Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Ring Heavyweight Ratings – Emotionally Driven?

By JE Grant

In recent months more and more pundits, boxing writers, and even the vaunted TV pinnacle of boxing, HBO, have begun placing tremendous credence to the The Ring magazine ratings. Unlike the alphabets, The Ring recognizes fighters regardless of belts held --- isn’t it ridiculous, for example, that the WBA and IBF do not even acknowledge the existence of, say, Lennox Lewis. It also appears that political and monetary influences play no role in the ratings. High praise to The Ring.

Despite a solid reputation it has to be said, however, that the #1 through #3 heavyweight ratings are cause for some head-scratching. Heading the list is the decision to maintain Chris Byrd as #1. Byrd is an affable, likeable, reliable and capable small heavyweight --- he’s the kind of guy we WANT to be a great fighter. He has also proven that against the top-level big guys he just can’t overcome his lack of power, despite considerable skills. His blowout losses at the hands of Ike Ibeabuchi and Wladimir Klitschko were no accident. He was not close to being in either fight. As for his win over Vitali Klitschko, give him credit for hanging in there but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that he was marching toward victory when Vitali quit.

Corrie Sanders and Roy Jones each achieved status as #2 and #3 respectively, on the basis of one victory over rated fighters. However convincing Sanders was in bowling over Wladimir Klitschko, we again must think back into the not too distant past to see him being pounded into the ground by Hasim Rahman. And, where was he rated before the Klitschko victory? The 37 year-old Sanders may ultimately prove himself worthy of consideration but one victory shouldn’t do it. (Thankfully, we don’t see anyone rushing to rate fellow Klitschko conqueror Ross Purrity).

Many fans were so emotionally impressed by the fact that the great Roy Jones defeated a heavyweight that they fail to put the win into perspective. Consider this: Billy Conn faced Joe Louis; Archie Moore faced Rocky Marciano; Bob Foster faced Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali; Michael Spinks faced Larry Holmes. And Roy Jones? Well, he faced John Ruiz. Certainly a solid victory over a top-15 heavyweight but taken against the backdrop of great light-heavyweight champions that tested the waters against truly great heavyweight champions, it should be clear that the evaluation of the magnitude of the victory should be tempered.

While we should all rejoice in the honesty of The Ring ratings, the ratings committee needs to take a deep breath and reevaluate. The folks at The Ring haven’t allowed corruption to influence the ratings, but, it appears to this humble observer, emotionalism has overtaken a sober assessment of the heavyweight division.

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