One of the big problems in modern day boxing is the proliferation of multiple weight champions which have been allowed to grow and grow due to the lack of true governance in the sport. The sport has 4 major title awarding bodies (WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF) which opens the door to promoters getting in close with any one of them and using their links with them to get unfair title shots. A known link is Frank Warrens association with the WBO though like wise Mexican fighters seem to have a head start when working with the WBC. The problem isn’t the fact there’s 4 of them each out for themselves and not the boxers but that they often appear to want to rob boxing fans of the legitimacy the sport once hand.
With multiple weight champions becoming “the thing” with fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr all making ludicrous weight jumps in recent decades boxing’s arm chair fans are sat thinking these are the greatest fighters in history. Although all 3 men are incredibly talented their achievements pale to fighters who manages to be multiple divisional champions in a bye gone era. Fighters like Bob Fitzsimmons, Henry Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson define the term “pound 4 pound” in the history books.
The difference between the “old timers” and the “new guys” is multiple fold. Firstly the old guys only had a fraction of the titles now available to them. There wasn’t the multiple awarding bodies with world recognition, their was often only 1 man seen as the champion (though other fighters often had a claim to a title it was rare for more than 1 man to have solid claims). So when Bob Fitzsimmons won the Heavyweight title after being Middleweight champion that was a giant step to making Fitzsimmons a true ring legend. Henry Armstrong, the only man to hold 3 different weight titles at once didn’t have the ability to pick up vacant titles but had to get in the ring with “the man” to be the champion in each of the weights. The great Sugar Ray Robinson was not only a fighter who would win 2 divisional titles though regularly beat much bigger men who were weighing their natural weight. He didn’t request title fights at catch weights. When Robinson challenge Joey Maxim for the Light Heavyweight title Robinson was giving away over 15lbs in weight and by modern stands came in almost 3 divisions smaller than the champion.
Just to look at the vast difference between then and now, Robinson’s first title was a Welterweight title (147lbs) his second was a Middleweight (160lbs) and his failed attempt at a 3rd was at Light Heavyweight (175lbs). Now a days there is 2 more weight divisions between those in Light Middleweight (154lbs) and Super Middleweight (168lbs). Theirs is no reason why a young Robinson couldn’t have competed for a Light Welterweight (140lbs) or even a Lightweight (135lbs) in todays world where a weigh in is done the day before (allowing fighters to make artificially low weights to stay with in a division). Although Robinson was only a 2 weight division champion, had he been fighting today theirs no doubt in my mind he would have held titles between 135-175 where titles are fractured and there’s many more of them. He could easily have become an 8 weight champion had he been living today.
Manny Pacquiao maybe the boxing success story of our time though in the frank honesty of it all, he’s managed to take advantage of the times. When Manny turned professional in 1995 the sport had 17 divisions, with 5 of the smallest divisions separated by 13lbs and each of those divisions had up to 4 titles to get a hold of. When you remember “Pacman” was just a kid when he turned professional and that his weight was always going to increase it’s not a shock that he’s fighting many divisions higher than when he started. Lets not forget the teenage boy is now a full grown man. With the help of Bob Arums Top Rank Promotions, as well as stable mates Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito as well as the poor decisions of the awarding body’s Pacquiao has managed to pick up tainted titles at 147lbs and 154lbs…or should that really be 146lbs and 150lbs?
Whilst it’s true Manny didn’t start the mad dash to multiple divisional titles with artificially imposed weight constrictions he’s the one doing today and the one we can complain about doing it.