Currently, there are four heavyweights with championship belts and the most legitimate of the bunch - Vitali Klitschko - gained his credibility in a losing effort against Lennox Lewis not exactly the way to catapult oneself to stardom. Nevertheless, Klitschko has proven himself to be a tough and steadily improving fighter with knockout power and an apparent willingness to fight anyone. The other three belt-holders Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Lamon Brewster - are champions in the way Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tubbs and Greg Page (not to mention John Tate, Mike Weaver, Michael Dokes, Gerrie Coetzee, Tim Witherspoon, Trevor Berbick, Bonecrusher Smith and Tony Tucker yikes!) were champions in the 1980s. Basically, there were more sanctioning bodies giving out belts than there were truly top-notch fighters to give them to so they felt compelled to give them to somebody.
So, having painted that bleak picture of the current state of the heavyweight division, why is there room for cautious optimism? For the simple reason that what passes for the cream of the crop in todays heavyweight division appear to be on something of a collision course which may result in an undisputed champion. Well, undisputed in the eyes of the boxing public the alphabet organizations are sure to strip someone of something along the way.
Anyway, back to the "tournament" which is slowly taking shape. Its not a reach to say that the eight best heavyweights in the world today are Klitschko, Byrd, Ruiz, Brewster, James Toney, Andrew Golota, Hasim Rahman and Wladimir Klitschko. Amazingly, all eight may square off in four separate bouts within the next several months. On April 16, Byrd is slated to defend his belt with Wladimir Klitschko the likely opponent. On April 30, Vitali Klitschko battles Rahman, himself a former champ, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Then, on May 21, its Brewster vs. Golota most likely in Golotas adopted hometown of Chicago. Finally, Toney was recently installed as Ruiz mandatory challenger so that fight should come off as well.
The best-case scenario and were definitely trying to remain "glass is half full" here is that these four fights produce four decisive victories. Then the four victors could face-off in two semi-final bouts, leaving two heavyweights who have earned the right to compete for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.
Veteran boxing fans will surely expect from experience that the assorted promoters, sanctioning bodies and cable TV networks required to make this tournament happen will somehow find a way to derail it. But maybe just this once they will instead all choose to do the right thing and breathe some life into the ailing heavyweight division before it ends up like the NHL.