Emeritus Champion No More
Boxing has bigger problems, though. For one thing, the idea of having a "Champion Emeritus" in the first place. Nearly four years ago, Klitschko "retired" due to injuries while holding the WBC belt. As a result, the WBC needed to strip him of the title -- but named him "emeritus" champion so that if he chose to come back, he could demand a title fight. The WBA did the same thing with injured champion Ruslan Chagaev, although they deemed him the "Champion in Recess." By my way of thinking, getting hurt is part of boxing. If you can't defend your title, you should lose it -- and when you come back, you should at least have to fight someone before getting a title shot again. Four years gone and then right back to a title fight? Of course, Klitschko's win today hurts my argument a bit.
The bigger problem is the one that has long plagued boxing. How can you get anyone to follow your sport when you have four major sanctioning bodies (WBO/IBF/WBC/WBA) and countless minor sanctioning bodies? This problem was made worse tonight with Vitaly's win, because the possibility of unifying the titles has now disappeared until either Vitaly or his brother Wladimir (holder of the WBO and IBF titles) loses their belts or retires, since they've long refused to fight one another. I've read enough boxing articles recently to know that even boxing journalists were hoping that Peter would retain his belt to hold open the possibility of a unified title.
I will continue to watch fights when I get the chance, because I remain fascinated by the sport. It's no surprise, however, that the sport seems to be slowly dying. Maybe someone new and exciting will step up and electrify the sport. I suppose Alexander Povetkin, a 29-year-old Russian with a 16-0 record, could step up and stun Wladimir Klitschko in December to start a run as a monster in the sport -- but it seems unlikely. Maybe David Haye can step up into heavyweights and electrify the division -- but before he's fought a single fight at that weight it seems premature to pin the sports' hopes on him.
My suggestion? A way should be found to eliminate at least two of the major sanctioning bodies. Combining four into two would reduce some of the redundancy and make the sport easier to follow, while leaving some of the intrigue of having dueling sanctioning bodies. That won't happen unless all parties agree, but it would help immensely. The sport should also try to get some major heavyweight fights back on free TV. How else are you going to convince people that it's worth watching? If you charge people $50 for Evander Holyfield's latest return fight, or a Mike Tyson freak show, or an underwhelming battle between two lumbering fighters, you'll only get the hardcore supporters. Get some of the younger, up-and-coming heavyweights on Friday Night Fights. Maybe be really radical and put a title fight on free TV. Do something to spark interest!
As for me -- I'm still hooked. I can't wait for the flurry of heavyweight fights in November and December that could make things interesting in the division. I just hope something changes before the sport suffocates itself.