Convicted Artist Magazine

Jun 26th
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reigning-championsI pick on the sanctioning bodies, because, well, they deserve it.  They’ve made an already marginalized and misunderstood sport even more difficult to follow.  Fighters seem to like them, as they still provide a springboard to future success, at least for now.  Their ridiculous behaviors are are often tolerated with the dismissive phrase, “fighters make the belt, not the other way around”.  In this strip-happy, interim, silver, rutabaga titles-flying around everywhere days, there have still been a handful of fighters who have taken, and kept a sanctioning body belt for several years.  As this century is only 11 years old, we examine a few of the most recent.  I will also not be including people like Sven Ottke, who were barely journeyman if you scored their fights correctly.  Note, all are undefeated, and were accused of being protected… but even the vast majority of those end up being beaten or giving up a belt.  These did not:

Joe Calzaghe
Sure, the exciting times came once unification happened, and a move up to light heavyweight followed, but before the Hopkins , Jones, Lacy, and Kessler matches, Calzaghe held the WBO title from 1997 to 2007.  He even beat another British legend to become champion, in Chris Eubank.  After 21 successful defenses, he moved up and beame undisputed light heavyweight champion with a win over Bernard Hopkins… a win that is looking better and better all the time.  His 21 defenses over 10 years, however, are an impressive feat in any age.

Omar Narvaez
Sure the two-time Olympian has had the benefit of friendly hometown judging, but it is not on the Sven Ottke level of ridiculous, and he has won the vast majority of his important fights outright.  In fact, more often than not, it is not even close.  From 2002 to 2009 (with a brief unbeaten hiccup in the middle) he reigned as WBO Flyweight champion.  He then moved up, and has already won and defended the WBO Super Flyweight title 3 times.  Unlike Calzaghe, who was frozen out of unifying by the fear of his opponent’s promoters, Narvaez seems to take a Felix Sturm approach to defending.  He makes money in Argentina , so why leave for risky unification matches?  Even with the Argentine explosion in U.S. boxing ( Martinez , Maidana, Matthysse), “El Huracan” seems confortable where he is.  He is also 36, which means an unbeaten retirement is not out of the question.  Interesting opponents like Darchinyan and Donaire have come and gone, and don’t expect him in with Segura anytime soon.  It’s a shame, because he may have surprised us, but his accomplishments are worthy of note, regardless.

Chris John
Seven years and fourteen defenses.  A unified champion would be hard-pressed to stick around that long, much less one that has not been allowed to.  Juan Manuel Marquez was stripped of his IBF belt, prior to losing to John, and Yuriorkis Gamboa is being  steered clear of this unbeaten Indonesian champion.  He seems to suffer from an inability to be marketed in the U.S.  Indonesians are not a big fan-base here.  He is not a puncher, or a brawler.  He is also a career featherweight, making fights a couple divisions above an impossibility.  He also went from being the protected one, to being the visiting fighter, when he was screwed out of a victory against Rocky Juarez.  I’m sure his handlers will be keeping him off our shores, unless big money comes calling.  The fact that he has remained unbeaten, relevant, and willing to take on tough American fighters does warrant mention, and makes his long reign as belt-holder all the more impressive.

Chris Strait

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