Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Cruiserweights

By JE Grant

The proliferation of junior and super weight classes, most of which were formed in the 1970's and 80's has indeed had a diluting effect to the word "champion." It can be argued, however, that the addition of the cruiserweight division makes the most sense when viewed from the perspective of competition.

If we were to accept the removal of the cruiserweight division we would in effect be saying that a 201 pound man would have a reasonable chance to win the heavyweight championship. In view of the increasing size of current champions, witness Vitali Klitschko, such a possibility is remote at best.

Yes we all know about the first successful challenge by a light-heavyweight champion for the heavyweight title, Michael Spinks v. Larry Holmes, and Spinks weighed 200 pounds for the challenge. (It is in fact true for history's sake that Spinks actually weighed 199 pounds but was listed at 200 at the suggestion of a promotionally-minded Larry Holmes).


And more recently, of course, Roy Jones, 193, captured a piece of the very fractured pie in defeating champion John Ruiz for the WBA title. He certainly would not have been able to do similar magic over the real champion at the time, Lennox Lewis.

But in both instances, the exception proved the rule. Spinks and Jones were all-time greats in the light-heavyweight division. No one --- no one --- would expect that current WBC champion Clinton Woods could do the same.

Consider the other great light-heavyweight champions who unsuccessfully challenged for the heavyweight title, such as Billy Conn and Bob Foster, and we can quickly surmise that a division should indeed exist to provide opportunities for gifted 200 pound fighters or for light-heavyweight fighters who legitimately outgrow the 175 pound limit.

Finally, thinking of great of fighters in history it is likely we would never have known the names Tunney, Charles, Marciano, Patterson or maybe even Joe Louis, had they been forced to compete with today's 230-250 pound champions. In his record 25 title defenses, Joe Louis weighed an average of 203 pounds. Evander Holyfield, often considered a "small" heavyweight, or even a "blown-up" cruiserweight, has ALWAYS weighed above that mark as both a heavyweight contender and champion.

Champs and chumps enter the ring at all weight classes. The cruiserweight division is no different. In its short history, the class has had some champions of note including Carlos DeLeon, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, James Toney (if ever so briefly) and of course Evander Holyfield.

The cruiserweight division is here to stay ------ and so it should be.

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