STUTTGART, Germany -- Promoter Don King
wants to restore the magic of heavyweight boxing through a
series of fights that will crown one undisputed world champion,
and he believes it can be done before the end of 2008.
"I think the title should be unified. To have one
undisputed, identifiable world champion would make everything
better," King told Reuters in an exclusive interview.
"It would restore the magic," he said.
"Within 18 months," he said, when asked how long it would
take before one boxer holds the World Boxing Association (WBA),
World Boxing Organization (WBO), World Boxing Council (WBC) and
International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight titles.
Lennox Lewis of Britain was the last undisputed heavyweight world champion, unifying the division with his 1999 rematch victory against Evander Holyfield.
King, 75, a key mover and shaker in professional boxing for
more than three decades -- since the glory days of heavyweight
great Muhammad Ali -- was speaking a day after his protege
Nikolai Valuev of Russia lost the WBA heavyweight title.
The 7-foot tall Valuev was beaten on points by Uzbek
challenger Ruslan Chagaev in Stuttgart, Germany.
"I would have had much more say if the big guy [Valuev] had
won," King acknowledged, referring to his own role in arranging
the fights required to unify the titles.
"But we are going to work to make it happen," he said,
adding that he would be able to arrange the up to $30 million
financing he expects will be needed.
The main obstacles were related to "selfish, vested
interests on all sides," he said. "Everyone wants to be able to
say: 'My guy is the best'."
Agreeing with many boxing commentators that today's roster
of heavyweight champions lack the "name power" of a Tyson, King
said a unified title "is necessary to electrify the sport."
The WBC's champion is Oleg Maskaev of Russia, Wladimir
Klitschko of Ukraine holds the IBF title and the WBO recognizes
Shannon Briggs of the United States.
King described the newly-crowned WBA champion, Chagaev, as
"a rugged fighter who is going to be hard to beat" and named
Samuel Peter of Nigeria as another boxer with the potential to
emerge as the undisputed heavyweight title holder.
Chagaev's first title defense has not yet been lined up but
the three other heavyweight champions are scheduled to step into
the ring before the end of August. The outcomes of those
fights will set the stage for King's title unification project.
Briggs takes on Sultan Ibragimov of Russia in June,
Klitschko is expected to meet Lamon Brewster of the United
States in July and a Maskaev vs. Peter fight is on for August.