By Cliff Rold
To paraphrase “The Incredibles,” which was riffing on Rand, when everyone has a belt, no one’s belt is special.
While the plethora of titles in the sport has created some income opportunities for fighters who otherwise might not have it in this era, their volume (with interim, diamond, and other such wouldn’t-wipe-an-ass with designations) has become harder to sort out. Fighters, even with belts, can be completely lost in the shuffle of their own divisions.
Case in point: Miguel Vazquez. How many readers didn’t realize he was even active over the weekend?
On Saturday in Mexico, the 25-year old Vazquez (30-3, 13 KO) made his third defense of the IBF Lightweight belt. Opponent Ameth Diaz wasn’t particularly notable. The same can be said of both Vazquez’s other defense foes. The man he defeated to win the then-vacant belt in August 2010, Ji-Hoon Kim, is an outstanding TV fighter.
That’s not the same as being an outstanding fighter generally.
Kim is a fringe contender at Lightweight on his best day. To be clear, Vazquez can fight. His resume is just not that full yet. Vazquez’s best win may well have been before he won his belt, an off the floor decision over the tough Breidis Prescott.
His losses are more impressive in the sense that, so far, only other beltholders have beaten him. He has four and ten round decision losses to current Jr. Middle champ Saul Alvarez. He was Timothy Bradley’s last win before winning a belt at Jr. Welterweight.
And now Miguel Vazquez has the IBF Lightweight belt. So what?
The ‘so what’ will come for him in time, if ever. For now, Vazquez is the forgotten Lightweight. As he racks up defenses, he could find opportunities arise if he’s looking for them beyond the steady checks a belt can allow. Maybe someone goes looking for an affordable unification clash? A mandatory with major network interest can always arrive.
For now, Vazquez plugs along, one of many almost anonymous titlists waiting for someone to take his ‘champion’ tag serious.
Heavyweight: Former WBA titlist Ruslan Chagaev maintained his slot in the top ten with a time passing eight rounder on Saturday, but the 33-year old showed signs of nearing the end. He entered the fight at a career high 242 ½ pounds. That’s eleven more than his previous outing and almost eighteen more than his weight for a fight with Wladimir Klitschko in 2009. When a heavyweight starts letting his belt go, it’s rarely a positive. Contrast with once rated, and likely again to be rated, Denis Boytsov (30-0, 25 KO). While his level of competition and inactivity forced him out of the top ten, he’s coming in now at 213-ish in consecutive outings. The 25-year old Russian is showing the signs of a hungry young lion. Let’s hope his handlers respond and start getting him some serious competition.
Lightweight: Vazquez holds his number three position.
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Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]