The great Greek philosopher Socrates often decried what he considered the greatest ultimate threat to society–the “sophists.” They were masters of using language so that “the weaker argument defeats the stronger.” They were professional liars, clever, but fundamental enemies of beauty and truth.
We live in an era that is ruled by the sophists, the professional liars. The dominant ethos of the culture marketing hype.
It is every bit as true in the boxing world. Four different sanctioning bodies have managed to convince a significant percentage of the boxing media to transcribe the words “world champion” whenever they are asked to.
And believe me, they have no sense of shame whatsoever when it comes to asking. The WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO all regularly sanction fringe contenders against untested, potential stars, to fill their “vacant” titles. The WBA openly practices bigamy, recognizing a “super” champion and a “regular” champions.
In point of fact, there are very few true world champions in boxing. Floyd Mayweather retired as the true world champion at 147 and 154 pounds. For the last decade of his career, he beat the best welterweights and super welterweights in the world. In his wake, no true champion has yet emerged in either division.
Saul Alvarez is the lineal champion at middleweight, but it is a curious state of circumstances that led him to that position. Alvarez beat Miguel Cotto in November 2015. Cotto beat Sergio Martinez, who beat Kelly Pavlik, who beat Jermain Taylor, who beat Bernard Hopkins, who had unified all four middleweight belts in 2004. But the last three men in that line–Alvarez, Cotto and Martinez–have all avoided Gennady Golovkin, who has been the obvious, true No. 1 contender for at least the past four years.
At light heavyweight, Adonis Stevenson is the lineal champ, a recognition he claimed by virtue of knocking out Chad Dawson in June 2013. But he has avoided the obvious No. 1 contender, Sergey Kovalev, ever since. But at this point, Kovalev and Andre Ward are universally viewed as the top two fighters in the world at 175 pounds. Stevenson has become an afterthought.
At super lightweight, Terence Crawford earned the right to call himself world champion last July, when he defeated Viktor Postol, in a WBO/WBC unification fight. At the time, they were undeniably the two best fighters in the world at 140 pounds.
In the entire rest of the sport, there is only one other current fighter that can legitimately be called world champion–Guillermo Rigondaux, at 122 pounds. He has been the super bantamweight champ since defeating Nonito Donaire in April 2013. But in Rigo’s strange case, he is a champion avoided by his most obvious challengers.