- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

It was clear from the nearly 2 million buyers of the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight telecast last month that boxing fans have a tough lesson to learn.
If you really want to enjoy boxing again and not waste money on such farces, get this through your head: heavyweight boxing is dead. Finished. Extinct. It's over, and it's not coming back.
This is not some sort of down period that the heavyweight division is going through, as it did when Joe Louis teed off on his Bum of the Month opponents in the early 1940s, or in the early 1980s before Tyson. This is the end, my friend.
Talented big men who might have gone into boxing are now devoting their energy to the NFL or NBA. There was a time when an athlete could make more money boxing than playing pro football or basketball.
There may be a fighter or two in the future who can create some interest, but they will never approach the great battles of the 1970s, when Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle and a list of other very good heavyweights ruled the division.
Wladimir Klitschko? Please. Ray Mercer hit him with about three jabs a round in their fight last month, but that was enough to make Klitschko's eyes swell up. Imagine if that is a Lennox Lewis jab Klitschko is eating. Lewis-Klitschko is another boring Lewis heavyweight title fight.
Lewis-Tyson was the final piece of evidence of the death of the division. If you need more proof, look at two bouts scheduled for next weekend. World Boxing Association heavyweight champion John Ruiz is defending his title against Kirk Johnson in Las Vegas. Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, who is 53 years old, will be fighting the heavyweight novelty act known as Butterbean in Norfolk, Va.
Ruiz-Johnson a legitimate fight is being shown on HBO. Holmes-Butterbean a carnival sideshow is pay-per-view. And do you know what? You'd be more entertained watching Holmes and Butterbean. That is what the heavyweight division has come to.
But this is not the death of boxing. The middle weights from the 147-pound welterweight division to the 160-pound middleweight division carried the sport in the 1980s, when Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns fought one another, and it will be the middle weights that will sustain boxing again only this time it will have to serve as the sport's lifeline for a long, long time.
So tonight take a look at a piece of the heart of boxing now and for a long time when undefeated welterweight champion Vernon Forrest (34-0, 26 knockouts) meets Sugar Shane Mosley (38-1, 35 knockouts) at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It's a rematch of their January brawl, in which Forest stunned the boxing world by upsetting the previously undefeated Mosley, who had been considered by many the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
This should be the fight of the year, much more worthy of your attention than Lewis-Tyson. Both are very talented fighters with power and speed and a mental toughness that promises no one will be running or biting or quitting or any of the other components that have been part of boxing all too often these days.
Rematches always have their share of bad blood, and this one is no different. Forrest and Mosley have a history going back to when they were amateurs. Forrest beat Mosley then, too. Forrest put Mosley on the canvas twice in their January battle in New York and dominated him. Mosley claims that Forrest took a page out of the Holyfield fight book by using his head to butt Mosley in the second round, which Mosley claims affected him for the rest of the fight.
"He hit me with a head butt, and I think it was on purpose, because I handled him easy in the first round and he couldn't do anything to stop me," Mosley said. "He knocked me off course. But he couldn't knock me out, even when I had a concussion for the whole fight."
Forrest dismissed Mosley's complaint as an excuse for losing. "Everybody has excuses for why they lose," he said. "I heard lots of excuses."
Forrest and Mosley are part of a group of very good fighters from 147 to 160 pounds that began fighting one another several years ago when Oscar De La Hoya made the first move by fighting Ike Quartey. Following was De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad, Trinidad-Fernando Vargas, De La Hoya-Mosley and then the Don King middleweight tournament that pitted Trinidad against Bernard Hopkins.
They will continue to fight one another, with De La Hoya scheduled to meet Vargas in September and Trinidad expected to meet De La Hoya or Hopkins in a rematch. Hopkins is making noise about fighting De La Hoya. Mosley or Forrest or both will likely move up in weight soon to join the party.
Butterbean is not in the mix.

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