The Ring Championship: Are They Winning?
By Andrew Harrison: In 2002 and in a bid to restore credibility back to the sport, Ring magazine launched its current championship policy. Hoping to cut a swathe through the veritable quagmire created by the various alphabet organisations and give credence back to idea of what it means to be a world champion, Ring titles are only awarded under the following criteria: ‘Championship vacancies can be filled by winning a box-off between The Ring's number-one and number-two contenders, or, in certain instances, a box-off between our number-one and number-three contenders. The only three occasions when a fighter will lose his championship status are when he retires, moves to another weight division, or is defeated in a championship bout’.
Article posted on 22.05.2009
There are at present, six recognised Ring champions: Tomasz Adamek (cruiserweight), Kelly Pavlik (middleweight), Manny Pacquiao (light welterweight), Juan Manuel Marquez (lightweight), Israel Vazquez (super bantamweight) and Ivan Calderon (junior flyweight).
So how close are we to crowning champs in the remaining 11 divisions?
A title which has lain dormant for years could find itself wrapped around someone’s waist sooner than first glance would lead you to believe. Former Ring cruiserweight champion David Haye aims to break the stranglehold the Klitschko brothers currently have on the division when he challenges younger brother Wladimir (rated 1st) in Gelsenkirchen on June 20th.
A win here would presumably see the Englishman vault into the top two, where he’d then be contractually obliged to face big brother Vitali (rated 2nd) in a fight which would signal the first Ring heavyweight world championship bout since Vitali (as champion) halted Haye’s compatriot and former spar mate Danny Williams in 2004 (Vitali retired due to injury in 2005).
A win for Wlad on the other hand, would mean that another fighter is probably gonna have to mow down both brothers, or get to Wlad after Vitali retires, which could be a long way off yet.
Joe Calzaghe’s retirement earlier this year snipped the Ring championship lineage at light heavyweight, leaving us with former Ring champ Bernard Hopkins and the division’s heir apparent Chad Dawson as first and second ranked contenders respectively.
Dawson would presumably jump at the chance to face the old master this year; however B’Hop doesn’t appear to see enough value in a fight with ‘Bad’ Chad and is carefully mulling over his next move.
HBO may also be reluctant to throw money at the match thanks to the way Hopkins schooled another of the network’s rising stars last time out, in the shape of middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, however a green light on their part could yet force ‘Nard’s hand.
Boy, Joe Calzaghe must have been a source of celebration and consternation in equal measure at Ring HQ over the past few years. The Welsh windmill’s last six outings saw him annex Ring championships at both 168 and 175, yet he would relinquish both without defeat, leaving vacant titles at each weight.
A solution here looks pretty straightforward however. Mikkel Kessler occupies top spot, Lucian Bute rates second with third ranked Carl Froch hunting down clashes with the pair of them.
If Froch eludes the tractor beam of Bernard Hopkins, he may look instead to tackle the once beaten Dane Kessler. A fight between this European duo would be significant and may just meet the criteria required to warrant Ring championship status.
How very apt that the three fighters sitting atop the light middleweight division, the long time stomping ground of Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright, are not only looking to follow the former pound for pounder in terms of achievement but also look primed to inherit his mantle as chairman of the ‘who needs him club’.
Don’t hold your breath if you’re expecting to see Vernon Forrest, Paul Williams or Cory Spinks face off anytime soon though. Although they’d all be brave (or crazy, you decide) enough to get in the ring against one another, who exactly would pay to see it?
This division seems like it should already have one of its warriors holding a natty Ring championship belt by now doesn’t it? It’s complicated.
Back in 2007, Floyd Mayweather ruled (ok), yet elected to fill his dance card with a high earning light middleweight (De la Hoya) and similarly lucrative light welterweight (Ricky Hatton).
In the meantime, Mayweather’s number one ranked contender, Miguel Cotto, narrowly outpointed the man rated at number three, ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley. The following year Mayweather would retire only for Cotto to be crunched by the number four guy, Antonio Margarito, who took top spot. In January of this year however, Mosley completely sucked the wind out of ‘The ‘Tijuana Tornado’, leaving the championship panel with a heck of a conundrum and a regrettably still vacant title.
