Every fighter has a dream, and every fan wants to see his favourite fighter accomplish that dream. More often then not, that dream is the pinnacle of boxing, the dream to be crowned a world champion. From young boxers, those beginning their journey all the way up to those who have been so close to a belt, it is what drives them. That desire burns, spurring them on.
To win a world title, you would expect, means to fight the best in your division and finally to take that title from the champion’s grasp. However with so many world titles, WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, Ring magazine, for the fan it leads only to frustration. Frustration because there are too many titles! Fighters can now quite often fight for a vacant title, in a perceived easier fight. A recent example of this is “Prince” Charles Martin, who won Tyson Fury’s stripped IBF belt, before surrendering it to Anthony Joshua in his next fight.
Charles Martin won his world title whilst fighting for a vacant title, in which he won when his opponent, Vyacheslav Glazkov, had to withdraw due to injury. Martin then held the IBF title for 85 days before his crushing defeat to AJ. Credit has to be given though, to Martin for flying over to try and defend his title against such a dangerous opponent.
So, Martin and Joshua both go down as heavyweight world champions, but at that stage neither had ever faced a top opponent! So can either truly be classed as a world champion? In Joshua’s case he went on to knockout Klitschko and at the time with the suspension of Fury, Klitschko was the best out there, so Joshua has now done enough to merit his world champion status. But did Martin?
Now when Joshua beat Klitschko, he also won two more vacant titles which were floating around after Fury ripped open the division. Tyson out pointed Klitschko in November 2015, before being stripped of the titles!
Joshua, although now probably deserving of his world champion status, has three world titles without ever actually beating a true champion. Martin won a vacant belt when his opponent withdrew with injury, and although dangerous Klitschko was a beaten man when he fought Joshua and carried no titles. Now we have three world champions at heavyweight; Joshua, Wilder and Parker. The unification process has begun, with Joshua soon to face Parker in a massive unification fight.
Joshua has beaten Parker, could challenge Wilder, and if he wins he will have unified the division. After Fury was stripped of ring magazine he would probably be awarded The Ring Magazine title as well, but since he technically never beat the man, if Fury has returned he wouldn’t be the lineal champion which many people see as the ‘true’ champion. Ring magazine used to follow with the Lineal but not since returning in 2001.
Let’s look at a lineal champion. The light heavyweight WBC and Lineal world champion. He is the man who beat the man when he destructively stopped Chad Dawson in the first round. At light Heavyweight he has been the man who beat the man, the true world champion in the eyes of many.His name? Adonis Stevenson.
Here’s where it gets complicated, Andre Ward, once moving up to light heavyweight after being the undefeated lineal super middleweight champion, unified the rest of the light heavyweight division. Most recently beating Sergey Kovalev twice to round off and immaculate career. Although Ward unified the rest of the division, Stevenson was the man for beating the man (Dawson) and frustratingly the fight never happened, so Stevenson remains the Lineal champion.
Stevenson beat Dawson, and so Stevenson has been regarded as the man, even though most of the boxing world appreciates Ward as the superior fighter. With Ward “retiring”, this fight never happened.
How then, does a fighter come to be recognised as the best in the division? The titles prove unreliable, so does the lineal! If there was only one title, would that stop the best avoiding each other and sitting on a title? Giving us a true reflection of the best in a division? Are all the belts a positive or a negative for boxing? In the current climate we are left with a lot of questions and unless the best actively fight the best, regularly, we will always have to wonder who the true World champion is.