Bigger Is Not Better

A Yawning Gap in the Heavyweight Division

They don't make fighters like they used to. Heavyweight boxer Jameel McCline sleeps in a bedroom with an oxygen tent. He also does yoga, swims, and has a dietitian who monitors what crap he puts into his 6-6, 263-pound body. He also got knocked out in the 10th round Saturday night in Las Vegas by Wladimir Klitschko, the new great white hope and supposed savior of the sport of boxing. Klitschko, for his part, has a doctorate in sports science and philosophy, which means he could probably teach high school gym if he wanted to, and he's widely regarded by boxing experts, which means your local barber, as one of the top two or three heavyweights in boxing.

Both guys are big enough to help the New York Knicks in the paint, yet both were unwilling to mix it up in what was supposed to be a crucial fight for boxing—crucial because Klitschko is being groomed as the next great heavyweight, after the guy with the dreadlocks who beat the guy who bit off Evander Holyfield's ear and raped the girl and who, well, you get the picture. The heavyweight division is in shambles.

Klitschko's lethargic showing was disappointing, considering there was talk he might be able to rejuvenate a lackluster heavyweight division. His fight with McCline was a good start because it was at least a win, but now we'll have to wait. Next week 40-year-old former four-time heavyweight champion Holyfield takes on the feather-fisted Chris Byrd, a blown-up defensive genius of a 168-pounder who fights as if he's scared of his own shadow and whom mostly hardcore fans will tune in for. Holyfield is a hardcore type of dude who's been in more wars than Afghanistan and has the durability of a Volvo and the cachet of a Rolls-Royce. People still love to watch him. The fight is a great match on paper but has the potential of being about as boring as a drive through Connecticut. So there's little chance that interest will perk up in the heavyweight division as a result of that bout.

Promoters and the networks are supposedly doing their part to make competitive, compelling matchups. But John Ruiz versus Roy Jones on March 1—a bad heavyweight versus a blown-up middleweight—is a curious pairing. What Jones has to gain by beating possibly the most maligned heavyweight champion in history is anyone's guess.

Jones is a successful rapper who also moonlights as a promoter. Klitschko gives dissertations on the art of stretching when he's not fighting. The heavyweight division is hungry for a throwback type, someone like junior welter-weight Mickey Ward, whose only side interest is construction work, which can't really be counted as a side interest. The heavyweight division does have a version of Mickey Ward in Holyfield, except he's a bit on the old side. If only Klitschko-McCline had been a little more action-packed, casual boxing fans wouldn't have to keep rewinding their old Ward-Gatti fight tapes.

 
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