ALTHOUGH it sounds nuts, and although we make a habit of moaning whenever a new title is introduced to a sport already teeming with them, we should, in the case of Andy Ruiz Jnr’s Snickers belt, celebrate its arrival and welcome it with open arms.
Like its owner, the Snickers heavyweight title, currently being paraded around Mexico, is pure, it’s different, it’s so wrong it’s right, and it’s refreshing for every single one of these reasons:
One: there is no pretence whatsoever. The Snickers heavyweight title doesn’t hide behind a colour – be it gold, silver or pearl – and doesn’t claim to be something it is not. Instead, what you have is a bespoke belt on which a Snickers logo has been applied. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a belt then awarded to a heavyweight who declared his love for the chocolate bar before the biggest fight of his life and, upon winning said fight, reaffirmed his love in pursuit of either sponsorship or, more likely given Ruiz’s humble disposition, a year’s supply.
Either way, Snickers warmed to the new WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion, as we all did, and handed him a belt to say thank you and keep eating.
Two: it does away with the grubbiness of boxing belts and hearkens back to a time when doggy-paddling kids were handed 20-metre swimming badges and certificates and Sunday league football teams forced ‘Most Improved Player’ trophies upon the boy or girl looking the other way. Simpler times.
Essentially, it’s an award from the good old days. An award with no catch. An award spared a sanctioning fee, or mandatory challengers, or interim champions looking to get in on what you earned the hard way.
In a sport like boxing, the Snickers heavyweight title is about as pure as it gets.
Three: The Snickers heavyweight belt represents not only Ruiz’s success against Anthony Joshua on June 1 but also what made the Mexican-American such an endearing an compelling underdog in the first place. Rather than symbolise dominance or a man’s hold on top spot, it merely symbolises one heavyweight’s relatability and everyman appeal. And that’s as good a reason as any for it to exist.
What’s more, though many choose to call themselves The People’s Champion, there can, or at least should, be only one. So, if the Snickers heavyweight title helps reduce the number of heavyweights brazenly anointing themselves The People’s Champion, and perhaps even plays its part in the official crowning of just one, I’m all for it.
Finally, and most importantly, Andy Ruiz’s Snickers belt is better than each of the following:
It’s better than Manuel Charr’s WBA regular heavyweight title, a belt Charr won following 12 rounds in the company of Alexander Ustinov (last seen being gobbled up inside three rounds by Joe Joyce), and a belt for which Fres Oquendo of all people has seemingly been mandatory challenger for the best part of a decade.
The Ustinov fight happened in November 2017 and the belt has been stuck on a shelf – where it belongs, one could argue – ever since. In that time, Charr has failed a performance-enhancing drug test and 46-year-old Oquendo has stretched his period of inactivity to five years. Yes, five years.
It’s better than Trevor Bryan’s WBA interim regular heavyweight title, a belt Bryan won against peripheral cruiserweight and occasional commentator BJ Flores last August.
While it took Bryan less than four rounds to give Flores one good reason why he should remain at cruiserweight, this wasn’t anywhere near enough time for us to figure out why the fight had been made in the first place and why there was any need for the WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title, never mind an interim version.
It’s better than Joe Joyce’s WBA gold heavyweight title, a belt Joyce won when battering Bermane Stiverne inside six rounds earlier this year.
That title, the latest in a long line of WBA belts that should have been pulled from the production line for manufacturing defects, has no history to speak of nor any reason for existing. It makes the WBC silver title seem essential and steeped in tradition.
It’s better than Daniel Dubois’ old WBO European heavyweight title, a belt he won in March with a second-round knockout of Razvan Cojanu before quickly tossing it out and pretending the whole thing never happened.
Dubois, one of the more exciting heavyweight prospects in the world, is too good for any ghastly strap the WBO can throw at him and he presumably realises this as well. Thankfully, the Londoner competes for the British heavyweight title, a far worthier belt, on July 20 against Nathan Gorman. (The WBO European heavyweight title, meanwhile, now belongs to Turkey’s Ali Eren Demirezen. Lucky fella.)
Sorry to say, but it’s also better than Tyson Fury’s lineal world heavyweight title, the only ‘belt’ Fury recouped following a wonderful victory against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 and two and a half years in the wilderness.
That belt, little more than a purist’s lightsaber, means well and means so much to so many, yet shouldn’t be used to instigate more confusion and, worse, as a way of further fracturing an already chaotic division. Yes, Fury is the man who beat the man who beat the man who beat the man. But he is also the man who beat the man and then, for whatever reason, threw away all he had worked so hard to accumulate. (Someone needs to tell Lennox Lewis he has a lineal world title waiting for him if he unretires.)
It was at this point the lineal heavyweight title, or at least this latest incarnation, should have become null and void on account of the line turning wonky. It was at this point Fury needed to start all over again, which, to his credit, is exactly what he has done, confounding critics and inspiring plenty of followers along the way.
I suppose, in the end, one man’s Snickers is another man’s Marathon.