An interesting lineage study of the MW championship
These rules can make life difficult and step on toes, but then the truth is often not easy to swallow. I will give two examples, both extracts from an essay I am writing on the linear middleweight championship.
Example one: It is generally held that, in the way of Suger Ray Robinson's retirement, Carl Olson won the vacant title when he defeated Randy Turpin in 1953. He successfully defended the title three times over quality opposition, most notably Kid Gavilan and Ricky Castellani. Ray Robinson returned to the ring three years later and knocked out Olson in two rounds. In the record books, Ray Robinson was once again the champion of the world—now for a record third time. Robinson lost to Gene Fullmer in his first title defense on a unanimous decision. But he regained the title from Fullmer with a spectacular fifth-round knockout. Now he was four-time world middleweight champion. Robinson lost the title yet again in his next defense against Carmen Basilio on a 15-round split decision in 1957. But, once more, he regained the title on a split decision in 1958. Both battles were recognized as fight of the year by the Ring magazine. Robinson was champion for a fifth time! In his next defense he lost the title to Paul Pender. This time he didn’t get it back, losing the rematch.
That’s the way the story is usually told. However, a historical fact has been overlooked. When Robinson returned to the ring, before he defeated Olsen to become recognized as champion for a third time, Robinson lost to Ralph Jones. Since both Robinson and Jones were under the weight limit of 160 lbs, Robinson’s linear middleweight championship was on the line. The record books record this as one of a series of tune-up fights, but the rule of lineage suggests a different history.
Jones is the middleweight with a direct line through Robinson to the past. Jones lost to Eduardo Jorge Lausse. Lausse lost to Bobby Boyd. Boyd lost to Joey Giardello, who was a fine boxer and would become world champion defeating Dick Tiger in 1963. Giardello lost to Spider Webb in 1958. Webb lost to Fullmer in 1959. Fullmer had just won the vacant NBA title and would defend the title six times before losing to Dick Tiger in 1962. Thus the middleweight championship picture becomes clear in 1959 when Gene Fullmer defeats Spider Webb. This makes Gene Fullmer two-time middleweight champion with six title defenses an impressive record.
Robinson was never five-time world middleweight champion, despite what the record books says. He was two-time world champion at this weight. I take no pleasure in pointing this out, since Robinson is, in my view, the greatest boxer who ever lived and part of that greatness came in fights with Fullmer and Basilio, even if Robinson was over the hill.
Example two: Ray Leonard won the middleweight championship on a disputed split decision over all-time great Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Leonard nominally retired, but continued fighting, claiming the light heavyweight title (the WBC version) in a win over Donny LaLonde and drawing with Tommy Hearns. Leonard next fought Roberto Duran at the middleweight limit. Duran had claimed the title by winning the WBC version with a win over Iran Barkley in the 1989 fight of the year. However, Leonard was the linear champion and clarified it by defeating Duran.
During Leonard “retirement,” Hearns defeated Roldan over four rounds to win the WBC title. Since these two were the top contenders, this was the strongest claim to the title. Hearns lost his title to Barkley. Barkley had previously lost in a fight for the vacant WBA title against Sumbu Kalambay. Many claim that this strengthened the WBA line, but I disagree; Kalambay outpointed Barkley, but there was nothing in the victory that demonstrated that Kalambay was the best in the world. At any rate, Barkley lost the WBC title to Duran in 1989.
So why didn’t Duran lose his WBC title to Leonard? Early reports said the title would be on the line. But then we were told it wasn’t. When both weighed under the limit (Duran weighed 158 lbs and Leonard weighed 160 lbs), Jose Sulaiman, the president of the WBC said the title may in fact be on the line. A contract was signed stipulating that the title was not on the line (what was on the line was some such thing called a “supermiddleweight” title). Sulaiman said he would abide by the agreement. All that is irrelevant. It was a middleweight fight and Leonard was the linear champion. Terry Norris became world middleweight champion when he defeated linear champion Ray Leonard. And so on.
So by this lineage the MW title goes from Hagler < Leonard < Norris < Simon Brown < Norris < Luis Santana LMAO < Norris < Mullings < Castillejo < De La Hoya < Mosley < Wright and considering Winky's only loss after that was to Hopkins at 170 that would still make him the linear MW champion? So technically Paul Williams has a shot at becoming the MW champion