Back in 1986, when I became obsessed with all that was boxing, the IBF was the new kid on the block. Only 3 years old, it ran alongside the already established WBC and WBA and its first champion was middleweight king, and my all time favourite fighter, Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Less than a year later Thomas Hearns joined a then elite group of fighters as a three weight world champion when he won the WBC light heavyweight by stopping Dennis Andries in 10. Seven months later Hearns dropped to middleweight to become the first four weight champion in history knocking out Juan Roldan in four for the vacant WBC title. A year later Hearns was set to challenge Fully Obel for the WBA super middleweight title, setting a record for the first five weight champion, but Obel was injured, and by devine intervention, a new organisation, the WBO, offered to sanction a fight between Hearns and James Kinchen for its vacant title. History was served as Hearns got off the floor to win a unanimous decision.
Not to be outdone, the WBC sanctioned a fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Don Lalonde. What made this fight a first was Leonard was their super middleweight champion and Lalonde their light heavyweight champion but, with a weight stipulation, BOTH titles would be on the line, giving Leonard the opportunity to become a five weight champion. He obliged, surviving a fourth round knockdown to stop Lalonde in nine.
Now, the backdrop to this story is important, because it seemed that from that point boxing started going title crazy. And with more titles to fight for more fighters got the chance to become champions. Then move to other divisions to become two weight champions and so forth. Now good fighters, who are just that, good fighters, are becoming title holders where once they would have been solid contenders. In other sports the best play the best to become the best. In boxing you can sidestep that and STILL call yourself champion.
Take the cases of Jorge Arce, Humberto Soto, Nonito Donaire and Robert Guerrero. All good fighters but all, on Wikipedia, being credited with being multi weight champion. Trouble is all have been recognised as interim champions in that accomplishment. And this is a huge part of the problem. Adrian Broner is another. Three titles, three divisions, solid, not great opposition. All time greats? At this point, no.
The confusion with the titles has been around for years. These days you, your dad, brother and nan could all be champions. If left up to the WBA you would all hold the same title!! (Better be careful before they invent the “family” belt!!). But you get the picture. Greatness is being diluted. The Ring magazine belt I respect hugely. They are trying to take the politics and madness out by ranking the boxers on merit. You know, the correct way.
Judging a boxer’s greatness in the modern era, for me, is based on quality of opposition. It doesn’t matter what title you hold, you beat the best, you are the best. End of. A few boxers are thinking like that too, giving up their titles to chase these these type of opponents. Fighters who go through the divisions need to seek out the best or beat the next best things, seperating themselves from the pack.
A world title is the ultimate for all fighters and this is not meant to demean their achievements. This is just trying to take a perspective that, in modern times, less can be a whole lot more.
Article By Dean Berks