For generations, boxing has had to defend itself, often against shallow, emotionally charged assaults based on a foundation of factual inaccuracy and rage. The argument has been maintained that boxing is brutal and inherently violent with a history strewn with corruption, gruesome injury and deaths.

The call for boxing?s ban had it?s origins in the 1880s and has been renewed again and again, despite the fact that the sport has progressed along measurable lines of improvement and has provided a healthy outlet, even escape, from inner city poverty for thousands of young men who had no place else to turn other than to lawlessness, and ultimately prison.

The call for a Federal Boxing Czar, advanced repeatedly by Nat Fleischer, founder of Ring Magazine and editor for over half a century, has recently been advanced by Senator John McCain of Arizona and may indeed be signed into law, bringing a long overdue governance and uniformity to boxing that may ultimately be it?s savior.

Yet those who savage boxing have rested their arguments on very thin reeds. Ring fatalities are given extraordinary attention in the media, yet truth be told, they are relatively far and few between. Yet who can forget Emile Griffith battering Benny "Kid" Paret into helplessness while Ruby Goldstein inexplicably refused to intervene. Or the fatal battering sustained by Duk Koo Kim at the hands of Lenny "Boom Boom" Mancini. Almost all ring fatalities are avoidable, and the absence of a national standard that can be applied to bouts from Miami Beach to Spokane. The competency of the third man in the ring must be beyond dispute and, tragically, this has often not been the case.

The result has been changes applied to boxing that appease it?s critics. With the absence of a national commission to govern the sport, the Sweet Science has had to enact rule changes that ate away at the core of boxing?s historical appeal. One such change was the abolishment of the 15 round championship bout. Since 1987 the championship distance has been reduced to 12 rounds, the end result has been the dilution of boxing. Have there been ring thrills in title contests since then? Yes! Has there been one single championship bout, in any weight class, that merits being called great? No!

Rounds 13 through 15 are the championship rounds. They are the rounds where championships are won, and where pretenders are exposed. They are rounds of extraordinary thrills, of championship heart and courage. These are the rounds where greatness is showcased, and if the title changes hands it does so on merit.

We are going to visit four great championship bouts in the 20th century. Bouts where, in accordance with today?s rules, the title would have changed hands after 12 rounds.

Yet these were 15 round bouts, and they have left boxing an enduring legacy of which it can be proud. Had they been 12 rounds bouts, some of the greatest moments in sports would never have occurred.

#1. Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn, June 18, 1941.

Louis? 18th championship defense against Light Heavyweight Titleholder Billy Conn saw Joe?s Heavyweight Crown teeter precariously as Conn out boxed and out punched the Brown Bomber in rounds 10 through 12, staggering Louis badly in the 12th session. Although Joe?s powerful left jab and short, powerful right leads often found the target he appeared befuddled by the wiry, fearless Conn. After the Champion appeared to forge into control by given Billy a thorough going over in rounds five and six the determined Irishman put on an amazing boxing exhibition as the contest wore into the later rounds.

After 12 sessions Conn was leading on all three scorecards, needing to capture only one of the remaining three heats to upset the great Louis and take the heavyweight crown. Yet Billy felt it was beneath him to win the heavyweight championship of the world on points. He had to stop Louis and came out punching in the 13th round. He went toe to toe with the Brown Bomber, out punched Joe for two thirds of the round until he ran into a Louis short right that traveled less than six inches. A dozen blows later Conn was down and out and Joe retained the crown.

Had Louis-Conn been a twelve round bout, Billy would have captured the title on points and one of the most epic moments in sports history would have been lost.

#2. Marvin Hagler vs. Sugar Ray Leonard, April 6, 1987.

When Sugar Ray Leonard came out of retirement to challenge the great World Middleweight Champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler, many thought the great Olympic and former Welterweight Champion had made a dangerous mistake. His damaged optic still vulnerable, Leonard seemed destined for a brutal knockout loss to the powerful Hagler, who had dispatched contender after contender during his seven year reign.

However, Leonard, a cerebral fighter, was a master of psychology as well as ring generalship and he avoided Hagler?s heavy artillery round after round. The bout was close yet Leonard would flurry in the final thirty seconds of practically every round.

Hagler scored heavily at times and Ray seemed to be tiring badly as the bout entered the final sessions. Yet Leonard?s tactics worked perfectly and after twelve rounds he earned a majority decision, and literally stole Hagler?s crown.

Leonard?s victory was astonishing, yet there was little doubt that Halger had more in the tank than Ray and, had the bout went the championship 15, the Middleweight King would have probably stopped Leonard, or at least captured the remaining rounds to retain the championship.

#3. Emile Griffith vs. Joey Archer, July 13, 1966.

Emile Griffith was a borderline great champion. Skilled and resilient with an enormous fighting heart, he held both the Welterweight and Middleweight championships during the 1960s. Never a power puncher, his knockout victory of Benny "Kid" Paret in 1961 resulted in fatal head injuries for Paret. After that tragedy, knockout victory?s were far and few between for Emile. He was a fine champion and two of his finest performances were defenses of his Middleweight championship against the number one ranked contender, Irish Joey Archer, in 1966 and 1967. In their first contest Archer, a classic stylist who was very hard to reach, outboxed Griffith over the first dozen rounds of their title bout. Parrying, using his jab beautifully and staying out of Emile? s range in most of the round, Archer seemed clearly en route to a points victory and the Middleweight crown. However, rounds 13 through 15, the championship rounds, always belonged to Emile. He wore the Irishman down, edged past him over the final two sessions and won a very narrow decision. Their second bout was a carbon copy, with the Champion again prevailing.

Had the twelve round limit been in effect, Archer would have triumphed both times!

#4. Rocky Marciano vs. Ezzard Charles, June 17, 1954.

The great Brockton Blockbuster made the third defense of his World Heavyweight Championship against the Cincinnati Cobra, former titleholder Ezzard Charles. A solid favorite to stop the faded Charles, Marciano instead found himself pounded by the former champion over the first ten rounds. Charles cut the Rock badly, rocked him back on his heels time and again, and took five of the first six rounds. Although Rocky rallied over the middle rounds, Charles held sway in the bout and seem on his way to becoming the first former champion to regain the heavyweight crown. After twelve rounds Charles held the points lead and needed another round, perhaps two, to secure the upset victory.

However, the Rock began to walk through Charles. Fighting three non stop minutes of every round he rocked the ex champion, smashed his face, staggered him repeatedly and forged ahead in the bout, earning a close yet unanimous verdict over Charles.

After 12 rounds, the verdict would have belonged to Charles, and Rocky?s mantra as the only undefeated heavyweight champion would never have been.

Those are four examples. There are dozens more. Boxing is inherently violent. So is football. So is Ice Hockey. There are more fatalities in auto racing than in the ring. Football is four quarters, hockey is three periods.

A championship bout is 15 rounds! It was the 15-round limit that provided the greatest moments in ring history. For boxing to be great again, it must be restored!