To restore magic, King has plans for one champ

Updated: April 16, 2007, 10:01 AM ET
Reuters

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.

Heavyweight Champions

• WBA: Ruslan Chagaev
• WBC: Oleg Maskaev
• IBF: Wladimir Klitschko
• WBO: Sultan Ibragimov

"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.