The Nostalgic/Sanctioning bodies
By Robert “Big Moe” Elmore: Nostalgic fans love to talk how this era is better than this era and that only “certain things” happened in their era. For example, you have the 80’s babies saying “the best fought the best”. They did, but they weren’t all back to back. This is true for any and every era.
Unless there was a tournament (like the heavyweight tourney in the 80’s or the Super Six tourney that ran from 2009 to 2011), there was always a buildup. Leonard/Hearns 1, there was a build up; Ali/Frazier 1 there was a buildup. Today’s fans want big fight after big fight. It doesn’t work that way and it never will.
To take it a step further, Leonard/Hagler took five years to happen. Yes, Leonard retired in 1982, but came back in 84 to fight Kevin Howard. He eventually retired again and remerged in 1987 to fight Marvin Hagler. My question is; why didn’t Leonard fight Hagler in 84 when Hagler was red hot?
Most might argue that Leonard needed a tune up to see where his body was after 2 years. If that was the case, he would have done the same thing upon facing Hagler. Instead, Leonard went straight at him. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao took five years to make and became the highest grossing/pay per view bout in the boxing history. There is no difference in between Leonard/Hagler and Floyd/Pac. All four fighters were not in their primes and the buildup made their events bigger.
The other thing that I found interesting upon my research (internet and video cassettes…yes those..lol) that most of the boxing greats did not put their title on the line EVERY time they fought. And that’s the one thing I really admire about this era of boxing. Be it against and B level fighter or top contenders, the title is always on the line.
Upon winning the WBA title from Ken Buchanan, Roberto Duran’s next three defenses were non title defenses with his 3rd resulting in a lost to Esteban De Jesus. Yet, I hear or see no chastising Duran or calling him a coward for doing such a thing.
Ray Robinson won the welterweight crown on December 20th 1946, and did not defend it again until June 24th 1947. Many have said that Robinson could not find opponents so ventured into the middleweight division for fights. Again, I have yet to hear any complaints about this. This takes me to my next point; Unification and sanctioning bodies. There are many examples I could use but for time sake, I’ll use some examples and make reference to others.
Many fans today cry for unification matches to determine the TRUE champ of the division. I understand why fans want such thing with all the many belts that are around in boxing today and the “super” and “regular” titles that are given. Despite all that, back in the day, there were more big fights taking place rather than unification bouts. Why? Same rules that were back then apply today; bigger fights meant bigger money and gave the boxer a chance to become bigger than a belt. The belts are meant to establish their name in hopes of getting bigger fights and pay days. Once the name is established, the belts mean nothing.
In 2010, Floyd Mayweather defeated Shane Mosley, but Shanes’s WBA title was not on the line because Floyd refused to pay the 675,000 dollars in sanctioning fees. That’s a lot of money. Marvin Hagler was stripped of his WBA and WBC crowns upon fighting Leonard. The IBF continued to recognize him. But Hagler didn’t care. He was getting his dream fight that came with 12 million big ones. There was one exception to the rule where a fighter wasn’t established yet and was stripped and that was Leon Spinks. He was stripped of his WBC title for fighting Muhammad Ali in a rematch rather than fight number one challenger Ken Norton. But again, who cared? This was Muhammad Ali he was fighting.
I have no problem with a unified champ, but having all three belts locks a fighter into mandatory challengers. To be fair, it’s usually in the lower weight classes were unification matches take place because there is that option to move up several divisions.
For example, Pernell Whitaker became the undisputed lightweight champ in 1991. He defended his titles twice before vacating and moving up. He won the WBC welterweight title from James “Buddy” McGirt, defended it 9 times and a unification bout never happened. Oscar De La Hoya won the WBO lightweight title from Jorge Paez in 1994 and fought Rafael Ruelas in 1995 for the IBF crown. Oscar quickly vacated both crowns and moved up. So while fans talk about “unified champs back in the day”, I suggest they do their research.