As I detailed earlier this month, the heavyweight division in boxing has been in quite a slump. There is news today however, that the tide might be ready to turn in boxing's premier division. Newly crowned champs Sultan Ibragimov of the WBO and Ruslan Chagaev of the WBA have announced that they will have a unification bout in October. The fact that the two champions would be willing to have a unification bout in a fight that will be the first title defense for both fighters is completely refreshing. The heavyweight division has been full of paper champions ever since Lennox Lewis retired, as witnessed by the fact that this is the first unification bout in the division since 1999 when Lewis fought Evander Holyfield.
Though this news would be great for the sport at any point in time, it is particuarly exciting in this present moment. Not only will the WBO and WBA titles be unified by October, but their will also be three other major heavyweight fights in the mean time. Wladimir Klitschko has a title defense July 7th against Lamon Brewster for the IBF title and Oleg Maskaev faces Samuel Peter on October 6th for the WBC belt. In addition to those two title defenses, Wladimir's brother Vitali will finally be returning to the ring on September for a fight against Jameel McCline and if he is able to win that bout he would then get an automatic title shot with the winner of the Maskaev-Peter fight. The aftermath of these four bouts coud finally revive the heavyweight division. Peter is one of the few fighters in the division with a great TV style, and a fight between him and Vitali Klitschko could produce a great deal of pay-per-view interest. A bout between the winner of the Ibragimov-Chagaev fight and Wladimir Klitschko would also produce a great deal of appeal if for no other reason than that three of the four titles would be on the line.
What this all comes down to is that the brave move by the camps of Ibragimov and Chagaev to make a unification bout happen could open the door for a complete unification of the heavyweight belts. That one fight could easily trigger a domino effect that could produce two more unification bouts in 2008, and perhaps even bring about the biggest fight the current boxing landscape (not just the heavyweights) has to offer: Klitschko vs. Klitschko. If Wladimir is able to arrange a bout with the Ibragimov-Chagaev winner and Vitali is able to beat the Maskaev-Peter winner, how could they NOT have a fight to unify the four belts? Even if the results of the fights don't turn out in that fashion, one thing is for sure; the heavyweight division just got a whole lot more interesting.