In the traditional postfight posturing that passes for debate in this noisy sport, Cory Spinks and Floyd Mayweather stood toe-to-toe, jabbering vehemetly and pointlessly last Saturday night It was typical boxing theater—Spinks had just beaten Zab Judah to retain his welterweight tides, and Mayweather, a junior welter, was trying to horn in on the action—except that now they loom as major players in a withering sport, fighters whose jabbering we must consider seriously.
It looks increasingly as if boxing is being returned to the little guys, abandoned by the most hopeless heavyweight division in ages. Spinks-Mayweather? That fight might not set anybody to dialing up their pay-per-view provider, but it would be an interesting matchup. And if those two fighters get together, it won't likely be on the undercard of a heavyweight bout, as Spinks's fight with Judah was. After a disastrous "main event," in which the great Wladimir Klitschko performed robotically for five rounds before finally collapsing at the feet of a surprised Lamon Brewster, a fighter who'd been inactive for more than a year, well, yeah, bring on the little fellas.
Saturday was a good night in Vegas for Brewster and the rest of a mediocre bunch of big men who are jockeying for titles in two fights later this month, but not for anybody who's counting on the heavyweight division to provide excitement. Klitschko, the 6' 7" automaton whose long jab and heavy right hand do not seem to work against serious opposition, must now be deemed kaput. When Brewster, the caliber of fighter whose inactivity did not arouse any alarm this past year, rocked Klitschko in the fifth and floored him at the end of the round, forcing ref Robert Byrd to call it off, he announced the end of the Wladimir era, one of the great p.r. campaigns in boxing history. None other than Mike Tyson, sitting ringside, was struck by Klitschko's reaction to being struck. "I notice he don't like to get hit," Tyson said. "Big, strong guy like that. Wow, that's amazing."
And so the heavyweight tides are up for grabs. The Klitschkos' quest for one now falls to Wladimir's big brother, Vitali, who will fight Corrie Sanders for a vacant WBC tide on April 24 in Los Angeles. Brewster now holds the WBO version, which had been vacant because, presumably, nobody noticed. On April 17 IBF champ Chris Byrd will defend against novelty act Andrew Golota, and John Ruiz will risk his WBA championship against Fres Oquendo. When you run through names like that, you understand why the Klitschko brothers, both big and powerful, had become so important to the sport Somebody credible has to pick up the pieces of the division that Lennox Lewis left in shambles.
It could still be Vitali—you never know. But in the meantime it will be up to promoters to bring us better fights from lesser names, and lighter weights. Certainly Spinks's performance was encouraging. He'd come from nowhere to upset Ricardo Mayorga last year, but it appears that he's here to stay after a dominating effort against former light welterweight champ Judah. Until he got a little too relaxed and was knocked down in the final round, Spinks showed that he had me skills and muscle to compete with more experienced performers. And, as he showed at the postfight press conference, he can talk a good game too.