· Philadelphia Jack O’Brien vacates the world championship
Or does he? In the early part of the 20th century records were hazy. O’Brien won the world title on 20th December 1905 with a win over Bob Fitzsimmons. He never defended it.
Despite consulting a number of history books, no verification has been found of O’Brien ever officially vacating the world championship. By 1912, his career had come to a halt, though again there appears to have been no formal retirement announcement. However, by this year the world title was considered to be vacant. During 1914, Jack Dillon gained universal recognition as the new world champion and his claim was solid. He was certainly the best at the time and he had victories over leading contenders Hugo Kelly, Battling Levinsky and Al Norton. It was the victory over Norton that clinched his recognition.
· Jack Delaney moves up to heavyweight
In 1927, Delaney sought heavyweight glory and the world light heavyweight title became vacant. On 7th October that year, Tommy Loughran and Mike McTigue fought for it and Loughran won on points. They were the two most worthy challengers and here is why: Loughran had beaten Johnny Risko (twice), former champion Georges Carpentier and Young Stribling, whereas McTigue had beaten Lou Scozza, Paul Berlenbach and Risko, and he was also a former champion himself. This showdown between Loughran and McTigue was actually their fourth meeting. All three of their previous encounters had been in no-decision bouts.
Loughran was an excellent champion
· Tommy Loughran moves up to heavyweight
After Loughran followed the path taken by Delaney, a contest took place on 10th February 1930 between Jimmy Slattery and Lou Scozza that could be considered for the vacant championship. Slattery had defeated the highly-regarded Maxie Rosenbloom on 25th November 1929 and Scozza had also defeated Rosenbloom, on 27th July 1928. Scozza had also remained unbeaten throughout 1929, and going into 1930 it was fair to accept that he and Slattery were number one and number two in the division.
· John Henry Lewis announces his retirement
Sadly, Lewis was forced to quit boxing due to failing eyesight in 1939. On 13th July the same year, Billy Conn and Melio Bettina met each other for the vacant world title. Why was Conn-Bettina recognized? Quite simply, they were the head honchos. Conn had topped the likes of Fred Apostoli, Solly Kreiger, Teddy Yarosz, Vince Dundee and Young Corbett III, generating an impressive record. Bettina held a crucial victory over the highly-ranked Tiger Jack Fox. Neither Conn nor Bettina could claim to be the true champ until they had beaten each other, and no one else was in their league.
· Billy Conn moves up to heavyweight
In 1941, Conn began his chase for heavyweight stardom, which took him to his classic fight with Joe Louis on 13th June that year. Taking Conn’s place as the light heavyweight champion was Gus Lesnevich when he got a decision over Tami Mauriello on 26th August 1941. Lesnevich had previously beaten the highly-ranked Anton Christoforidis and Mauriello had a good record, having defeated Steve Belloise and Steve Mamakos, and his only loss to date had been a split decision to former middleweight champion Billy Soose.
Having bested both Christoforidis and Mauriello, Lesnevich deserved universal recognition.
Moore is one of the greatest of all light heavyweights
· Archie Moore vacates the world championship
Or does he? There is no record of Moore officially relinquishing the world crown. His final defence was against Guilio Rinaldi on 10th June 1961 and after that, he showed no interest in defending again. He was almost in semi-retirement by this stage and his remaining bouts were all at heavyweight. Going into 1962, it became clear that Moore was not going to campaign at 175 lbs any longer. Harold Johnson was the new numero uno, establishing his position by beating Bob Satterfield, Eddie Machen and Eddie Cotton. His victory over Doug Jones, the conqueror of Carl Olsen and Pete Rademacher (both of whom were on winning streaks going into their clashes with Jones), sealed it for him.
