CRUISERWEIGHTS: BOXING'S INVISIBLE DIVISION
The Cruiserweight Division has, since its inception in 1979, been the home of fighters who outgrew the light-heavyweight division but couldn't compete with the true heavyweights; or a division that provided the possibility of winning a title for heavyweights who just couldn't grab the gold ring in boxing's premier division. In other words, the cruiserweight division became the bastard child of other well established divisions, and was - right or wrong - viewed that way until recently.
The division crowned its first champion in 1980 when the WBC matched Marvin Camel against Mate Parlov, with Camel emerging as the winner. Not to be outdone (or possibly lose money!) the other alphabet organizations soon established their own cruiserweight division and crowned their own champions. In 1982 the WBA awarded Carlos De Leon a crown and in 1983 the newly established IBF resurrected dethroned Marvin Camel and made him a cruiserweight king, once again.
The division had what appeared to be a chance for recognition when a war between Dwight Muhammad Qawi (formerly Dwight Braxton) and Evander Holyfield broke out. In one of the best fights in any division, the two warriors pummeled each other over 15-rounds in a fight so even a draw wouldn't have been out of place. However, it was Evander Holyfield getting the nod via split-decision.
By 1988, the magnificent Holyfield had unified the cruiserweight titles, beating all the contenders in the process, as well. As boxing fans well know, "The Real Deal" abandoned the division and became a force in the heavyweight ranks. And who replaced Holyfield? Taoufik Belbouli - WBA; Glenn McCrory - IBF; and Carlos De Leon - WBC. Good fighters deserving of respect, to be sure; but not the kind to bring accolades to the division.
At the same time Holyfield was dominating the cruiserweights, a killer named Michael Moorer was cleaning out the light-heavyweights. Moorer, by 1991, left the light-heavies but leaped over the cruiserweight division in favor of the far more lucrative and prestigious heavyweight division.
Think of the possibilities had Holyfield stayed the unified cruiserweight king and was then joined by the undefeated Moorer. Two such high-profiled fighters might have been enough to attract the money-men and the media, thereby legitimizing the division.
The irony is that the Cruiserweight Division was an excellent idea at the time and remains so. The gap between the light-heavyweights and the heavyweights was widening each year as the behemoths coming in at 6' 5' and 240 pounds (at least) created too big of a jump for a light-heavy to make.
Thankfully, over the last five or ten years, fighters like Steve Cunningham, David Haye, Marco Huck and more recently Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis have gained the attention of fight fans.
What remains to be said is that even if the division failed to stand out early on, that doesn't mean individual fighters weren't making their mark: Anaclet Wamba, Al Cole, Johnny Nelson and Vassiliy Jirov, to name a few deserved far more acclaim than they received.
You'll find most of the names mentioned in this brief overview of the Cruiserweight Division in the upcoming set to be released in mid to late August.
Carlos De Leon
Juan Carlos Gomez
Jean Marc Mormeck
Dwight Muhammad Qawi