It seems appropriate that the weekend before an incredibly rare solar eclipse, boxing fans had the chance to witness an event nearly as unusual in their own. In Nebraska, Terence Crawford knocked out Julius Indongo in Round 3, to become the Undisputed World Champion at super lightweight.
The last solar eclipse visible in the United States happened in 1979. We don’t need to go back quite that far to find the last Undisputed Champion in boxing. But we are talking a generation ago when the last crop ruled the sport–at the turn of the last century and during the first decade of this one, Undisputed Champions were hardly common, but also not the unicorns they have become in the present era. Roy Jones Jr. was the Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion from 1999-2002. Kostya Tszyu was Undisputed at 140 pounds from 2001 until 2003. Cory Spinks and Zab Judah were Undisputed Welterweight Champions from 2003 until 2006 between them. Winky Wright was Undisputed Super Welterweight Champion during a long chunk of 2004.
All of the tenures were prior to the universal acceptance of the WBO as a legitimate sanctioning body. Since the WBO came to prominence, Undisputed Champions have essentially disappeared. Bernard Hopkins knocked out Oscar De La Hoya in 2004 to add the WBO strap to the IBF, WBA and WBC. He lost all four belts to Jermane Taylor. Prior to Crawford, they were the only fighters to hold all four belts.
Regular readers are aware of how little respect I accord alphabet-soup belts. But I will not deny that being an Undisputed Champion does give him an extra layer of promotional sheen. In the era of alphabet-soup insanity, boxing stars have mostly focused on jumping up divisions and collecting straps, regardless of whether those straps have any real authenticity. It is nice to see a champion truly clean out a weight class for a change.