Standing Eight Count”-
I See Hope For The Heavyweight Division
By Dave Wilcox
There was a time when the “Heavyweight Championship of the
World” was the greatest prize in sports. Legendary figures such
as Jack Dempsey with his brute like force and Joe Louis with his
grace and style ruled the sports landscape in their times. Rocky
Marciano would be the first and still only heavyweight Champion
to retire undefeated. The Heavyweight Champions were treated as
royalty and always had the front page of the newspaper. They
were not only fighters, they were Heroes. Some served our
country in World Wars, some married movie stars but all great
heavyweight champions transcended their sport and were bigger
When Gene Tunney removed the title from Jack Dempsey in 1926,
there were over 120,000 spectators in attendance. The rematch
fell short of that number, but still drew just over 100,000 fans
to watch the famous “Long Count”. Gene Tunney would retain his
title in the fight and the Heavyweight Championship of the World
was indeed the biggest prize in sports.
We would go on to see the stories unfold of Joe Louis and his
incredible streak of title defenses. In his later days when he
was being taken advantage of by everyone, including his very own
country that he served so well, Louis himself would be the
springboard that kick started Marciano’s career. The over the
hill Louis, who was hurting for money took a fight with the up
and coming Brockton, Massachusetts slugger and would be brutally
knocked out in a horrible night for Boxing that to this day
leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As noted above, Marciano would
retire undefeated at 49-0 and then later would die in a plane
crash on August 1st, 1969.
A young and brash Cassius Clay broke on to the scene after
winning a gold medal for the USA in 1960. Clay turned pro on
October 29th, 1960 and the rest as they say, is history. He
changed his name to Muhammad Ali and Boxing would never be the
same again. We’ll save that story for another day.
As we flash forward to 1976 and little eight year old Davie
Wilcox goes to a drive-in theater to watch a movie called
“Rocky” his world would never be the same. As I chronicled in an
earlier column I wrote entitled, Rocky, Mason Dixon and Me, the
movie Rocky took over my life it seemed and from then on I
couldn’t get enough of the real stuff. Soon after watching
Stallone do his thing, I would watch and read everything I could
get my hands on that related to the Heavyweight division.
At about that time, Ali was coming to the end of his title
reign. The first bout I remember really having a true opinion on
while watching on television was the first fight between the
great Muhammad Ali and fellow Olympic Gold Medalist, Leon
Spinks. Obviously, that wasn’t a great fight, but it was indeed
a great event. Leon Spinks won the fight against Ali and instead
of defending against the mandatory #1 contender, Kenny Norton,
he took return match against “The Greatest” for big money. While
that was going on, Kenny Norton won a 15 round decision over
Jimmy Young in what became a title fight by default. The WBC
stripped Spinks for not fighting Norton and then gave it to the
star of Mandingo without him actually winning it in the ring.
That brings us to the fight that hooked me forever.
On June 9th, 1978 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Kenny Norton
stepped in the ring against a young upstart and former Ali
sparring partner in Larry Holmes for the WBC strap. For 15
grueling rounds these men pounded on each other relentlessly. In
arguably the greatest final round in Heavyweight Championship
history, the two warriors dug deep and thrilled us with heart
and passion. Larry Holmes won the decision and started a
legendary run of his own.
Holmes ruled the Heavyweight landscape until 1985 when he was
upset by Light heavyweight Champion, Michael Spinks in a close
decision. Spinks went on to win a rematch in 1986 and HBO would
“kiss Larry Holmes where the sun don’t shine, and since they
were on HBO, it was his big black behind”.
“The baddest man on the planet” was next up as “Iron” Mike Tyson
became the youngest Heavyweight Champion of all time when he
knocked out Trevor Berbick on November 22nd, 1986. Tyson would
unify the title belts in a unification series put on by good ol’
Don King with victories over Berbick, Tony “TNT” Tucker and
James “Bonecrusher” Smith. All doubt was lifted as to who the
best was when the unified champ met the linear champ on June
27th, 1988. Tyson destroyed Michael Spinks in 91 seconds to
claim his stake at Heavyweight greatness.
Mike Tyson should have retired as the greatest of all time, but
the lack of character, motivation and a bad attitude would
prevent us from seeing that happen. Well, those things and
The 90’s in the Heavyweight division was a very nice decade.
Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis would battle for supremacy.
Riddick Bowe and Michael Moorer would have incredible moments of
their own as well. We had a new “Great White Hope” in Tommy
Morrison that was almost decapitated by another 90’s favorite in
Ray Mercer. Of course how can anyone forget Reverend George’s
joke of a comeback in the 80’s turn into a legitimate one in the
90’s as he challenged Evander Holyfield for the title and proved
his comeback was in fact not a joke. Big George Foreman lost his
bid for a title against Holyfield in 1991, but in 1994, history
would be made. Twenty-six years after winning the gold medal in
Mexico City, Big George shocked the world and knocked out
Michael Moorer to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
For good measure, he even wore the same trucks against Moorer
that he wore in the ring when he first won the title against Joe
Frazier. The trunks looked a little tighter in 1994.
As the new millennium hit in 2000, Holyfield faded, Bowe went
“Jimmy Piersol” on us and Lennox Lewis took control of the
Heavyweight Division. He was the acknowledged ruler of the
division until his sudden retirement after a tough bout against
Vitali Klitschko in 2003. This my friends, was the beginning of
The big names were now all gone and all we had left were
unknowns and with all due respect, a bunch of guys from Germany
and the Ukraine that I couldn’t spell or pronounce their names.