If Mosley and Cotto fail to land a dream date with Manny Pacquiao, due either to weight stipulations or rather the winner of Mayweather-Marquez stealing in first, look for them to rematch later this year to settle the score and crown a welterweight king.
This division is still reshaping itself after seeing a veritable banquet of stellar names departing from it’s midst over recent years, including the two guys currently jostling at the top of the pound for pound chart.
Mexican Humberto Soto leads the field from Malcolm Klassen with Klassen’s promoter Branco Milenkovic optimistic that a match between the pair can be made, despite rumours which suggest Soto is instead weighing up a move to 135 (hey everybody else has right?).
Mzonke Fana (3), perhaps best known as a former Marco Antonio Barrera casualty, has already defeated Klassen, yet more recently lost to Klassen’s stablemate and previous victim, Cassius Baloyi (5).
Young lions waiting in the wings and ready to pounce once the smoke clears on a potential Soto-Klassen clash, include the classy looking Roman Martinez (4), Manny Pacquiao spar mate Urbano Antillon (7), Jorge Linares (8) and Robert ‘The Ghost’ Guerrero (10). This one’s wide open.
Manny Pacquiao relinquished this title four years ago in order to spread his own particular brand of violence and mayhem up through the weight divisions north of the feathers.
The unbeaten duo of Chris John and Steve Luevano currently hold down the top two slots, yet the prospect of a fight between these two stylish boxers looks remote.
John is slated to fight number four rated contender Rocky Juarez next up, with Luevano still looking for his next date. If an invitation were to fall to the division’s rising star, Cuban hotshot Yuriorkis Gamboa, we may yet see a Ring championship fight before the year is out, but it’s a long shot.
Number one contender Hozumi Hasegawa is a home bird, fighting exclusively in Japan, which may not necessarily prevent a meeting with Panamanian Anselmo Moreno (rated second), who is due to fight in France in July. Moreno has twice outpointed third ranked Wlad Sidorenko over the past 12 months to solidify his position.
All eyes however will be on number one ranked junior bantam Vic Darchinyan, who takes on fifth rated Joseph Agbeko in July and will be hoping to make an immediate splash at this weight.
Darchinyan’s manager Elias Nasser has targeted Hasegawa; however they may have bigger fish to fry before the Japanese becomes available (he is scheduled to fight Nestor Rocha in the summer) after targeting anyone and everyone from Izzy Vazquez to Manny Pacquiao.
Darchinyan temporarily heads up the division, with the power punching Alexander Munoz in second spot. Whilst a battle between the two would be fun for a few rounds (at least until the Armenian ‘Raging Bull’ took over) it isn’t going to happen.
Munoz has been inactive of late and Darchinyan is scheduled to invade the bantamweights this summer, probably never to return. Perhaps Vic’s move up in weight could facilitate a battle between Venezuelan Munoz and number three rated Japanese, Nobuo Nashiro. Munoz has fought three of his last four on Nashiro’s home patch, so would presumably be willing to travel.
The top man at flyweight Nonito Donaire (currently rated 8th pound for pound) did have his sights fixed on a couple of huge fights up at junior bantam against, former knockout victim Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel. The Montiel fight was all good to go before regrettably, the Mexican revealed he could no longer make weight, leaving Donaire to face a replacement opponent at super fly, in the shape of Jose Lopez.
Second placed Daisuke Naito currently holds an alphabet title, with number three ranked contender Pongsaklek Wongjongkam hailed by the same organisation as their ‘interim title holder’. Without wanting to waste time deciphering alphabet regulations, perhaps a forced meeting between these old foes after Donaire’s mooted departure would bring a Ring championship bout into view. Get this though, this would be their fifth encounter, with the current score 2-1-1 to Wongjongkam, including a 34 second blow-out victory dating all the way back to 2002. Who wouldn’t want to see part five?
We have three unbeaten champions with combined numbers of 77-0-1 rated from one to three at strawweight, yet disappointingly there are no rumours of a fight materialising between any of the triumvirate.
Nicaraguan Roman Gonzalez (1), Mexican Raul Garcia (2) and Thai Oleydong Sithsamerchai (3) each hold one of the three major alphabet titles; however lack of interest and more importantly, moolah in boxing’s most underexposed division probably doesn’t merit any of the three taking a gamble and risking their meal ticket against one of the others. Don’t hold your breath for this one.
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