Every once in awhile hardcore fight fans will go on the attack against the plethora of paper champions and point out who the "real" world champions are. They'll often use the term, "lineal" world champ to validate their choices.
The designation of lineal champ means that the fighter beat the man who beat the man and that the current champ's title lineage goes all the way back to the formal beginnings of the sport. In the modern sense of the word, being lineal champ refers to the title lineage as well as his perceived level of opposition.
But, regardless of how well-intentioned these fans are, all of this is a moot point. There's not a single lineal champ left in the sport. The concept has long ago been eliminated by division-hopping fighters, boxing politics, and the general disregard for the importance of boxing history.
Back when there was just one recognized world champ in each of eight divisions, it was easy to keep track of title lineage. Nowadays, with more than twice as many divisions and four times as many sanctioning bodies, chaos reigns supreme.
Of the seventeen current weight classes, only one (Flyweight) can boast a title lineage that predates the year 2000 and there are only three active fighters who can even make a somewhat valid argument for lineal champ status.
So, it's time to drop the concept and retire the phrase. The lineal champ is dead. Finished. Finito. Over.
Likely within a year or two, as weight-hopping pugilists and boardroom shenanigans become even more commonplace, even those with somewhat valid lineage claims won't be able to wear that symbolic designation.
However, let's look at those fighters who, at least for now, can proclaim themselves boxing's closest thing to lineal champs:
Martinez may not currently be in possession of an actual world title belt, but few deny his place atop the middleweight division. Argentina's southpaw stylist sits at the tail-end of a title lineage that began when Bernard Hopkins unified middleweight belts in 2001. Prior to 2001,the actual middleweight title lineage fell apart in 1987 when Sugar Ray Leonard vacated the belt he had won from Marvin Hagler.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather's title lineage at welterweight can be traced back to 2000, when Shane Mosley beat Oscar De la Hoya to claim the title vacated by Felix Trinidad. Despite a near two-year retirement from 2007 to 2009, Mayweather still holds the distinction of being the closest thing the division has to a lineal champ.
Sonny Boy Jaro
Strictly speaking, WBC flyweight champ, Jaro, is the only active fighter who can make a claim to be a true, lineal champ. When the Filipino fighter upset Thailand's Pongsaklek Wonjongkam last March, he added his name to a title lineage that dates back to Mexico's Miguel Canto in the 1970's.
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 Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
The Cyber Boxing Zone, The Lineal Boxing World Champions
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