As hard as it is to believe today, the ownership of the heavyweight boxing championship belt—or belts—used to be the most prized and respected position in the world of sports. When I was growing up, names like Ali, Frazier, Norton and Foreman were the stuff of legend in their own times. Boxing in America simply does not have the hold on the imagination that basketball, football and the like have on potential participants. Once dominated by great American fighters, now the division it has become a bit of joke, if not a complete fraud. Maybe not as much as MMA, particularly when supposedly unbeatable Ronda Rousey (accused of domestic violence by her ex-boyfriend) gets a disfigured face and rendered practically unconscious on the mat by someone who is a better boxer than martial “artist”—proving that substance over “style” wins every time (or should).
But today the heavyweight division is dominated by colorless characters or clownish blowhards from outside the U.S., and this was put on display for all to see in reigning champion Vladimir Klitschko’s “stunning” loss to Brit Tyson Fury over the weekend. Klitschko had not lost a fight in almost 12 years, held all the alphabet soup belts and was expected to close the overactive lip of Fury with ease. Quite by accident I was able to catch the fight live on HBO, and I expected the 39-year-old champion to make short work of the younger Fury, who looked more goofy than capable of offering any serious competition.
But for anyone saddened by the state of the heavyweight division would be more so after watching this gag real of a fight. Fury at least pretended to “fight” for ten rounds, while Klitschko appeared to be sleepwalking—or was it he was too old now and he was hoping that Fury would wear himself out and be victimized by a late round knockout? That appeared to be case, and Fury wasn’t landing many of his shots and wasn’t hurting Klitschko at all. But he wasn’t that more active that the champion, and by the time Klitschko was forced to come to life in the 11th round, Fury was so far ahead that it was obvious he would win if he remained upright. For a moment or two in the 12th round it appeared that Fury was ready to pack it in before a belated flurry, but Klitschko just couldn’t deliver. When it was all over, Fury made further mock of the proceedings by singing a song to his wife in the middle of ring.
Not that boxing as a serious “sport” is not without promising moments. Take for example the previous week’s super-featherweight championship bout between Mexico’s Francisco Vargas and Japan’s Takashi Miura, which was replayed after the “main event.” These two guys just did not know the meaning of the word “quit,” mostly standing in the middle of the ring like Rock’em, Sock’em Robots, pummeling each to the death. Vargas fell first in the eighth round, but in the ninth Miura took a flurry of blows to the head before falling over. Yet Miura came back like something out of the “Living Dead” and just would not go down again despite further punishment.
The referee finally stopped the bout as a TKO for Vargas, but one had to admire Miura’s demonstration of a samurai warrior’s refusal to stand down, if only for the “honor” one’s own pride. Vargas’ reward was Miura’s WBC belt, which is probably worth ten times more in its weight in credibility than the heavyweight version.