Analysis: Boxing And The Expanding Division

By Tom Donelson
Updated: March 26, 2007

IOWA CITY, Ia. — For those who have followed my writings for the past few years know that I love the cruiserweights.

With Jean-Marc Mormeck’s defeat of O’Neill Bell last week proved a point that I have made for years. The cruiserweights is one of boxing best and deepest division.

Any fight in this division is an evenly match affair between excellent fighters. This is not a case of mediocrity chasing mediocrity but excellent fighters competing with one another.

Every fighter ranked in the top ten is a championship caliber fighter and unlike other divisions, there isn’t enough championship belts to pass around.

If nothing else, the cruiserweights proves another point that I have been making over the years; that explosion of different and more division is actually good for boxing.

This is one area where most boxing pundits and historians disagree with me. If nothing else, the biggest complaints against boxing is that there are too many divisions. My point is that problem with boxing is not too many division but too many sanctioning bodies.

Take the cruiserweights for example. What boxing has figured out and the pundits or historians have not; athletes are bigger and stronger today than before.

With modern training methods, big money and occasional use of steroids, athletes have grown in stature. What was a heavyweight just a generation ago is now a cruiserweight.

Many of the cruiserweights today are just not strong enough or big enough to compete with the behemoths that populate the heavyweights.

Chris Byrd is considered a small heavyweight at 210 pounds but if he fought in the 60’s, 210 pounds would have been considered a big heavyweight!

So it is only logical that boxing recognize the changes that have occurred and the cruiserweights have shown that a new division can produced excellent fighters and competitive matches as good as any era.

There are two factors to consider. First, boxing draws from entire globe and there are more athletes to draw from. In the division from middleweights and beyond, European fighters are making impact and below the middleweights, Asian and Latin American fighters compete with the best of American fighters.

With the end of the cold war, there are entire classes of fighters that just two decades ago would be fighting amateurs for their communist masters. Now they box for pay. This has added to the depth of boxing worldwide and this can be seen just in the rankings alone.

The second factor is that multiple divisions have allowed for more sensible rise in weights. Boxers are not force to go from lightweight to welterweight in one move but can proceed gradually through the ranks.

A Diego Corrales or Jose Castillo can move from junior lightweight to lightweight to junior welterweight in steps and produce some excellent fights along the way.

And with boxing having the world at their disposals, they can populate any division with excellent fighters and each division has depth to produce great fights.

The cruiserweights are not the only division with depth throughout the top ten. Mormeck and O’Neill Bell would most likely face off in a third match to determine the best but below them are great fighters waiting their turn to face the winner.

Cruiserweights problem is not a lack of depth but a lack of recognition. And this division is proof that boxing does occasionally get things right, like adding division.