Not even taking interim champs, silver belt holders, diamond titlists, and "regular" champs into consideration, boxing has become a haven for belt holders who, really, should not be calling themselves "world" champions. This is not to say that they aren't good fighters or even fighters worthy of a title shot, it's just that the belts they carry are of the pure paper variety.
Here are five of boxing's most blatant paper champions:
The 25-year-old WBO world light heavyweight champ from Wales has yet to even face a legitimate top 10 fighter, much less one of the 175 lb. elites. Since beating unknown and untested Aleksy Kuziemski for the vacant world title in May of 2011, Cleverly has made two defenses of his belt, both against regional club fighters-- Tony Bellew from the UK and East Coast pug, Tommy Karpency.
Somehow, despite only one official win at the welterweight limit, Malignaggi found himself high in the WBA welterweight rankings after signing a deal with Golden Boy Promotions. Malignaggi would parlay that mysterious high ranking into a TKO 9 win over untested, marginally-skilled paper champ, Vyacheslav Senchenko. A fine junior welterweight champ from 2007-2008, Malignaggi has never beaten an elite-level fighter and, at welterweight, is supremely unqualified to be recognized as a reigning world champ.
There are plenty of quality fighters at light heavyweight, but like WBO titlist Nathan Cleverly, WBA champ, Shumenov, is just not fighting any of them. Since winning the belt in controversial fashion from Gabriel Campillo in early 2010, Kazakhstan's Shumenov has faced one no-hoper after another. Among the sacrifices offered up to Shumenov were a faded William Joppy, who hadn't registered a win in over three years, and Florida-based Danny Santiago, a fighter with no major wins of note on his resume.
The Russian has ability and skill, but has yet to even come close to justifying his world champ status. After winning the vacant WBO middleweight title with a highlight reel knockout of the green Daniel Jacobs in mid-2010, Pirog has faced two laughably unqualified challengers in Javier Francisco Maciel and Gennady Martirosyan and fringe challenger, Nobuhiro Ishida.
Bundrage is clumsy and awkward, but he's awfully lucky to have walked into the IBF junior middleweight title with a win against a faded, dead-legged Cory Spinks in 2010. Then, "K9" would defend against fringe contender Sechew Powell before a TKO 7 win in a return bout against an even more faded Spinks. Two defenses in two years is hardly a great mark for a champion, especially against the level of opposition he has faced.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The BoxingTribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
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