Or at least that’s how it used to be.
Nowadays, the most fractured and disorganised of all sports boasts multiple heavyweight champions and an alphabet soup of titles. For ardent fight fans, it’s a sorry mess. For occasional onlookers, it’s more than confusing; it’s impossible to comprehend.
There is no single heavyweight champion – there are three claimants – and the division is awash with drugs and nonsense. So much for the heavyweight championship once being the greatest prize in sport.
But this time next year we might be proclaiming a new king and, perhaps, a new sense of order. This is because the fights that should be made are being made. The best are being lined up to fight the best.
On March 3, Deontay Wilder, holder of the WBC belt, defends his crown against Cuban Luis Ortiz, a vicious puncher who treats doping rules with contempt, twice having fallen foul of the testers. But, this being boxing with its back alleys and dark corners, he gets a pass.
Three weeks later, Anthony Joshua, arguably the best of them all, puts his WBA and IBF belts on the line against Joe Parker of New Zealand, holder of the WBO bauble. It will be the first time in 31 years that two undefeated heavyweight champions have sought to unify.
And then, hovering on the outside, there’s the lineal champion Tyson Fury, the so-called “man who beat the man who beat the man”. Doping and mental issues have kept him on the sidelines for two years, during which time he dined out on pies and ballooned into a 158kg slob.
But he’s back in training and, true to boxing’s weird machinations, calling out Joshua for his first fight back. Fat chance.
What everyone forgets is that he stank out the place when he beat Wladimir Klitschko in an awful fight and no-one knows how deep his mental problems run. He trades on being colourful and loud-mouthed, but his real measure should be in the ring.
Remarkably, these five boxers have 135 wins between them without a single defeat. They’re big punchers, too, so the prospect of explosive action is real.
Assuming all runs to plan, Wilder should subdue Ortiz, who is slow but strong, and Joshua should have too much class for Parker, who has been carefully matched against the division’s nearly men.
The New Zealander has a granite chin and must hope it holds up against Joshua whose 20 fights have yielded 20 knockouts.
It’s testament to the rude health of UK boxing that the fight will take place at the Millennium Stadium in Wales where 80 000 fans will stump up the equivalent of anything between R680 and R34 000 for a seat.
In between all this, theUK-based Australian Lucas Browne, another doping fiend, will fight Dillian Whyte in an eliminator, on March 24. The winner will be in the mix for a title crack of some sort, although it would make more sense to be matched against Fury to establish where he’s at in his second run at the title.
Given how boxing works, it’s remarkable that these fights have been signed at all. Promoters like to keep their stars wrapped in cotton wool, reckoning that a slew of easy match-ups pays handsome dividends. TV bosses and the fans routinely demand the best fights get made, but the string-pullers seldom care. In heavyweight boxing especially, a single punch can end a career and instantly turn off the magic money machine. It’s the promoters rather than that boxers who run scared.
Boxing desperately needs a high-profile heavyweight champion, ideally someone like Joshua who has a compelling back story, is built like Adonis and carries himself with supreme dignity. Better still, he can fight and puts opponents to sleep.
Wilder, his biggest rival, is loud and athletic, but largely anonymous in America where interest in the heavyweights has waned since Mike Tyson’s abdication two decades ago. A beatdown of Ortiz, the best he’ll have fought, would help his cause.
Boxing revivals are frequently heralded, but this one seems genuine, probably because the men at the centre are all real heavyweights with bad intentions and good ability.
Hold on tight.