Great pretenders

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Like bad big-screen remakes of classic TV shows, everything old is new again in the heavyweight division.

The charade in Berlin earlier this week that saw Vitali Klitschko return from a four-year layoff to easily take the WBC crown from Samuel Peter was just the tip of the iceberg.

Like millions of others who were unaware that Peter apparently had his heart surgically removed in the dressing room minutes before the fight, I picked him to win. But that's beside the point.

Next month, in a specially erected arena in the shadow of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, Franz Botha of South Africa will square off with British champ Danny Williams in the first "world title" bout ever staged in Egypt.

The fact that the Nov. 30 "Dual in the Desert" between two forgettable fringe contenders is for the laughably obscure World Boxing Foundation championship doesn't matter, if you buy into Botha's logic.

"Look, when George Foreman came back and won the WBU title, it made that organization well known," Botha told an interviewer this week. "It's the fighter who makes the belt - not the other way around."

In case you've forgotten, Botha has been around almost as long as the pyramids he'll be fighting in front of.

He improved to 32-0 way back on Dec. 17, 1994, when he stopped Edmonton's Ken Lakusta in the latter's last fight - at the Ruminahui Coliseum in Quito, Ecuador.

Botha briefly held the International Boxing Federation crown after winning a split decision over Axel Schultz in 1995, but the title was stripped when he tested positive for steroids.

Since then, the 40-year-old Botha (45-4-2, 28 KOs) has been KO'd by Michael Moorer (1996), Mike Tyson (1999), Lennox Lewis (2000) and Wladimir Klitschko (2002).

Williams, 35, hasn't fared much better. Yes, he stopped the shell of Tyson in four rounds in 2004, but in the interim his 40-6 record includes KO losses to Vitali Klitschko and light-hitting Audley Harrison, and dropping a majority decision to Matt Skelton in their British Commonwealth title fight two years ago.

Sadly, whoever wins on Nov. 30 will likely be in line for a shot at one of the Klitschko brothers, or seven-foot-one WBA champ Nikolai Valuev.

Now that Vitali has the WBC belt and Wladimir owns the WBO bauble, they've vowed never to fight each other.

For the foreseeable future, the division will continue to be a fragmented scrap heap of also-rans and never-weres.

As long as the merry-go-round that passes as the world heavyweight championship is allowed to wallow in sideshows, mismatches and promoter posturing, the sweet science will continue to be mired in mediocrity.

GHOST WITH THE MOST

Meanwhile, unbeaten Kelly (The Ghost) Pavlik, one of the few fighters who's actually worth shelling out for pay-per-view, will be looking to make history tomorrow night when he defends his undisputed world middleweight crown against 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City.

Hopkins, a five-time titleist with a record of 48-5-1, has never been knocked out. Earlier this week he tried to get Pavlik to bet $250,000 that he'd be the first to stop him.

Wisely, Pavlik, who has 30 KOs in his 34 wins, didn't take the bait.

Whiter than white (he's almost translucent), Pavlik is an awesome pressure fighter with embalming fluid in both fists, and he should win this bout handily - but Hopkins won't be horizontal when it's over. 


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