Just in case you've forgotten...

Luke G. Williams
19/05/2016 10:54am

Luke G. Williams argues that Fury-Klitschko 2 is the only genuine World Heavyweight Championship fight on the horizon …

Regular readers of Boxing Monthly online, specifically my ‘Ranking the Heavyweight Champions’ series, may already be aware of the strictly lineal approach I take towards the World Heavyweight Championship.

Nevertheless, in the lead-up to the Joshua versus Breazeale and Fury versus Klitschko fights in June and July respectively – and at the risk of sounding like a broken record - I think it is an approach worth restating.

In short, I believe that the description of ‘World Heavyweight Champion’ only applies to 38 men from the Queensbury Rules era of boxing and that the many other spurious ‘belt holders’ who have popped up over the years are best ignored.

Such an approach is born of what seems to me to be inescapable logic – namely that in boxing you can only call yourself ‘the champion’ if you defeat the man who is already regarded as the champion.

In other words, championships should be decided in the ring, and not on the spurious and self-interested whims and kneejerk reactions of sanctioning bodies, TV companies, fight promoters or high court judges.

Few people talk about it or refer to it these days, but it is worth remembering that in the long history of gloved heavyweight boxing, stretching back to the late 19th century and the swaggering supremacy of John L. Sullivan, the precious lineage of the World Heavyweight title has only been definitively ruptured on three occasions – namely, after the retirements of Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano and Lennox Lewis.

After Tunney and Marciano’s departures from the sport, a new lineage was established by popular consent which enabled the heavyweight crown to retain its lustre, and as such the principle of being ‘the man who beat the man’ upon which the whole foundation of boxing was built retained its validity and status.

Post-Lewis, the heavyweight picture was more fragmented, of course. Nevertheless, only a fool or someone with no appreciation or care for boxing’s wonderfully rich history or the concept of sporting integrity would deny that right now there is only one World Heavyweight Champion – and that man is Tyson Fury.

True, the man that Fury conquered so cunningly last November, Wladimir Klitschko, may not have been able to boast that he was the ‘man who beat the man who beat the man…’, but in the (thankful) absence of a Lewis comeback, the Ukrainian repelled every reasonable heavyweight contender you could name during a staggering eleven-year unbeaten run.

In doing so, Klitschko established a new heavyweight lineage of his own - hence why, when Fury deposed him, the Whythenshawe-born Irish traveller became simultaneously the man and also the man to beat.

The forthcoming rematch between Fury and Klitschko is therefore a sporting event seldom seen on British soil – namely a bout for the lineal, undisputed World Heavyweight title – a prize that once was, and should still be, the most prized and hallowed in all of sport.

Search back through the history books and you will find that there have only been five previous contests for the lineal heavyweight title in the UK – Tommy Burns versus Gunner Moir and then Jack Palmer in 1907 and 1908, Muhammad Ali versus Henry Cooper and then Brian London in 1966 and Lennox Lewis versus Frans Botha in 2000.

All those fights, incidentally, took place in London, meaning that Fury-Klitschko 2 is the first non-London based fight in the UK for the genuine World Heavyweight Championship.

My advice, then, is to forget about Joshua versus Breazeale - a near meaningless scrap for an utterly meaningless ‘title’ which is, in truth, merely a grubby pay-per-view money grab.

Yes, yes, yes - I know - the BBC website, which should, but doesn’t, know better, may have led you to believe that Anthony Joshua is “his country's sixth bona fide* heavyweight world champion”.

But they are wrong.

Joshua might, at some point in the unknowable future, become ‘our’ fourth Heavyweight Champion (the others being Fitzsimmons, Lewis and Fury), but right now he is a mere contender.

So, boxing fans, please, ignore Joshua, forget about Wilder versus S/O, and neglect to even countenance the possibility that any other possible configuration of heavyweights fighting each other represents anything other than an elimination contest for the chance to fight for the real heavyweight title …

Tyson Fury versus Wladimir Klitschko on 9 July is the only Heavyweight World Championship fight currently scheduled for this year and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

*(Incidentally, the literal meaning of ‘bona fide’ is ‘genuine, authentic, true’ as well as ‘without deception or fraud’. Yet what else is Joshua’s IBF ‘title’ but a specious and deceptive accessory? Let’s not forget this belt was ‘earned’ by KO-ing a man on the (very) outer fringes of world class who had beaten another man on the outer fringes of world class whose knee had given way. These two men on the outer fringes of world class were only fighting for the IBF ‘title’ because the genuine champion had agreed to a rematch with the man he had just beaten – a perfectly acceptable first move to make as World Heavyweight Champion, for which there are multiple historical precedents. I may not agree with everything Tyson Fury says, but when I read that he had remarked that the IBF title was “worthless”, and that he would gladly “throw it on the floor and piss on it”, I punched the air in agreement.)