Heavy duty repair bill

Mar 8, 2005 4:13 AM

The decision is unanimous. We’re taking the heavyweight division from Don King and friends and giving it to the National Hockey League. A good lockout is all the big guys need.

Okay, let’s be serious. There are no action fights in the coming week as boxing takes a deep breath in anticipation of the Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales collision March 19. That will be all-action. Before getting to the reasons the Pac Man should win (or lose), let’s look at the big picture and what’s wrong with boxing.

The heavyweight division, for sure. But overall, I say if it’s not fixed, let’s not break it. And I doubt seriously whether there are many peculiar fights these days, other than some creative matchmaking at a very low level. No Mr. Gray types whispering to a pug, "Tonight ain’t your night."

There are too many weight classes and too many champions, of course. So what? It just means the poor slugs who batter each other’s brains for our edification and enjoyment have more title fights in which to earn more money for someone to rip off.

As far as fan appreciation, though, the profusion and confusion should not matter much. If the IBF gets its jollies by stripping champions, I say the naked truth is that we shouldn’t care. Anyone who follows the game lovingly knows the real champions, without the help of the IBF, WBC, XYZ or any alphabetic fraud.

We don’t need Ring or any other magazine, either. Weight Watchers Magazine’s heavyweight champion is James Toney and Disney Magazine’s must be Goofi Whitaker. Does it matter if Marian Muhammad, the IBF president and greatest stripper since either Jose Sulaiman or Gypsy Rose Lee, takes away recognition from Bernard Hopkins as middleweight champion? Of course not.

We know that Hopkins is the 160-pound king, the same way we don’t know who the heck the "real" heavyweight champion is. That’s mainly because there isn’t one since Lennox Lewis retired. We know that Glencoffe Johnson is THE light-heavyweight champion even though he holds no alphabet belt. We are aware Kostya Tszyu is the junior welterweight champion even though such worthies as Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto and Vivian Harris have trinkets attesting to their supremacy in the 140-pound division.

Boxing should have a major convention and arrange a codification of having multiple champions in each division. Let’s take the aforementioned junior welterweight division. Tszyu would be the Supremo, or champion of champions, while each "league" or alphabet could have its own under champion. This would allow the crooks to collect sanctioning fees. Thus, if, Floyd Mayweather Jr. challenges Gatti for the WBC under championship, while the Sulaimans profit, so do the fans who, without a "title" on the line, might not get to see such an appetizing matchup.

The sanction fees for real title fights involving the Supremo champion - say the June 4 match between Tszyu and Ricky Hatton - would go to whichever alphabet Supremo first gained championship status. In my most perfect of boxing worlds, the Supremo’s challenger would be one of the alphabet kings (let’s say, Cotto). If the challenger takes the real title, his alphabet (the WBOgus in Cotto’s case) would get the sanction fees for as long as its champion was Supremo.

This would give the WBO a chance to make money from Supremo fights. The WBO could also arrange to fill the vacancy at the under champion level — sanction fees galore. That would be the motivation for the alphabets getting together: Greed. I can think of no better spur in the boxing industry.

But wait, there’s more. All the alphabets have the right to rank anyone they want, whether a fighter is rated by the others or not. But the incentive to rank the best fighters would be for someone like Cotto, Harris or Mayweather to win an under championship in preparation for a rotating challenge of the Supremo champ. The better the under champion, the more likely an alphabet has collecting the Supremo sanctioning fees. Thus, the WBC might not want a Morrade Hakkar as its No. 1 guy to challenge Hopkins.

There should also be a championship committee to rule on accepting Supremo fights against voluntary challengers, especially in the case of megafights. There should be no reason to deprive the Supremo heavyweight champion, if one were to ever emerge, from big paydays against the likes of a comebacking Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson where all four "leagues" could share in the bonanza.

It’s the type of thing that could work because it should satisfy everyone’s greed (well, maybe not Don King’s, who always wants it all). I’m sure there are ways to fine- tune the Supremo plan. Let representatives of all the crooks and good guys, promoters and fighters, networks and regulators, get together. But don’t call me in the morning.

I’ll be trying to figure out whether Pacquiao’s speed can get him inside against Morales (a scant -110 underdog), or some other more important matter.