September 14, 2002


HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD FOR SALE: Heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis decided last week to give up his IBF heavyweight title rather than face Chris Byrd, a mandated challenger whom he had rightly deemed unworthy (Lewis will retain the WBC version of the title). Then, this week, Sports Illustrated reported that Lewis had agreed to sell the belt to Don King for $1 million so that King may promote a fight in order to fill the vacant title.
This story bears an uncanny resemblance to a WWF storyline from 1988, when Hulk Hogan was in his fourth year as that organization's world heavyweight champion but was about to leave for several months to film the infamous movie "No Holds Barred." The WWF needed to come up with a way for Hogan to drop the title without actually losing in the ring, so they introduced a storyline in which villain "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase offered to buy the belt from Hulk for $1 million. The principled and virtuous Hulkster of course refused, so DiBiase moved on to Plan B, "rigging" a nationally-televised match between Hogan and Andre the Giant so that Andre would win, and then buying the belt from Andre for that same $1 million. But on-air figurehead president Jack Tunney stepped in, disallowed the transaction, and put the title up for grabs in a tournament at Wrestlemania IV, which was won by the "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
If you had any remaining doubts about the anarchic nature that the sport of boxing now finds itself in, the heavyweight champion of the world sold his belt for $1 million to a famously crooked promoter -something that was previously disallowed when it happened, in make-believe wrestling- and no one even batted an eye. That's because even though the WWF had its fictional figurehead authority figure Jack Tunney, boxing has not even that.
But look at it this way: each year George Steinbrenner spends well north of $100 million in his effort to buy a championship; in boxing and wrestling it only costs $1 million.

Posted by Stephen Silver at September 14, 2002 11:47 PM
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