At one time, the heavyweight champion would be a sleekly muscled boxer able to move around the ring with grace. Think of Muhammad Ali and the way he could stick and move.
These days, the plodding fighters of the heavyweight class are more apt to be stuck and immobile.
On Saturday night at New York's Madison Square Garden, eight fighters who are considered to be among the best heavyweights in boxing will meet on a Don King-promoted card.
The show has been billed "Rendezvous With Destiny: Battle for Supremacy," but boxing historian Bert Sugar calls it "Deja Who? Another struggle in mediocrity."
"Of all the fighters on the card, Evander Holyfield's the most recognized," Sugar said. "And the man is 42 years old, so what does that tell you?"
It tells us that this batch of heavyweights is an uninspiring bunch. But why?
Trainer Thell Torrence attributes their plight to poor instruction: Heavyweights push the jab instead of firing it. They have forsaken the body attack. They lack the energy to sustain combinations.
"The proper techniques simply are not being taught, and fighters aren't being trained like fighters," said Torrence, 68, who has trained former Olympic gold medalist Audley Harrison and will be in Baltimore heavyweight Hasim Rahman's corner on Saturday night. "In this business, you can count the real fundamentalists - the real teachers - on one hand."
Sugar said: "The great trainers of heavyweights, with rare exception, are no longer here. The last of the generation were guys like Angelo Dundee [Ali], George Benton [formerly with Holyfield] and Eddie Futch," whose world champions included Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Riddick Bowe, Ken Norton and Tony Tubbs.
Torrence and Dundee say the lure of the big payday often comes at the expense of patiently developing a fighter.
"A lot of it has to do with pace," said Torrence, who also has worked with Bowe, Tubbs and Norton. "We want to find the next big [heavyweight], but we tend to rush them and not teach them. It takes awhile to develop a good heavyweight."
Dundee, 82, said athleticism is too often emphasized over technique. He sees many of today's crop simply as being too big and too inactive.
"The muscles don't get you there. You can't be a bulked-up weightlifter and be a fighter because the muscles demand oxygen and the body can't handle the work, the drudgery," Dundee said.
"The fighter's got to be smooth and loose, has to have balance, reflexes and train like a fighter. Many of today's heavyweights don't have the right combination of those things."
Those factors are why Dundee says fighters like Holyfield, who's 6 feet 2 and about 220 pounds, still can outwork, outwit and outmaneuver larger rivals despite his advancing age.
"The best heavyweights came from middleweight, light heavyweight. They added weight and retained their speed," Dundee said.
"A lot of the big guys don't take good punishment. They're in there to land that one, big shot, and you can just get in there and outhustle them," said Holyfield, who fought 6-5, 247-pound Lennox Lewis to a draw and a narrow decision loss.
"Lennox was good at using his height, fighting from a distance and outpointing you. But a lot of the other guys don't like to fight that way. A lot of them, not all of them, are lazy. You can lull them into a battle where you can beat them to the punch."
Sugar points to former middleweight Roy Jones, who defeated then-World Boxing Association champion John Ruiz, and former middleweight James Toney, who has KO'd Holyfield.
"Marciano was 189; Joe Louis was 204; Joe Frazier was 208 when he fought Ali [who was 215]. At one time, Ali was 6-2, 224 pounds near his prime, which was thought to be massive," Sugar said.
Said Torrence: "Sometimes you gamble before a fighter is ready, and their confidence is lost. It takes awhile to develop a fighter."
Dundee cites the lure of lucrative contracts from agents as being a distraction to many developing amateurs' focus. Dundee was incensed while watching the Olympics this summer, when American heavyweight Jason Estrada, after losing a fight, acknowledged being more focused on signing a professional contract than winning.
"Money ruined his competitiveness," said Dundee, whose sentiment is supported by Torrence.
"Sometimes, amateur trainers are good teachers," Torrence said. "But as soon as the kid gets good, they want to turn professional and they can get gobbled up."
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
When: Saturday night
TV: Pay per view, 9 p.m.
Saturday's cardTitle bouts
John Ruiz (40-5-1, 28 KOs), Boston, vs. Andrew Golota (38-4-1, 31 KOs), Chicago, for Ruiz's World Boxing Association crown.
Chris Byrd (37-2-1, 20 KOs), Flint, Mich., vs. Jameel McCline (31-3-3, 19 KOs), Clifton, N.J., for Byrd's International Boxing Federation crown.
Hasim Rahman (39-5-1, 32 KOs), Baltimore, vs. Kali Meehan (29-2, 23 KOs), Australia.
Evander Holyfield (38-7-2, 25 KOs), Atlanta, vs. Larry Donald (41-3-2, 24 KOs), Cincinnati.