By Jake Donovan
There once existed the belief that so goes the heavyweight division, so goes boxing itself. For as long as the sport has existed, it has been led by a dominant heavyweight champion.
Times have changed dramatically, as the once glamour division has threatened to become an afterthought. World lineal heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko is among the most dominant champions in history, though many point to the weak field over which he presides in dismissing his accomplishments.
Below Klitschko, there hasn’t existed much hope for an unseating of the king. But it doesn’t mean the division is short on drama and entertainment. The majority of it is taking place under the auspices of the World Boxing Council (WBC), the one title not currently in possession of the multi-belted champ.
Ironically, the series of bouts taking place to produce the leading challenge to Klitschko comes as a result of his older brother, Vitali Klitschko vacating the title last year upon announcing his retirement. Since then, the vacant title has been filled, along with a slew of challengers lined up.
“The heavyweight division is beginning to blossom, which makes me happy,” insists Mauricio Sulaiman, who took over the reins at the WBC following the passing of his father and longtime president, Don Jose Sulaiman. “(Bermane Stiverne) knocked out Chris Arreola to win the vacant title in May. Deontay Wilder continues to knock people out and is the mandatory challenger.
“(Alexander) Povetkin had a tremendous knockout over (Manuel) Charr shortly after that. There’s Carlos Takam who just won in Europe over Tony Thompson. Next month, Bryant Jennings faces Michael Perez in an elimination bout. The heavyweight division is starting to pick up.”
How far the WBC can progress will depend on Stiverne and his ability to play nice with promoter Don King long enough to remain active. His repeat win over Arreola made him the first ever Haiti-born fighter to capture a portion of the heavyweight crown, an accomplishment he hoped to parlay into a lucrative showdown with Klitschko, after spending nearly a year chasing his older brother Vitali while serving as his mandatory challenger.
Such a pairing could prove difficult for the time being, as both are saddled with pending mandatory challenges. While Stiverne is forced to look ahead to Wilder and – with a win – a follow-up defense versus the winner of the July 26 showdown between Jennings and Perez, Klitschko has been ordered to next defend versus unbeaten contender Kubrat Pulev.
There is hardly an undesirable matchup among the lot, which can only mean good news for the division and for the sport itself.
“I'm very excited because the heavyweight champion is supposed to be the champion of all champions,” Sulaiman believes.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: boxing