Ability is often of less advantage to a fighter than being well connected politically, and the public are frequently fobbed off

When John L Sullivan went around boasting that he could lick any man on earth, there was only one heavyweight champion. Presently there are six versions of the title. As Seth Abraham put it this week, the inmates are running the asylum.

Since Abraham presides over Time Warner Sports, parent company of Home Box Office (HBO), the American cable television network that failed to cut a deal with Mike Tyson when the former undisputed champion was released from jail, it can be assumed that his response to a lamentable state of affairs in the heavyweight division is more than slightly subjective.

However, in drawing attention to the spurious authority assumed by a proliferation of self-serving alphabet organisations, and allowing for the fact that he has dealt with some of them in the past, Abraham is doing the sport a service.

It does not take much perception to realise that ability is often of less advantage to a fighter than being well connected politically, and that the public are frequently fobbed off with phoney status.

As reported yesterday it is HBO's intention to organise a heavyweight tournament without alphabet sanction. It involves a great deal of money, around $175m, to determine by public acclaim the best heavyweight apart from Mike Tyson. No belts will be at stake. With the addition of those on offer from two fledgling organisations, the World Boxing Union and International Boxing Council, belts have become the bane of boxing, piling ever higher in the alphabet junkyard. "It is time to establish who is the real heavyweight champion," Abraham said this week. "The guy the public would like to fight Tyson, if Tyson retains his lustre, is the guy who is the best. That's the object of our tournament. We'd have him."

That brings us to Riddick Bowe, the World Boxing Organisation champion who is widely regarded as the best heavyweight out there, and the former World Boxing Council champion, Lennox Lewis. Without their co-operation the HBO tournament would be meaningless.

There is some irony in all this because it was HBO who brought about a unification of the heavyweight championship nine years ago. Setting up a series of contests involving the champions of the WBC, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation, Trevor Berbick, James "Bonecrusher" Smith and Tony Tucker respectively, they threw in Tyson. Within six months Tyson blew them away.

Next month, Tyson returns to the ring against Jim McNeeley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Assuming that nothing untoward happens he will fight again in November.

You may have noticed no reference has been made so far to Tyson's promoter, the great master of "trickeration" himself, Don King, who more or less regained control of the heavyweight division when Tyson was persuaded to resume their old alliance.

The problem this created for HBO is that King is associated with Showtime, a rival network. From being the most powerful single funding force in boxing, HBO found itself on the outside looking in.

King has the WBC champion, Oliver McCall, the WBA champion, Bruce Seldon, and a number of handily placed contenders. King thinks further ahead than a chess champion. Through a long-standing friendship with the WBC, he got Lewis displaced by Tyson as their No 1 contender on a technicality. As one prominent promoter said recently, there is no point in having the WBC rules handy because they change every day.

Lewis and his associates have made noises about challenging this legally but it might be better to become involved in the HBO tournament. It could finally lead to a contest against Bowe and a total of more than $30m in purse money. As Lewis has not got a prayer of being nominated to meet the winner after McCall defends against Frank Bruno in London on 2 September, an agreement with HBO becomes a possibility.

In any case, Abraham asserts that the alphabet bodies have lost all credibility. "Those organisations have been flipped on their heads," he said. "The boxing public don't care anymore."

Some substance disappeared from Abraham's case when he stated that until George Foreman is beaten or retires he remains the true champion. On the basis of direct succession from Tyson, who lost the undisputed title to James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo six years ago, this is indisputable. But Foreman is no longer a fighter. He is a monument.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?