On November 28, 2015, Tyson Fury defeated Lineal World Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko, to become “The Man who beat The Man.” Fury has not lost since that night, he is the reigning Lineal Heavyweight Champion.
Isn’t the Lineal Heavyweight World Championship just another title?
No. The Lineal title allows differentiation between a sanctioning body belt holder (AKA, the ABC titles or Alphabet Soup, so called due to their growing number of various letters: WBO, IBF, WBA, IBO etc), and the legitimate champion of a division. Vacant Lineal titles are only filled via a box off between the #1 and #2 rated fighters, or in rare instances a box off between the #1 and #3 rated fighters. Quite a contrast to the “ABC titles,” who will allow fighters who aren’t in most independent top 10 lists to challenge for their vacant “world” titles belts – unranked Charles Martin Vs Vyacheslav Glazkov, is one such recent example, which was for a vacant IBF strap.
The term “Lineal title” is relatively new to boxing - created by boxing historians in the 1990s who were irritated by the ABC organisations’ unnecessary, stripping of champions - but its core theme, “to be the man, you have to beat the man,” stretches back almost 300 years to the days of prize fighting’s first ever world champion, bare knuckle boxer, James Figg in 1719. The concept is deeply rooted in prize fighting history. Champions should not be “stripped.”
To realise the importance of the Lineal Heavyweight title, try composing a top 10 list of all-time great Heavyweight Champions that doesn’t include Lineal Champions. You’ll have to omit Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Riddick Bowe, Sonny Liston, Evander Holyfield, Rocky Marciano, to name a few – most of the greatest heavyweights that have ever lived. A top Heavyweight who doesn’t think winning the Lineal title will significantly enhance his legacy, is either lying to himself, or is simply oblivious to the division’s incredible history.
Is The Ring Magazine title and the Lineal title the same thing?
No. The Lineal title is traced from the beginning of the gloved era of boxing. At Heavyweight, John L. Sullivan is widely regarded as the first Lineal Champion, earning that recognition for beating Dominick McCaffrey in 1885. The Ring Magazine didn’t crown its first Champion until 37 years later.
However, the reason The Ring is closely associated with the Lineal title, is because Ring founder, Nathaniel Fleischer, ensured only top contenders were allowed to fight for vacant Ring titles, and in his lifetime, he made sure that no Heavyweight Champion was ever stripped of The Ring title. In particular, in the case of Muhammad Ali, who was inactive for almost 3 years as Champion, Fleischer stayed true to his values, and refused to strip Ali of his title (Ali eventually announced his retirement at an official press conference in 1970, and contacted The Ring to confirm matters – thus, the Lineal title also became vacant at this point).
In 2012, The Ring changed its policy, and now does strip Champions. The policy change means #4 or even #5 rated contenders can now potentially fight for vacant Ring titles. The magazine stripped Tyson Fury for inactivity on February 1, 2018, although continues to acknowledge that he is the Lineal Champion, featuring him on their May 2018 front cover as, “The Lineal Champ” - Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker and Anthony were on the same front cover, but were not described as Champions.
How can I keep track of who the Lineal Champions are in boxing today?
LinealBoxingChampion.com keeps an up-to-date list of Lineal Champions, that stays true to the principle, “to be the man you have to beat the man.”
Isn’t Lennox Lewis still Lineal Champion, as he retired in 2004 as Champion?
No. And Lewis was not the first heavyweight to retire as Lineal Champion. So did:
- Jim Jeffries in 1905
- Gene Tunney in 1928
- Joe Louis in 1949
- Rocky Marciano in 1956
- Muhammad Ali in 1970 and 1979
After a retirement, the Championship becomes vacant, and a new lineage begins.
Didn’t Fury retire?
No. A retirement on Twitter/Instagram which is retracted hours later is not an official retirement. It’s worth noting that The Ring Magazine did not view it as an official retirement either and did not make their Ring title vacant after these Twitter posts from Fury.
But Fury didn’t fight for 3 years, that’s as good as a retirement – what if he never officially retired and had never fought again?
From his fight with Wladimir Klitschko on November 28, 2015 until his next fight, against Sefer Seferi on June 9, 2018, that’s a total of 2 years 6 months. During this period Fury was scheduled to take on Wladimir in a rematch on September 23, 2016. For much of the next year and a half Fury repeatedly declared that he would be returning to the ring.
In 133 years no Heavyweight Champion has ever kept the Championship inactive longer than 3 years 3 months.
The longest periods of inactivity a champion has had, are as follows:
1) Jess Willard – 3 years 3 months
2) James Corbett – 3 years 1 month
3) Jack Dempsey – 3 years
4) Muhammad Ali – 2 years 10 months
5) Joe Louis – 2 years 7 months
6) Tyson Fury – 2 years 6 months
It’s worth noting that in Fury’s absence from the ring the two top contenders, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, did not face their most highly rated rival – each other. So even if Fury had officially retired, which he didn’t, neither Joshua or Wilder would have a claim to the legitimate Lineal World Championship anyway.
But Tyson Fury failed a PEDs test while Champion – shouldn’t he be stripped?
This is not true. The September 2016 case against him (for a refused test prior to the cancelled rematch with Klitschko) was withdrawn by UK Anti-Doping. The official statement is on UKAD’s website, for all to see. Prior to fighting Wladimir in 2015, Fury was tested for PEDs and was clean, passing tests on: May 11 2015, July 16 2015, October 8 2015, October 17 2015, November 11 2015. He also tested clean on July 13 2016 and May 4 2017. Put simply, he won the Lineal Heavyweight title cleanly, and as Champion, did not fail a test.
So if Deontay Wilder beats Fury will he become the Lineal Champion?
Yes, he’ll be The Man that beat The Man. Fury is the 44th Lineal World Heavyweight Champion. If Wilder wins, he’ll be number 45.
Winning the Heavyweight Championship should not be a popularity contest. Do not let hype from promoters, television networks and sanctioning bodies change the facts. Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis didn’t need 4 or 5 belts to prove they were the real Heavyweight Champions in their eras. Neither did Rocky Marciano or Muhammad Ali. And neither does Tyson Fury. Each of them defeated “The Man” to become “The Man.”
One World. One World Heavyweight Champion, and right now this title belongs to Tyson Fury.
Don’t let a century of boxing history be diluted and erased.