From the time of the 1st heavyweight champion of the modern era….John L. Sullivan….to the mid-1960’s when Cassius Clay was champion…..there was only one undisputed heavyweight champion of the world….but when the WBA (World Boxing Assn.) refused to sanction the 2nd Ali vs Liston fight….due to it being against their rules….they stripped Ali of the title….and thereafter naming their champion Ernie Terrell….who held the WBA title for nearly two years until 1967….before getting beat by Ali in a unanimous decision title fight…..as Ali re-unified the heavyweight title again.
Then came that fateful but historic day in Houston, TX where Muhammad Ali refused induction into the military….consequently being incarcerated and stripped of his undisputed title….and soon thereafter, Jimmie Ellis wins the elimination tournament to win the title and fill the space that Ali had forfeited. Ellis ends up losing the WBA title to Smokin Joe Frazier….while Ali remained the WBC champion….until Ali vs Frazier war # 1….the fight the Smokin Joe landed his infamous left-hook to Ali’s jaw in the 15th round of their title unification fight.
The undisputed title stayed in place until champion Muhammad Ali fought Spinks….who became undisputed heavyweight champion by winning the title by decision over Ali in their 1st fight….and when Spinks opted to give Ali a rematch instead of fighting # 1 contender Ken Norton….the WBA stripped Spinks of the title…..and crowning Ken Norton champion….as once again, there were multiple champions.
It is this lil ole Chiweenie Sportsphile’s opinion that because Muhammad Ali was so marketable on television….cuz he not only was the greatest heavyweight boxer around …..but he was also a heavyweight entertainer….and the amazing thing is that Ali knew this….as he knew better than anyone that “he could be the tail that wagged the dog….in a sport where the dog had always wagged the tail before Ali.” For the simple reason that Ali knew and understood this….he could basically tell the different boxing authorities (WBC, WBA & IBF) who he was going to fight….instead of them telling him who he would fight.
The fact is that Muhammad Ali was the reason that the WBA broke away from having an undisputed heavyweight champion in the first three times that the title was split….for the simple reason that Ali decided he wanted to fight someone other than the WBA’s #1 contender or convinced Leon Spinks to fight him again instead of fighting the WBA’s #1 contender…..as Ali was the only boxer with a big enough television draw to let money dictate who he would fight.
This video gives an undeniably great understanding of how there became multiple champions in the heavyweight division of boxing.