Crolla vs Linares: Anthony Crolla aims to join Floyd Mayweather, Julio Cesar Chavez and co
Last Updated: 24/09/16 9:56pm
Anthony Crolla is defending his WBA lightweight title against Jorge Linares, live on Sky Sports on Saturday, but The Ring's vacant belt is also on the line. Who has held that belt in the past?
The Scottish star and former Sky Sports commentator was a rarity in being awarded the title. Compatriot Ken Buchanan (1970-72) and Roberto Duran (1972-79) held it before but once the 'Hands of Stone' moved up to welterweight in April 1981, the Glaswegian was recognised as the magazine's best at 135lbs.
Watt had won the vacant WBC strap two years earlier by stopping hard-hitting Colombian Alfredo Pitalua and put together four defences in 18 months, notably seeing off bitter rival Charlie Nash and 1976 Olympic champion and unbeaten American star Howard Davis Jr.
His final successful title defence saw him beat world-champion-to-be America's Sean O'Grady in November 1980 and even if it took five months, The Ring gave him their ultimate honour before his reign and indeed his career was to come to the end, courtesy of the legendary Alexis Arguello.
The Nicaraguan known as 'El Flaco Explosivo' had already held The Ring title down at featherweight between 1975 and 1977 and on the night he stopped Watt at the Empire Pool, Wembley, he became a three-weight world champion and their new lightweight titlist.
From then on, Arguello settled into the lightweight scene in typical style by stopping first opponent Ray Mancini in the 14th round in October 1981. He then showed why he was so feared, blasting out another four foes in the space of nine months, with no one taking him past seven rounds, never mind threatening him.
Arguello had won world titles at featherweight, super-featherweight and lightweight before going for his fourth weight at super-lightweight and taking on Aaron Pryor in November 1982. 'The Hawk' stopped him in 14 rounds in what The Ring named its Fight of the Decade, but with the Nicaraguan staying up there, The Ring lightweight title went into its first prolonged vacancy.
Julio Cesar Chavez Sr
It took five years for The Ring to recognise its 'man taking on the man' approach, so who better than the iconic Julio Cesar Chavez to pick up the mantle. He had dominated the super-featherweight scene for four years before stepping up to 135lbs.
It set the tone for JC's immense rise as he dispatched Edwin Rosario and Rodolfo Aguilar with the WBA belt behind him. When Jose Luis Ramirez brought the WBC to the table, the all-Mexican battle was staged at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1988. It would last 11 rounds before the legend - who was at a meagre 62-0 at the time - also scooped The Ring strap, surprisingly for the only time in his stellar career.
Chavez moved up to 140lbs pretty much straight away, leaving the lightweight division he had briefly ruled and the WBC and WBA titles behind. He would appear on the magazine's cover on multiple occasions, on his way into the history books and an astounding record of 107-6-2-KO86.
'Sweet Pea' will go down as one of the slickest fighters the world has ever scene. There are well-known stories of entire rounds that saw his opponent fail to land a single shot, but he was a confirmed favourite of The Ring.
The Virginia ace had already lost to Jose Luis Ramirez back in March 1988, when he challenged for his first world title in just his 16th fight. But revenge was sweet 17 months later, a near shut-out to pick up the WBC to go with the IBF he had gained after becoming the first man to knockdown Greg Haugen along the way.
Whitaker was named The Ring's Fighter of the Year in 1989 and despite a change in ownership and the ending of their standard championship policy, he went on to be crowned their overall pound-for-pound best between 1993 and 1994.
Floyd Mayweather Jr
The new ownership of The Ring decided to give up on the fact that their belts were still highly-coveted and they lay dormant for more than a decade.
But the publication moved with the times in 2002 and who better to lead the way at the start of the millennium than a certain Floyd Mayweather Jr?
'Pretty Boy' as he was known back then, had already won world titles at featherweight and super-featherweight but when he stepped into the lightweight division with his first Ring title up for grabs, his closest shave and most controversial fight was a headline-maker.
