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When is a World Champion not a World Champion?

By Rachel Aylett: With Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko about to return to the UK on 26 October to face our top welterweight Kell Brook, I am reminded of a brief conversation I had with a workmate after Senchenko last fought in Britain just over a year ago. That was, of course, when he demolished, once and for all, the comeback dreams of Ricky Hatton.

On the Monday morning after the fight, the chap in the office said that he heard Hatton had done okay, “after all, the other guy was a former world champion, wasn’t he?” I hung my head slightly and concurred. After all, I was speaking to a casual boxing fan and not a hard core one. What I really wanted to say was “no, he was never world champion, he was a WBA beltholder, that’s all!” Of course, casual fans usually only know what little they get to read in their newspapers or are told on their cable/satellite channel which is showing the particular fight.

Being old school, I believe the term “world champion” means the best in the world. What it shouldn’t mean is “one of the top 30 in the world”, which is what the aforementioned Senchenko is. However, with today’s world governing bodies shamefully misrepresenting the sport, unfortunately being in the top 30 in the world often means you are good enough to hold one of their belts and, to some, be known as world champion. This is where the above-mentioned Senchenko comes in. We need to prepare ourselves for his upcoming appearance and the promoter and television channel broadcasting his fight referring to Senchenko as an ex-world champion, which obviously makes for a better sell of his fight with Brook. It wouldn’t sound nearly as appetising to the non-connoiseur, or the casual fan, if he was being described as a “top-30 in the world” fighter, now would it? It’s all too easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes and it’s been going on for far too long.

Let’s look at Senchenko – he only has two wins of any note. Of course, there is that win over the Hitman, who was less than a shadow of his former self on that sad night last November. The only other win worth mentioning is over fellow countryman Yuriy Nuzhnenko, when he won the WBA belt in his hometown of Donetsk. Although both fighters are from Ukraine, it was all set up for Senchenko to win, i.e., it was in his hometown, on his promoter’s show. In any case, we saw what Nuzhenko was made of when he was disctinctly second best to Matthew Hatton on his visit to the UK in July 2010. In other words, not much at all. Therefore, on the strength of such a record, how can you really describe Senchenko as a former world champion? It’s ludicrous.

To illustrate this point, during the three years that Vyacheslav Senchenko was walking around calling himself world champion, elsewhere in the real world Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley were alive and well. I don’t remember any of them calling out ths particular “world champion”, do you? Of course not, because he was a non-entity as far as they were concerned.

This is in no way meant as a slight to Senchenko, a very good, solid professional who, indeed, fought very well in the hostile Manchester atmosphere to repel Ricky Hatton. He was brought in as the sacrificial lamb but he showed a big heart that night, something he sorely lacked when he was thrashed in his hometown by the distinctly ordinary (at world level) Paulie Malignaggi. On that night, he sustained an eye injury and seemed to give up very easily, almost inviting the referee to step in and rescue him. If he had shown the same attitude against Paulie that he later showed against Hatton he may well have got through the fight and, who knows, possibly got a hometown decision that night.

Of course, this is a fight Brook should, and will, win. Indeed, if he doesn’t win in good style he may as well pack it in. What I don’t want to hear in the post-fight interview with the fighter and his promoter, is what a great victory this was for Kell as, after all, Senchenko was a former world champion.


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