Since 1978, the last year something like sanity prevailed in heavyweight boxing, guys named Muhammad, Leon, Ken, Larry, John, Mike, Monte, Michael, Gerrie, Tim, Greg, Tony and Pinklon have all been champions. Confusing? You better believe it. If you weren't counting, there have been 13 champions in those seven years. If you count back 13 champions from '78, you will arrive at James J. Braddock, who won his title 50 years ago. It's even more unsettling to note that since 1885, when John L. Sullivan became the first modern champion, only 38 men have claimed boxing's most-prized title, and more than a third of them have done so since 1978. Something definitely is amiss, that's clear. What isn't always clear is what's going on. To better your understanding of the present and recent past, we offer the following exam.
1. In the past eight weeks all of these men have fought for a heavyweight championship. Identify them.
June 30, 1985
2. A piece of cake, right? O.K., who is this two-time heavyweight champ? Hints: He defeated Larry Simmons for the title on May 29, 1982 and, after it was taken away, regained it by beating Tony Fulilangi on Sept. 22, 1983.
1. a. Larry Holmes, b. Mike Weaver, C. Tony Tubbs, d. Greg Page, e. Pinklon Thomas, f. Carl Williams 2. Monte Masters, World Athletic Association champ
Choose the response—or responses—that come closest to answering the question accurately.
1. How many heavyweight championship bouts have been fought since February 1978, when Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali for the title?
2. How many heavyweight champs have there been since February 1978?
3. Larry Holmes is the champion of the
4. During the time that Larry Holmes has been champion, the following fighter or fighters have also held the heavyweight title of one of boxing's three major sanctioning organizations:
a. Muhammad Ali
b. John Tate
c. Mike Weaver
d. All of the above
5. During the time that Larry Holmes has been champion, the following fighter or fighters have also held the heavyweight title of one of boxing's three major sanctioning organizations:
a. Michael Dokes
b. Gerrie Coetzee
c. Tim Witherspoon
d. All of the above
6. During the time that Larry Holmes has been champion, the following fighter or fighters have also held the heavyweight title of one of the major sanctioning organizations:
a. Pinklon Thomas
b. Greg Page
c. Tony Tubbs
d. All of the above
7. Which has had seven champions in the last seven years?
b. Tiger Stadium
8. What boxer lost the WBC title, then in the same year won the WBA title?
a. Mike Weaver
b. Greg Page
c. Tim Witherspoon
d. Gerrie Coetzee
9. One champ in the '80s was stripped of his title twice...by his father-in-law. Name both the fighter and the father-in-law.
a. Tim Witherspoon/Dr. Elias Cordova
b. Larry Holmes/Bob Lee
c. Monte Masters/Pat O'Grady
d. Muhammad Ali/José Sulaimàn
10. What do Larry Holmes, Greg Page, Tony Tubbs and Pinklon Thomas have in common (pick three)?
a. They're all heavyweights
b. They've all been champ this year
c. Don King
d. Don King
11. Which champion had three title fights and lost them all?
a. Ken Norton
b. Rowdy Roddy Piper
c. Mike Weaver
d. Greg Page
12. How many times have the 10 currently active champions or ex-champions (not including Joe Frazier, who says he wants to fight again) met in the ring?
b. Too many
c. Is this a definition of infinity?
13. Don King and Bob Arum
a. Hate each other
b. Despise each other
c. Detest each other
d. Deserve each other
1. d 2. d 3. b 4. d 5. d 6. d 7. a 8. b 9. c 10. you can't miss 11. a 12. you can't miss 13. d
TRUE OR FALSE
Circle T if the statement is true, F if it is false.
1. All three current world champions are undefeated.
2. Larry Holmes's purses for fighting David Bey and Carl Williams this year were more than the combined purses earned by Bey, Williams, Tubbs, Page, Thomas and Weaver in their 1985 title fights.
3. Great White Hopes pronounce their first names "Jer-ry" no matter how they spell them.
4. Great White Hopes don't often get in the ring.
5. According to Pinklon Thomas, Larry Holmes is "The only true heavyweight champion."
6. According to Pinklon Thomas, Larry Holmes is "a fraud, a fink, a peanut-head contender...."
7. Gerrie Coetzee has lost three of his four title bouts.
8. José Sulaimàn is head of the WBC.
9. Dr. Elias Cordova is head of the WBA.
10. Bob Lee is head of the IBF.
11. Three heads are better than one.
12. Greg Page won the WBA title 48 seconds into what should have been a rest period.
13. Tony Tubbs never fought a Top 10-ranked fighter before he won his title.
14. Hulk Hogan could pin any heavyweight except David Bey, who might outweigh the Hulkster.
1. T 2. T ($3.8 million to $1.3 million) 3. F (Coetzee pronounces his first name "Harry") 4. T (Coetzee has had three fights in 29 months, Cooney two) 5. T (said after winning the title) 6. T (said after his only title defense) 7. T 8. T 9. T 10. T 11. F 12. T 13. T 14. T
Choose the word or words that most accurately answer the question or describe your feelings
1. The current WBA champion is ——————.
2. The current WBC champion is ——————.
3. Are you sure? ——————
4. The IBF champion is ——————.
5. Whose idea was the IBF anyway? ——————
6. In a bodybuilding contest between Mike Weaver and Ken Norton the winner would be ——————.
7. In a bodybuilding contest among Greg Page, David Bey, Tony Tubbs and the Pillsbury Doughboy, the winner would be ——————.
