Will Boxing Ever Have Another Heavyweight Superstar?

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Will Boxing Ever Have Another Heavyweight Superstar?
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Wladimir Klitschko may be a great champion, but he seems to lack a superstar's charisma.

What has happened to the heavyweight division in boxing?

Many would take that question and extend it to the sport itself and ask why boxing isn't the sport that it was decades ago.

But if you really study the sport, it's obvious that boxing is not on its death bed. Boxing is all but impossible to kill. There are many great fighters who are pounding away, and one of them, Wladimir Klitschko, is the very impressive heavyweight champion of the world.

But Klitschko, despite all his skills, is not a worldwide superstar. There is no magic to his name even though he is a skilled boxer with explosive power.

The heavyweight division used to be about superstars. From Joe Louis to Rocky Marciano, heavyweights commanded the sporting world prior to the 1960s.

Then Muhammad Ali brought the heavyweight division to a new level. No heavyweight fighter has ever been able to dominate the world stage before or since the way Ali did. While he was stellar in the ring, his personality and politics had as much to do with his superstar status as his boxing ability.

Joe Frazier and George Foreman were also superstars, but it was Mike Tyson who had the most commanding presence after Ali.

Every time Tyson stepped into the ring, fans expected to see a vicious knockout. They usually got just that.

Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis were also heavyweight superstars.

But right now, the division does not have that kind of magic. Klitschko and his brother Vitali Klitschko almost seem too calm and reasonable to command fear in their opponents the way the other top heavyweights of their generations did.

Vitali Klitschko, 41, is almost certainly getting close to retirement. Wladimir Klitschko, 36, probably has several more good years left, but he is not ever going to have that charisma that commands the public.

None of the top heavyweight contenders seem to have it as well. The better fighters like Kubrat Pulev, Tomasz Adamek, David Haye and Alexander Povetkin don't have the kind of recognition or commanding presence to be considered superstars.

British fighter Tyson Fury, 24, would seem to have the kind of name and size at 6'9", 248 pounds to command the world's attention, but he often makes mistakes in the ring.

It takes more than championship ability to become a heavyweight superstar.

If it didn't, Larry Holmes would have been considered a superstar during his championship run from 1978 through 1985. He was a thoroughly skilled boxer with a stiff left hand, excellent defensive skills and the ability to pounce on a weakened opponent.

However, he was not charismatic.

That's basically the same criticism of Wladimir Klitschko.

So, the top fighters in the sport today are non-heavyweights Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, Juan Manuel Marquez and perhaps Manny Pacquiao. Canelo Alvarez, Nonito Donaire and Adrien Broner may be right behind.

The lack of a heavyweight presence among the best up-and-coming fighters does not signify anything other than the cyclical nature of the sport.

At some point, it seems likely a young, explosive and verbose heavyweight will surface. If that fighter is also American, the chances are that the division will once again have a superstar presence.

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