (#5) at bantamweight, the end result could be four more Golden Boy champions no matter who wins. The plain fact that every one of them is a Golden Boy fighter placed in position by a Golden Boy-owned ratings body makes any presumption of good faith naïve.

The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board is picking up where THE RING fell down. We begin with a corrective: The provision that installed the Klitschkos on the throne has no standing. “When a champion retires or vacates the championship, the first-ranked contender must fight the second-ranked contender to fill the vacancy,” the charter states. “Lesser contenders do not constitute the best, and the fact that they are allowed to compete for vacant championships by other organizations does not make them so. The gravitas of the true championship will be vitiated no longer. Therefore, no allowances for third, fourth, and fifth-ranked contenders will be made.”

Light heavyweight Chad Dawson, super middleweight Andre Ward, middleweight Sergio Martinez, junior featherweight Nonito Donaire, and flyweight Toshiyuki Igarashi are kings who earned their thrones the hard way—the only way that makes sense in a combat sport. Seventy claimants crowd them, propped up by the so-called sanctioning bodies and Golden Boy’s magazine. The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board defies any notion that claimants are anything more than contenders; and this includes the Klitschko brothers, who have indeed defeated nearly every rival in the heavyweight division but have yet to defeat the only one that matters. We will not refer to any of them as “belt-holders,” “title-holders,” “titlists” or other terms suggesting that they are what they are not. We will not rubber-stamp shortcuts or confuse the premiere fighter in a division with royalty. A throne must be seized, never assumed.

Whether the twelve remaining thrones will be seized or even recognized amid the false glitter of yesterday’s belts depends on the fans’ willingness to seize the future.

The stakes are high. Boxing has become a sport without universally recognized champions—and a sport without universally recognized champions recedes into irrelevance. The consequences are plain to see. Go to ESPN.com’s main page to find your boxing update; you won’t see it mentioned in the menu bar; you’ll have to click on “More Sports” and then scroll down to find it—under women’s basketball. We have devolved into an odd and insulated subculture unable to separate sense from nonsense, rightfully ridiculed by the rest of the sports world. Keyboard critics aren’t helping. Too many attack WBC President José Sulaimán as a little tin god and then turn around and acknowledge the WBC belt as if it meant what Sulaimán says it means.

Ultimately, the problem isn’t little tin gods. It isn’t THE RING either, despite their hopelessly compromised ratings. The problem is us. Will we keep sitting around with spit buckets over our heads or stand up in the corner?

—The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board has already come out fighting.

________________________________

The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s website is at www.tbrb.org.

Graphic: “The Empty Throne” by Vajrasimha. http://vajrasimha.deviantart.com/art/The-empty-throne-139743853

Thanks to Eric Raskin for his assistance and honesty.

Springs Toledo is a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and can be reached at scalinatella@hotmail.com.

Comment on this article

tlig says:

Brothers fighting each-other in their parents living room is different to boxing against each-other in championship fights. It may not be any worse but it's certainly different and unusual even in the game of boxing. Most people, I believe, never expected the Brothers K to lace 'em up against each-other anyway. Just accept the uniqueness of the situation and let it go. It'd be at least another lifetime before we have a pair of siblings dominating a boxing division.

Radam G says:

They will never fight one another. And they should not. But it will not be "another lifetime before we have a pair of siblings dominating a boxing division." It is so many alphabet sanctioning organizations that there may be a time that three or four siblings dominate a division very soon. Danggit! Top sanctioning organizations are the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, IBO, WBU and the WBF.

BTW, the brothers of former heavyweight champion Mike Weaver would have been dominant if all these divisions and easy paths to win one of them would have been around during the days of those triples -- Floyd, Lloyd and maybe Boyd (maybe the wrong name. But you can find the correction on Boxrec.). Holla!

Spinach Chin says:

Nicely put TLG, it is different. Like Lennox Lewis before them, the brothers K will be remembered as all time greats when they retire. And just like Lennox lewis, who was every bit as boring as Wlad can be. When top fighters enter the ring with Wlad they shut down. See David Tua. See Oliver McCall II. David Haye was Wlad's David Tua. All bark until the bell rang. A look at either brother's resume will rival any heavyweight in history.

dino da vinci says:

They will never fight one another. And they should not. But it will not be "another lifetime before we have a pair of siblings dominating a boxing division." It is so many alphabet sanctioning organizations that there may be a time that three or four siblings dominate a division very soon. Danggit! Top sanctioning organizations are the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, IBO, WBU and the WBF.

