Fox in the Hen House

By Mohummad Humza Elahi on December 17, 2013
Fox in the Hen House
The World Boxing Council (WBC) spun this fan frustration into two notable incidents.

The fox really does run the hen house and if the fighters, promoters and fans protested then maybe the chickens will come home to roost…

“From now on, nothing goes down unless I’m involved. No blackjack, no dope deals, no nothing. A nickel bag gets sold in the park, I want in.”—Frank White, King of New York

After a night of high drama in Manchester, England, I had to settle down and get stuck into the not so glamorous business of studying for a professional qualification exam. Books on statistics, corporate finance, equity and fixed income investments bored me to absolute tears as I sat resolutely finishing one practice exam after another. But there was one area that is interesting to some, gospel to others and impacts our world every second of every day; whether we’re aware or not, it has publicly and irrevocably changed courses of history from the earliest and most ancient of times.


The boom, the bust, the engine of capitalism, the philosophy of creating, destroying, distributing and hoarding wealth, the machine of which we are mere cogs and the driver of innovation, supply and demand, profits and fat cat bonuses. Economics and the power of the dollar, pound, rupee and rand have infiltrated every aspect of our civilizations. And its influence on boxing is no different, but that doesn’t need to be stated.

Big fights mean big money. Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s ascent to the top of the pile is nothing short of a staggering display of Machiavellian proportions. Tough in the ring, tough at the negotiating table is the way top stars in the sport and their promoters make sure they benefit from the zero sum game that is the modern media spectacle of a pay-per-view. The hype is built, the t-shirts and tickets are sold and we go all in for a night of pugilistic endeavor. The fighters work for their pay as do the referees, the judges at ringside and the media pundits. The fans get a show and someone earns a buck switching off the lights after it’s all ends, ready for another go round in a few months.

But this wasn’t my original, intended focus. My first thought was to write about how we could find a way, somehow, against the odds, to arrive at a fruitful middle ground where boundaries between promoters and broadcast channels melted away to bring us, the fans, the fights we wanted to see. Reasonable, right? The logic here is that if those involved in the actual fight and promoting of such fights can reach a hard fought compromise, we could finally move forward and get past this whole sorry saga. That the sanctioning bodies would make sure that all the particulars of the fight are met and we finally get those dream matchups going.


The World Boxing Council (WBC), however, spun this fan frustration into two notable incidents. Earlier this year, it ranked Amir Khan at #2 in the welterweight division despite him never having fought at the weight. The announcement was scoffed at by most people and the decision was reversed a few months later. The latest headline by the WBC was to name Manny Pacquiao as Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s mandatory challenger, which was greeted with a more cautious optimism; past their primes or not, the fight is the biggest in boxing right now and would be a global event reminiscent of the ‘60s heavyweight golden era. This got the gears in the old noggin’ turning. The WBC makes these announcements, but where were the World Boxing Organization (WBO), World Boxing Association (WBA) or even the International Boxing Federation (IBF) on the issue? Why was the WBC the only organization making moves like this? Surely they will just get their sanctioning fee and be done with it?

Not quite.

We all know that the reason that there are so many organizations, so many belts, interim champions, linear champions, regular champions, diamond, silver, gold and everything in between is so that these bodies, the bodies that are supposed to be a regulatory authority in the sport, can make some money from the historicity and prestige of their titles. Indeed, to be recognized as the best, there has to be a prize, right?  To hold a coveted title is one of the key drivers in competitive sport in general and boxing trumps them all.

“So what?” is the usual reply. It’s so ingrained and woven into the fabric of the sport that it’s seen as part and parcel of the fight game. The alphabet soup bodies want some cash and get tickets to the party, we all get it. But here’s the game-changer from the WBC and when I read it, I had to re-read it to make sure I understood exactly what legal obligation a regulatory body, owner and creator of their rules and procedures, where requesting from the participants in their championship bouts:

Article 7, Section 7.1b) from the World Boxing Council Rules

Emphasis mine:

“Boxers’ Bout Fees: For each WBC championship and elimination contest, each participating boxer must pay three percent (3.0%) of all gross amounts received by the boxer relating to the bout, including but not limited to compensation derived from pay-per-view, cable or satellite transmission, television broadcast, or internet distribution, merchandising, concessions, sponsorships, shared promotional fees (in cases in which the boxer is promoter or co-promoter), or otherwise, including amounts calculated and paid following the contest.

The gross amount upon which the sanction fee is based includes all sums of money paid from all national or international sources, is not limited to guaranteed amounts or minimum amounts stated in bout contracts, and includes sums retained by the promoter(s) as his (their) promotional fees, as well as any amounts payable by the boxer to his manager, trainers, or any other party.

On gross compensation up to US$100,000, a minimum of US$3,000.00 shall be due from a world champion, and US$1,000.00 shall be due from any world challenger or contender in a world title elimination bout. In the event of a vacant world title, a minimum of US$2,000.00 shall be due from each boxer.”

That’s right. If a hot dog is sold outside the venue and that particular concession was there because it was granted a stall due to the fight, the WBC wants a 6% cut. T-shirts? Cuddly toys? Pacquiao action figures? The WBC wants IN. The money you want to pay your trainer, who stood side by side motivating and preparing you for months? The WBC wants a piece of that action. The WBO and WBA have limits on the monies they can make for sanctioning a fight, which keeps their interests more neutral and enables them to act fairer as they cannot gain any further economically.

Now it all makes sense.

