“It’s not personal, it’s business…”
A nature of boxing is that the powers that be sometimes decide to remove the reigning champion and replace him with the fresh, new, more marketable, and/or more popular champion.
The most recent example was Sergey Kovalev’s two losses in a row to Andre Ward which gave Ward Kovalev’s light heavyweight title. The first fight was a close fight but Kovalev the champion scored the knockdown and won most of the early rounds and competed evenly in the second half of the fight to achieve at least a draw.
The immediate rematch, after some delaying by Ward who claimed to consider retiring instead of honoring the rematch clause, was a curious duel which featured another close action fight marred by Ward being allowed by the referee to use repeated illegal low blows (without punishment) on Kovalev. The final punch of the bout was a brutal low punch on the cup that referee Tony Weeks excused as he award the victory to Ward.
When you look at the deeper details of the picture, one could supect that there was an agenda to take the titles away from Russian Kovalev and give them to Ward, the American. After all, both fights employed six American judges and no neutral judges.
What happened to Kovalev has happened to other champions in history. Most notably, former Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, who after a near-decade long reign, lost the crown to Michael Spinks by a controversial twelve round decision in April 1986. Spinks also won another close decision against Holmes in September of the same year. Both fights were in Las Vegas.
It should be added that there was at least one political motive to dethrone Larry Holmes. The Easton Assassin was attempting to break the undefeated record of Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 and speculations persisted that there was private resentments by certain boxing figures about possibly seeing Marciano’s record broken by Holmes.
More recently, Bernard Hopkins, the long-standing, record-breaking middleweight champion saw his incredible 160 pound division dominance ended also rather suspiciously in July 2005 when Hopkins lost a very close decision to Jermain Taylor, a result that most ring observers felt was unfair as Taylor did not do nearly enough to win the belts. In other words, challenger Taylor did not decisively beat the champion Hopkins.
In the Hopkins vs Taylor rematch, once again the very close decision went to Taylor. And like Holmes vs Spinks, there was a possible motive to dethrone the outspoken outsider, rebel Hopkins, who had ruffled a lot of feathers with his anti-establishment views and interview comments.
Hopkins accepted the two injustices with class and grace and kept his head high, saying Taylor “is the corporate champion, I’m still the People’s Champion.”
Also similar to Holmes vs Spinks and Kovalev vs Ward, both Hopkins vs Taylor bouts were staged in Las Vegas.
In Hopkins’ very next fight post Taylor, he defeated Antonio Tarver to win the Light Heavyweight title.
So is it possible that there was an inside hidden agenda to take away the championships from Larry Holmes, Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev to give them to a new, fresh, more marketable athlete?
As has been said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
– Scoop Malinowski