BTW, the brothers of former heavyweight champion Mike Weaver would have been dominant if all these divisions and easy paths to win one of them would have been around during the days of those triples -- Floyd, Lloyd and maybe Boyd (maybe the wrong name. But you can find the correction on Boxrec.). Holla!


@Radam. It's Troy. Mike Weaver trained at my gym along with the triplets. Class act the brothers. Loved Mike, who was a real gentleman.

Bernie Campbell says:

Mr. Spring, Youre splitting hairs and exploiting the Klitschko personna with this article! Who in the heck havent they fought! Gabe Brown? Youd be better off writing an interesting article on the flyweight contendors in this sport! Youre playing a broken record!

deepwater says:

he beats everyone ,just not in an exciting way. go for the kill in the first round and see what happens.

Radam G says:

Thank you, ddv. I've not seen the triplets in a few years. As teenage amateurs, for a minute, they trained at the late, great trainer Junior Robles's gym in National City, Cali. Matter of fact, they resided in San Diego -- "The World Finest City" -- when I was a toddler fudging with them for looking da double fudge alike. WTF! Hahaha! Danggit! They better not tell you who I am, Dino. Hehehe! Holla!

jopach23 says:

This is truly a ridiculous article, to its very core. It makes no sense, do you not accept the fact that Wlad is the HW champ just because he has not fought his brother or do you have a problem with the Ring ranking system? Which is it. Now I believe Vitali is the better fighter and should be #1, but your arguments do not hold water. First, Wlad has fought and beaten every viable opponent out there, the only one he has not fought who has some sort of title is Povetkin and Wlad tried very hard to make that fight, but Povetkin pulled out. Plus out of all the top p4p fighter out there Wlad fights the most consistently, he fights between 3-4 times per year. That is unheard of now a days. Paqman fights only twice/yr, Mayweather fights only 1/per year, and on avg the top fighters only fight twice per year. But Wlad fights twice as many fights per yr as other p4p fighters. Now that alone gives him relevance and legitimacy. Now when you claim the HW crown needs to be seized not assumed I do not know what more you expect from a fighter to seize the HW title. He has fight everyone, when fighting everyone and winning all of these fights does not count as seizing the HW title then there is no way he could win your approval, outside of going back in time and fighting Lewis or Ali. And it is understandable that he will never fight his brother after all it's his brother! Your analogy of brothers fighting each other daily within families is absurd, it's nowhere remotely the same thing. These guys are professionals and have the power and skills to kill someone outside of the ring and inside of the ring. The daily fights between brothers within families do not have such skills and abilities. Its more likely you just don't like Wlad for whatever reason. It's not his fault this era of heavyweight talent is not there. All he can do is find the best out there considering the limited competition and fight on. Now we finally have a few newcomers that could possibly give him a run for his money like Helenius, Arreola, or Price, but Price and Helenius are still green and Arreola is the only one with the experience to fight Wlad now.

Plus who cares what the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board requires and if Wlad followed their criteria. I think the TBRB's ranking rules are irrelevant when a fighter has fought everyone in his division and has beaten them all such as the case with Wlad and Vitali.

As far as your writing technique and use of metaphors such as this one, "THE RING, they said, failed to determine boxing’s true champions because so many thrones remain unfilled, which is akin to claiming that coastal erosion is the fault of the lighthouse keeper or smog is the fault of the traffic cop". It is just strange and not close to making sense regarding your use of it in comparison with boxing's vacancy of true champs. I just think your trying to show us how smart you think you are, but using such an odd metaphor shows us your actual intellectual limitations.

leon30001 says:

JOPACH23, it is in fact you who has shown his intellectual limitations; you appear to have missed the ENTIRE point of the article, which is that, and contrary to your fallacious assertion, Wlad has NOT fought every viable contender, as he has not fought Vitali. Whether or not you think that is justified remains nonetheless moot. Logical argumentation, dear boy. It's a wonderful thing!

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