The bigger the fight the WBC can sanction the more money they make. An uncapped revenue stream for their championship titles certainly explains how they could afford to commission a solid gold belt for the winner of the Mayweather-Alvarez fight. I’m actually shocked. I thought fighters were bad in their picking and choosing. I thought promoters were bad because they wanted to keep their money in-house and protect their investments. But a sanctioning body? A regulator of the sport that has a vested interest in seeing particular fights happen, even if that means manipulating their rankings to do it? I’m aware that this could be seen as libelous; accusations of corruption are incredibly serious but I see no other conclusion given their own stated ratings principles (in the same document) admits that they are “largely subjective” and their criteria include such points as “style,” “decisiveness of victories” and “losses in controversial decisions.” Losses in controversial decisions? It’s what the WBC is there to eliminate! How on Allah’s blessed land can a sanctioning body, created to regulate and enforce the rules of the sport have a criterion that acknowledges its incapacity to fairly and consistently judge championship prizefights?

That’s not to let the other bodies get off lightly, but at least the WBA has a semblance of a points ranking system and both have clear rules on how their sanctioning fees are calculated, but to demand a cut of Little Bobby’s ice cream? It’s absurd and dangerous to the health of boxing. 

Although this is well known in insider circles and those who have to abide by the rules every day, I’m not sure how aware the fans are on the issue. Let’s be honest, I don’t think anyone really has the time or inclination to trawl through pages of legal jargon to understand the intricacies of it all. But it’s staggering that this isn’t more widely discussed and acknowledged.

And this is where we circle back to the principles of supply and demand. It seems that nothing can escape the all-encompassing shadow of the Big Buck and now that it drives the heart of the WBC, I’m wondering just what it will take to turn the situation around. For me, the WBA rankings now hold the most weight and I’ll see them as a fairer reflection of who should be given a title shot. The WBO and IBF should follow in quick succession and as for the WBC; well, the fox really does run the hen house and if the fighters, promoters and fans protested then maybe the chickens will come home to roost.

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  1. Pete The Sneak 06:14am, 12/18/2013

    Man, o man…That’s incredible food for thought there Mohummad. I knew that the WBC (Worst Boxing Crooks) and Jose ( I Sully the ground I walk on) Sulaiman were raking the fighters, but I never knew they were also ripping off and demanding sanctioning fees for everything from the beer salesperson to the Corona girls during a WBC sanctioned event…Yeah, I would say this definitely bears some additional scrutiny..Some nice research Mohummad…Peace.

  2. Mohummad Humza Elahi 01:59am, 12/18/2013

    @Irish Possibly, I guess I wanted to encapsulate the idea more than anything, but I definitely get your point!
    @No10Point All the rules and regulations for the bodies are on their websites, I did hyperlink them but must’ve been lost when posted but here they are:
    WBC -
    WBO -
    WBA -
    IBF - The Rules tab brings up the different sections
    @peter Not sure what happened to Tony Collins, I know that him and the rest of the Collins Brothers gave it up a few years back, might be worth an investigation!

    And I have to give it to our “Fearless Editor”, no matter how obscure the title, the picture is always perfect!

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:18pm, 12/17/2013

    Mohummad Humza Elahi-Great research….great report….not so great analogy. A better example of a “fox in the hen house” would be Carlos Slim who shares Sulaiman’s ethnic heritage and preposterously became the richest man in the world, in a veritable Third World Country, Mexico. In my view,  Jose Sulaiman would be more like a fox in his own den (WBC) right beneath a hen house with missing flooring boards..

  4. peter 05:13pm, 12/17/2013

    Good article…This is a bit off the subject, but what is Tony Collins, the former middleweight, doing now? Any news?

  5. No10Point 04:29pm, 12/17/2013

    Side note - (as I cant find a link to email the author)
    I have tried to find copies of ALL the organizations Rules, Regulations, and Penalties in regards to a fight. The one’s I have found all said the same thing. synopsis : “if a fighters entourage, including corner men, enter the ring any time during a bout. Said fighter is automatically disqualified”.
    Case in point Molina Vs Kirkland.

    I had known this for along time.
    Makes perfect safety since.

    I never understood how Zab Judah could be fined and suspended because Roger Mayweather, Floyd Jr’s trainer, jumped into the ring and assaulted Judah. I’m not saying Judah should have returned said attack
    but was in his right to do so. I’m not saying he didn’t low blow. But that is for the ref to take a point.  The fight should have ended right when Roger jumped into the ring. Jr should have DQ’d…




  6. raxman 03:31pm, 12/17/2013

    wow. and yet it seems to me that some many of the fighters seem to hold the WBC title as the one they most covet. Floyd’s titles are almost exclusively WBC - and given how much bigger he is than any title I wonder why he would put up with such heavy sanction fees.
    personally I think the titles today are completely irrelevant and I can’t believe more fighters don’t just give up on them altogether.  Floyd’s fights don’t need belts. does it matter what titles were on the line when JMM fought Pac? or Rios vs Alvardo? the very notion of being world champion at anything is that you are the best in the world - with 4 major titles that can’t be claimed in any definitive way anymore so why bother

  7. No10Point 02:41pm, 12/17/2013

    Great article.
    I hadn’t heard about this. Makes even more since why Vitali retired.
    That it’s easier to deal with the BS of politics than boxing.

    This is as bad, if not worse, than allowing Golden Boy to
    buy Ring Magazine. Not a conflict of interest there either.


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