Jose Luis Castillo pushed him all the way, his right glove touched the canvas, but the knockdown wasn't given and the rest is history. The WBC was his, the immediate rematch went all his own way, and as if to prove a point Mayweather remained The Ring lightweight champion for four more fights. He stepped up in weight to gain two more honours from the magazine at welterweight and even super-welterweight.
Jose Luis Castillo
Some sort of justice came Castillo's way once Mayweather had moved up a division as he became the latest Mexican to be crowned as The Ring supremo. In their bill-topping battle at the Mandalay Bay, he out-pointed Juan Lazcano to regain the WBC title and the Ring belt, establishing himself as the top man at 135lbs.
Castillo had won the magazine's Fight of the Year back in 2000 so it was no surprise he would keep hold of the recognition for almost a year, dealing with the talented but troublesome Joel Casemayor and the dogged Juan Diaz. But by May 2005, he was again in the headlines - and not just The Ring - for a fight that was both controversial and breathtaking.
If Fight of the Year was not enough, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo served up many people's favourite fight ever. 'Chico' brought the WBO strap to the Mandalay Bay table, reigning Ring champion Castillo his WBC, and for 10 unforgettable rounds they could have stood in the same belt, never mind a ring, in a brutal, blow-by-blow battle that will live long in the memory.
On the floor and with his gum shield missing twice, Corrales somehow produced a sensational win that neither him nor his foe would repeat. Castillo missed the weight for the immediate rematch as did Corrales when he was supposed to defend the WBC against Joel Casamayor. His Ring reign lasted 17 months, but stories galore came with it - and rightly so.
Corrales failed to make weight for his meeting with Casamayor and although there were none of the four world titles on the line, the Cuban did take The Ring title from him with a points win and also settled a cracking trilogy between them, 2-1.
But like his old enemy, Casamayor seemed never far from controversy - at least outside the boxing ring - and he was stripped of the WBC belt after signing to fight WBO boss Acelino Freitas in a rematch that most wanted to see.
He threatened the governing body with legal action but was re-instated only as their Interim champion with The Ring his one saving grace. He stopped Michael Katsidis in 10 rounds in his first fight since hitting the top and his Ring reign would last for almost two years.
Juan Manuel Marquez
When Juan Manuel Marquez stopped Joel Casamayor in the penultimate round to claim nothing but the prestige that comes with The Ring title, it was the latest chapter in a Mexican story that will go down in boxing folklore.
He's likely to be remembered for that three-knockdown first-round fight against Manny Pacquiao, all four fights against him or simply his non-stop style that had both fighters up and down. But people often overlook that he was the publication's best lightweight for the next four years.
Marquez moved up and down to face and lose to both Mayweather and Pacquiao during his reign, but did a characteristic double over Juan Diaz and climbed off the floor before stopping Michael Katsidis. He then officially moved up in April 2012, leaving what we are seeing more and more today, the Ring strap vacant.
Crawford ended a two-year gap in the Ring's lightweight calendar on October 11, 2014 when he schooled brave Raymond Beltran over 12 one-sided rounds to finally be recognised as the No 1 in the division.
'Bud' had not only ripped the WBO world title away from Ricky Burns earlier that year, he also became the first man to beat Yuriorkis Gamboa. But he was still not recognised as 135lbs king until that emotional win over Raymundo Beltranin in his own back yard of Omaha, Nebraska.
The elusive, switch-hitting trickster was not going to hang around and, by April 2015, he had not only moved up to super-lightweight but had become a two-weight world champion after picking up the vacant WBO title by stopping Thomas Dulorma in six.
Crucially for Crolla and British boxing fans, he left the coveted Ring lightweight title vacant. Linares is ranked No 2, Crolla is No 4 and the good old days of when the man has to beat the man have returned.
Watch Crolla v Linares and a packed undercard live on Sky Sports 2 from 7.30pm on Saturday.