· Bob Foster announces his retirement
On 16th September 1974, Foster stepped down as world champion after an awe-inspiring 14 successful defences. Several claimants sprung up, including John Conteh, Victor Galindez and Marvin Johnson, but no clear-cut lineage for a new champion was established. The exciting Matt Franklin (later to become Matthew Saad Muhammad) burst onto the scene by knocking out Yaqui Lopez on 24th October 1978. When he beat Johnson in a rematch on 22nd April 1979, he was recognized by The Ring magazine as the new rightful world champ. Johnson had previously beaten Mate Parlov and The Ring’s decision was sound enough.
Spinks was a genuine two-division world champion
· Michael Spinks moves up to heavyweight
On 21st September 1985, Spinks made history by dethroning world heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and became the first lineal light heavyweight champion to topple a reigning lineal heavyweight champion. Naturally, with heavyweight fame beckoning, he vacated his light heavyweight title and, predictably, there was mass confusion with the alphabet groups frantically filling vacancies like pigs at a trough. Thereafter, there was no clear-cut lineage, and Boxing Illustrated magazine, which was naming one rightful world champion per division at the time, had their light heavyweight title vacant during the subsequent period. So did The Ring magazine, which at the time featured its "Return To Sanity" policy that recognized only one legitimate world champion in the original eight divisions. Unfortunately, this policy ended in 1989 when the magazine changed ownership.
However, in 1991, a new genuine champion could be crowned and that was Thomas Hearns, the legendary "Hitman" from Detroit. On 3rd June, he outpointed the previously undefeated Virgil Hill, who was from Bismarck, North Dakota. But why could Hearns be crowned as the genuine champion? At the beginning of 1991, the WBA title was held by Hill, the WBC title was possessed by Dennis Andries from Great Britian, the IBF title was in the hands of Charles Williams from the USA and the WBO title was vacant. The WBC title could be disregarded because Hearns had already beaten Andries; on 7th March 1987, Hearns had made his debut as a light heavyweight and stopped Andries in the 10th round. Subsequently, Hearns had returned to the middleweight division and scored a 4th round KO over Juan Roldan on 29th October that same year. In 1988, he suffered a shocking upset loss to Iran Barkley and then moved back up in weight and won a majority decision over James Kinchen. In 1989, he engaged in a rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard (they had clashed for the world welterweight title back in 1981) but had to settle for a draw, even though he dropped Leonard twice and had done enough to earn a victory in the eyes of most observers. Between the Leonard fight and his bout with Hill, Hearns fought three more times and was triumphant each time. Thus, he was actually unbeaten when fighting above middleweight at the time he faced Hill. Hearns had actually won the WBC title with his win over Andries, but relinquished it when he moved down to middleweight. Don Lalonde of Canada had won the vacant WBC title but he later lost it to Leonard (Leonard had also relinquished it by the time of his rematch with Hearns). With the WBC belt vacant once again, Andries picked it up when he knocked out Tony Willis on 21st February 1989. He lost it to Jeff Harding of Australia but won it back in a rematch. Therefore, when Hearns-Hill unfolded, Andries was the WBC champ, but he had already been conquered by Hearns (who in fact had never lost the WBC title in the ring).
Though what of IBF champion Charles Williams? On 8th November 1984, he had been beaten by Marvin Johnson, from Indianapolis, Indiana, who had gone on to win the WBA title. Johnson lost that title to Leslie Stewart of Trinidad And Tobago, who in turn lost it to Virgil Hill. Therefore, when Williams later became the IBF champion, the WBA strand was made stronger than the IBF strand because of Johnson's earlier win over Williams, which cancelled out Williams' claim. When Hearns won a unanimous decision over Hill, it was fair to class him as the true world champ.