8. The current light heavyweight champion is ——————.
9. Has any modern era light heavyweight champion ever defeated a heavyweight champion? ——————
10. Larry Holmes's next opponent will be ——————.
11. If Larry Holmes wins that fight, he will tie the alltime undefeated record for a heavyweight, held by ——————.
12. Whenever I see Don King, I want to ——————.
13. Whenever I see Bob Arum, I want to ——————.
14. The penalty for aggravated promotercide keeps me from ——————.
15. What fighter's nickname is Boxcar? ——————.
1. Tony Tubbs
2. Pinklon Thomas
4. Larry Holmes
5. Come on, think real hard
6. Weaver, because he has more hair on his head
7. Too close to call
8. Michael Spinks
10. Michael Spinks
11. Rocky Marciano
12, 13, 14. Keep these responses to yourself; we're not touching them
15. Ed Hospodar of the Philadelphia Flyers
In 1,000 words or less explain how things got so thoroughly messed up in the heavyweight division. For your guidance, here is a sample essay provided by Pat Putnam, a noted student of boxing.
When Muhammad Ali went into the ring against Leon Spinks on Feb. 15, 1978, he was the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion. Undertrained and overconfident, he was upset by Spinks, whose reign as undisputed champ lasted all of 42 days. Since then it has been all downhill for boxing's most glamorous division. That was the last time the world had one heavyweight champion, and it will remain that way until someone, most likely promoter Don King, who admits that even he has grown weary, collects all of the crowns and places them on one head. In the last seven years there have been 37 so-called heavyweight title fights involving 32 boxers, 13 of whom have at some time claimed a title as champion. "I'm sick of it," says King, who has controlled the division since December 1982. "I'm tired of looking at it. I'm tired of the pace."
But, first, let's look back at how the planet wound up with three champions—or, if you will, with Larry Holmes and the guys wearing the WBC and WBA belts. At the moment, Holmes, after six bright years as the WBC champion, is the IBF and true world champion. At least he's ours—you can have anybody you want.
After his defeat of Ali, Spinks was given two choices: He could keep the WBC half of his title by fighting No. 1 contender Ken Norton, or he could keep a promise and give Ali a rematch. Spinks chose Ali and a defense of the WBA portion of his crown, and the WBC chose, in March 1978, to give its championship to Norton, who had already been beaten in championship bids against George Foreman and Ali. In his first defense, Norton lost a split decision to Holmes. That was in June 1978, three months before Ali reclaimed the WBA title from Spinks.
The following year, Ali struck again. He retired, leaving John Tate and Gerrie Coetzee to fight for his abandoned title. "Big John," said Bob Arum, who promoted Tate's 15-round decision over Coetzee, "is the greatest heavyweight I have ever seen."
Arum's enthusiasm for the giant from Knoxville, Tenn. lasted until Mike Weaver (who had already been stopped by Holmes) knocked out Tate five months after he had won the title.
After Weaver KO'd Coetzee, Arum said, "Weaver is the greatest heavyweight I have ever seen."
Meanwhile, as greatests were coming and going, Holmes was well into a run of 17 successful WBC defenses.
In 1981, Pat O'Grady of Oklahoma City founded the World Athletic Association, and after his 6' 5" son-in-law Monte Masters knocked out Larry Simmons in May of 1982, yet another world champion was crowned, "It was embarrassing," said O'Grady, who had once said of Masters, "He couldn't beat me."
Masters solved O'Grady's crisis of conscience. He soon lost a nontitle fight to Roger Braxton, and his father-in-law lifted his title. Undaunted, Masters regained his crown by knocking out Tony Fulilangi seven months later in a WAA-sanctioned title bout. But again he lost a nontitle fight, and again O'Grady stripped him. The WAA hasn't had another heavyweight title fight since, which is cause for rejoicing.
Back in the relatively real world, in December 1982 Weaver lost his title to Michael Dokes, who in turn was knocked out by Coetzee (remember him?) in September 1983. Two months later, in his last WBC defense, Holmes knocked out Marvis Frazier.
"You have to fight Greg Page, our number one contender," the WBC then told Holmes.
"For $2.5 million," said King, acting as promoter.
"I want more," said Holmes.
"No," said King.
"Goodby, WBC," said Holmes, who was immediately recognized as champion by the newly formed International Boxing Federation headed up by Bob Lee, former boxing commissioner of New Jersey.
In March 1984, Tim Witherspoon decisioned Greg Page (who would later lose to David Bey) to win the vacant WBC title. Undaunted by his two straight defeats, Page leaped over to the WBA and on Dec. 1 knocked out Coetzee three minutes and 48 seconds into the eighth round. No, they weren't fighting four-minute rounds; the timer messed up.
Four months later Page lost a 15-round decision to Tony Tubbs, who thus became the WBA's seventh champion in as many years. Only the people who make championship belts were happy.
Witherspoon fared little better. He managed to hold on to the WBC title for six months before losing a decision to Pinklon Thomas, which is where we stand now—sort of. A few hours before Thomas defended his title on June 15 against Weaver, Holmes signed to defend his title against undisputed light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks in September. It will be the unbeaten champion's 49th bout, and a victory would pull him into a tie with the late Rocky Marciano for consecutive wins. "Larry has been a great champion, and he deserves to be known as the champion," says King. "He should be allowed to fight his 49th and 50th fights. He's earned that. After 50, he says he is walking away. Then we will get back to having just one champ."
You do that, Don, and you'll be a champion. No, you're a heavyweight. Sorry.