The American Heavyweight was all but dead. There was no network
television to develop fighters with the public as there once
was. In a Pay-Per View world, the mainstream fan that might have
helped pack Soldier Field in Chicago back in 1927 could care
less about the Heavyweight Division in 2003. Our great
heavyweights were either playing power forward for the Lakers or
linebacker for the Steelers.
The division was boring and lacked talent. You had guys that
were more suited to being under the big top than in the ring. We
had a “Quiet Men” that hugged his way to titles because quite
honestly, there was nothing much better.
The one saving grace seemed to be in two brothers named
Klitschko. Older brother Vitali made his name in the above
mentioned bout with Lennox Lewis. He went on to win a title, but
injuries forced an early retirement. Little brother Wladimir
became more famous for water bottles and a glass jaw that he did
with his skills.
As we stand in 2009, Vitali made his comeback and won a title
back by beating Sam Peter and Wladimir has continued to win in
recent years and has also continued to bore the hell out of me.
How long do we have to wait for him to be great? He is a big guy
with speed, talent and power and he fights scared. He is always
trying to protect that china under his lip. As far as big
brother goes, he is a better fighter than Jr., but he is too old
and puts me to sleep when I watch him as well.
The division has gotten so bad, that I long for the “glory
years” of Tony Tubbs, Pinklon Thomas and Gerrie Coetzee.
As Peter Finch once said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to
take this anymore!” Well, actually I probably will take it
because I’m the same guy who paid $55.00 to watch Kelly Pavlik
and Miguel Cotto beat a couple Tijuana Taxi drivers the other
day on Pay-Per View.
I want my champions to be fearless and fight coming forward. I
don’t want a big and strong 6’ 6” Heavyweight champion to fight
like he is in a track meet.
I want a guy who is a character and makes me want to watch him
fight. Believe me, nobody is going to break the doors down to
watch Ruslan Chagaev or Nikolay Valuev, unless of course the
bearded lady is on the undercard.
Don’t worry my friends, I see hope coming by way of London,
England and Riverside, California.
As I write this, Former Cruiserweight champion, David Haye is
scheduled to challenge for Wladimir Klitschko’s belt on June
20th in England. I couldn’t be happier. I absolutely love David
Haye. He is just what we need in the division. He fights good,
he talks good and he looks good. Every time this guy opens his
mouth, I want to be there to hear it. Do I necessarily think he
is a “great” fighter at this point? The answer is no, but he
could be, couldn’t he? Make no mistake, he has heavyweight power
in that right hand and don’t you listen to anyone who says he is
a blown up Cruiserweight. That is far from the truth. If
anything, he was a starving Heavyweight when he fought at
Cruiser. The big question for Haye is his ability to take a
punch. He has been knocked down before at Cruiserweight and was
rocked by Monte Barrett in his first fight at heavyweight. I
don’t know how he will take a punch from a legit bomber like
Wlad, but I do know I can’t wait to find out.
If Haye can manage to come out of that fight as The Heavyweight
Champion, there is another intriguing young man out here in my
neck of the woods.
This young man has way too many tattoos, he drinks too much,
eats too much and swears too much. He is also one of the nicest
guys I have met in quite some time. His name is Chris “The
Nightmare” Arreola. He is also a guy that when he is on my
television and I’m in the middle of something else, you can bet
that I would drop what I’m doing to see what Arreola is up to.
The Heavyweights post Lennox Lewis era do the complete opposite
to me. I can’t wait to miss their next fight. If Sultan
Ibragimov is on the tube, I go ahead and make that root canal
appointment for the same day.
I will choose to ignore the recent rumor that David Haye might
pull out of the fight with little brother and be replaced by
Arreola. My guess is its just posturing by the managers and the
deal will get done.
In the meantime, Chris Arreola will take on “Big Time” Jameel
McCline on the undercard of Winky Wright vs. Paul Williams on
April 11th in Las Vegas.
Let me make this prediction right now. The biggest fight of 2010
will be David Haye vs. Chris Arreola for the Undisputed
Heavyweight Championship of the World!
The big boys back on top…I love it!
-Speaking of Winky Wright vs. Paul Williams. Why is Winky
getting top billing? Who does he think he is, Shelly Long?
-I will be in Vegas for the Williams-Wright bout next month. I
will start my strict exercise routine so I can be in tip-top
drinking shape. Viva Las Vegas!
-I don’t watch The Contender on television because I am morally
against reality shows. I did however watch the finals on Versus
because they format the finals like real a Boxing show. Was it
just me, or did Tony Danza sound great as a broadcaster. He is
smart, funny and knowledgeable as a former fighter himself.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone gave him a crack on a big
network? Heck, every time Slapsie Maxie opens his pie hole on
the HBO telecasts, I feel like I’m being blasted on the jaw by
an Earnie Shavers overhand right. Tone it down a notch Max.
-I love the thought of a Miguel Cotto fight against Joshua
Clottey. That just proves what we already know. Miguel Cotto is
the blue print of how fighters should behave. Humble, friendly
and mean as a snake. That and he always takes the fights nobody
else will. Having said all that, I want the Shane Mosley- Miguel
Cotto rematch first. I think Shane earned it with his drubbing
of Antonio Margacheato. Clottey can wait.
Thanks for reading and keep punching
Don’t forget to check out The “Talkin Boxing with Billy C.”
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