Who Is the Champion?

By Robert Ecksel on November 6, 2012
Who Is the Champion?
Super champions and interim champions have successfully muddied already muddy waters.

The proliferation of sanctioning bodies, weight classes, and championship belts over the decades has watered down boxing to such an extent that some find it almost unrecognizable. Of course it’s still boxing. It could be mistaken for nothing else. But if you were to ask the guy on the street, or the guy sitting ringside, to name the heavyweight, middleweight, lightweight and welterweight champions, to name just a few, they’d as likely as not flee to the nearest tavern or talk about UFC.

There’s no immediate remedy; nor is there any long-term remedy. In fact, there’s no remedy at all. It is what is it and we can either grin and bear it or grimace and bear it, as the case may be.

In an attempt to clarify the convoluted inner workings of this untenable situation, the WBA’s Gilberto Mendoza explained, for want of a better word, the WBA’s position vis-à-vis having multiple champions at the same weight.

“In any decision we have sought the democratic participation of each representative that integrates the general assembly of the WBA. As leaders we seek to adhere to values and principles left by those wise former presidents who formed this organization. The managerial directive always seeks to preserve the heritage of the organization.”

As opening paragraphs go, that’s a good one. Mentioning the “wise former presidents” and the “heritage of the organization” speaks to the past, but sidestepping, at least initially, the old school verities that have made our sport great speaks to the present.

“The super champions and interims have always been conflicting and controversial issues. For all members of our organization, perhaps contrary to this thinking, these titles are a dynamic movement and response to the inflexibility of the commercial aspect of the sport. The criticism focuses on them as a way to get a double sanctioning fee. The reality is interim titleholders become new boxing stars and grow individually in countries other than those that dominate boxing.”

The whole business of super champions and interim champions has muddied already muddy waters. I’m not sure I know what “these titles are a dynamic movement and response to the inflexibility of the commercial aspect of the sport” means, but it sounds good and needs elaboration. Insofar as these watered-down titles creating new boxing stars, that may be so. But the stars are not supernovas. Maybe they’re red dwarfs.

“To mention an example, for Costa Rican Bryan Vasquez or Peruvian Luis Alberto Rossel, the recognition given by the WBA enables them to improve their quality of life and to be considered for large markets. If it were it not for their mandatory status, they would simply remain unknown. The super champion is another case which is more favorable to the powerful television networks, the pillars of activity, who hold exclusive contracts with boxing’s elite figures.”

So it all boils down to revenue, for the fighters, which is a good thing, while providing the networks with a potent marketing tool, “titleholders” who can be sold to an unsuspecting public.

“The flaws I see in the inter-organization relations. I refer to the relationship of the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF. We all need to forget the pettiness and focus on common goals.”

The last statement is the crux of the argument. If the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF can “forget the pettiness and focus on common goals,” things might indeed change for the better. But what is the likelihood of that? With self-interest serving as the coin of realm; when sanctioning bodies behave no better than the promoters with whom they’re aligned; when the only common goal is to trounce the competition, even at the expense of boxing itself; we have to ask how anyone can “forget the pettiness” when it seems like the pettiness is all around us.

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  1. Mike Casey 02:22am, 11/07/2012

    Very true, Dan! Thanks for the reference.

  2. jofre 10:12am, 11/06/2012

    BOXING SANCTIONING BODIES – A Brief Chronology and Rundown

    Reference: Herb Goldman, International Boxing Digest, January 1998



  3. jofre 10:03am, 11/06/2012

    It’s quite simple. SANCTIONING FEES! Nothing nobler than that. Sanctioning fees govern how the alphabet boys work. They don’t care about boxing or the fighters, all they care about is how much they can squeeze out of the fighters in sanctioning fees. When they can’t vacate a title because of injury or inactivity, they simply create another title belt in the same division.

  4. Mike Casey 08:18am, 11/06/2012

    Senor Mendoza’s PR has quite admirably passed an essential test of his profession - how to define the word ‘crap’ in not less than two hundred family friendly words.

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