Little Man's Game Cory Spinks beat Zab Judah while the main event showed that the heavyweight division is lightweight

April 18, 2004

In the traditional postfight posturing that passes for debate in
this noisy sport, Cory Spinks and Floyd Mayweather stood
toe-to-toe, jabbering vehemently and pointlessly last Saturday
night. It was typical boxing theater--Spinks had just beaten Zab
Judah to retain his welterweight titles, and Mayweather, a junior
welter, was trying to horn in on the action--except that now they
loom as major players in a withering sport, fighters whose
jabbering we must consider seriously.

It looks increasingly as if boxing is being returned to the
little guys, abandoned by the most hopeless heavyweight division
in ages. Spinks-Mayweather? That fight might not set anybody to
dialing up their pay-per-view provider, but it would be an
interesting matchup. And if those two fighters get together, it
won't likely be on the undercard of a heavyweight bout, as
Spinks's fight with Judah was. After a disastrous "main event,"
in which the great Wladimir Klitschko performed robotically for
five rounds before finally collapsing at the feet of a surprised
Lamon Brewster, a fighter who'd been inactive for more than a
year, well, yeah, bring on the little fellas.

Saturday was a good night in Vegas for Brewster and the rest of a
mediocre bunch of big men who are jockeying for titles in two
fights later this month, but not for anybody who's counting on
the heavyweight division to provide excitement. Klitschko, the
6'7" automaton whose long jab and heavy right hand do not seem to
work against serious opposition, must now be deemed kaput. When
Brewster, the caliber of fighter whose inactivity did not arouse
any alarm this past year, rocked Klitschko in the fifth and
floored him at the end of the round, forcing ref Robert Byrd to
call it off, he announced the end of the Wladimir era, one of the
great p.r. campaigns in boxing history. None other than Mike
Tyson, sitting ringside, was struck by Klitschko's reaction to
being struck. "I notice he don't like to get hit," Tyson said.
"Big, strong guy like that. Wow, that's amazing."

And so the heavyweight titles are up for grabs. The Klitschkos'
quest for one now falls to Wladimir's big brother, Vitali, who
will fight Corrie Sanders for a vacant WBC title on April 24 in
Los Angeles. Brewster now holds the WBO version, which had been
vacant because, presumably, nobody noticed. On April 17 IBF champ
Chris Byrd will defend against novelty act Andrew Golota, and
John Ruiz will risk his WBA championship against Fres Oquendo.
When you run through names like that, you understand why the
Klitschko brothers, both big and powerful, had become so
important to the sport. Somebody credible has to pick up the
pieces of the division that Lennox Lewis left in shambles.

It could still be Vitali--you never know. But in the meantime it
will be up to promoters to bring us better fights from lesser
names, and lighter weights. Certainly Spinks's performance was
encouraging. He'd come from nowhere to upset Ricardo Mayorga last
year, but it appears that he's here to stay after a dominating
effort against former light welterweight champ Judah. Until he
got a little too relaxed and was knocked down in the final round,
Spinks showed that he had the skills and muscle to compete with
more experienced performers. And, as he showed at the postfight
press conference, he can talk a good game too.

COLOR PHOTO: STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS By dominating Judah, Spinks (far left) showed he's got the skills to be champ for a while.

short Jabs

The heavyweight fight last Saturday night was so bad that Mike
Tyson was provoked to announce his comeback. After watching
Klitschko's dismal performance, Tyson said, "That's pretty
encouraging." ... Tyson said he'd like to have a fight in July or
August, with the idea of meeting "Baby Joe" Mesi, a similarly
sized heavyweight, by the end of the year. However, Tyson has not
been seen in a gym except to work off community service hours.