As a footnote, the lineage of the championship beginning with Hearns' win over Hill later temporarily linked with that of the IBF super middleweigh title, but that is irrelevant. The "Return To Sanity" policy established by The Ring magazine in 1987 and adopted by this website considers only the original eight weight classes, and super middleweight is not one of them. This means that any boxer campaigning between 160 lbs and 175 lbs is a light heavyweight. There is no real need for a super middleweight division and there never has been. It was initially the ill-conceived brainchild of the IBF, who launched it in 1984. But why? There was no demand for it. Boxers were not calling for it, and neither were fans or the media. So why create it? It's simple. It creates more sanctioning fees for the governing bodies. The more title bouts there are, the more sanctioning fees they make. Money is behind the multiplication of weight classes. It's a racket, with the alphabet groups cashing in. And who pays the sanctioning fee? The promoter of the title bout, but it doesn't come out of their own pocket. It either comes from the fighters' purses or a little more is added to ticket prices to cover the cost. But it's not just the sanctioning fee that needs to be paid for. The alphabet groups have to have their officials flown in to the location of the fight, and those officials need to be accommodated in a hotel and have their expenses paid. Who pays for that? The same source. It's fans and fighters who foot the bill and fill the coffers of the alphabet groups. This should be noted; without pointless alphabet belts on the line, maybe ticket prices will be a bit less and fighters will get to keep more of their hard-earned money for themselves.
· Joe Calzaghe announces his retirement
On 19th April 2008, Calzaghe had won a narrow, debatable decision (which really could have gone either way) over Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas to become the first lineal world light heavyweight champion from the UK since Freddie Mills, who had reigned from 1948 to 1950. Regardless of what he later claimed, Calzaghe struggled mightily against Hopkins in an ugly contest and was somewhat lucky to get the verdict. After a lone defence against a badly-faded Roy Jones Jr (a points win on 8th November 2008 in Madison Square Garden), Calzaghe invested in a rocking chair and settled into retirement. A number of strong contenders were waiting to fill the void. Hopkins had bounced back with a points victory over reigning world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik on 18th October 2008 in Atlantic City, but then remained inactive for over a year. Hungary’s Zsolt Erdei, who held the lightly-regarded WBO belt, headed up in weight. He had specialised in meaningless mismatches against weak opposition and had made little impact on the division. The best fighter in the division at the time was Chad Dawson, who was from New Haven, Connecticut. He was undefeated and had scored wins over top-ranked contenders such as Tomasz Adamek, former world champion Glen Johnson and former two-time world champion Antonio Tarver, whom he had beaten twice. Was there anyone else with a superior record?
Lucien Bute, originally from Romania and subsequently boxing out of Montreal, Canada, was making a name for himself, but his record did not boast as many big names as Dawson's record. In addition, a tournament had begun, which involved Andre Dirrell of the USA, Mikkel Kessler of Denmark, Andre Ward of the USA, Jermain Taylor of the USA, Carl Froch of the UK and Arthur Abraham of Germany. Remember, the unnecessary super middleweight class is not recognized here, thus boxers weighing between 160 lbs and 175 lbs are for all intents and purposes light heavyweights. In turn, this means that they should be taken into account in the world championship picture for the vacant 175 lb crown.
On 17th October, Froch was somewhat fortunate to be awarded a narrow decision over Dirrell in Nottingham, England. On the same date, Abraham scored a last round KO over Taylor in Berlin, Germany. Finally, on 21st November, Ward defeated Kessler on a technical decision in Oakland, California. Although Froch, Ward and Abraham, who had just moved up from the middleweight division, each enhanced their respective records, Dawson could still be regarded as having the edge courtesy of his wins over Adamek, Johnson and Tarver, as he had beaten more highly-ranked opponents than the aforementioned trio. However, there was another fighter in the mix and that was Jean Pascal of Canada. At the time, Pascal had a record of 26-1 (16). His lone defeat had been a close decision loss to Froch on 6th December 2008. But he bounced back from that with victories over Adrian Diaconu and Silvio Branco, both of whom were solid, respectable opponents. When Pascal faced Dawson on 14th August 2010 in Montreal, The Ring magazine recognized this as being for the vacant world light heavyweight championship and it made an acceptable choice. The bout ended in the 11th round when Dawson suffered a severe cut due to an accidental clash of heads, with Pascal the winner by technical decision and has essentially beaten the best light heavyweight at the time.