Boxing is not dead, but it is terminally ill. Thankfully, there is time to give the sport some chemotherapy before it becomes irrelevant for good. However, like cancer, multiple stages of issues are plaguing the sport and draining its fanbase. Boxing has always been flawed. However, during its prime, the most prominent names, like Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr., were still able to fight consistently, albeit some of their bouts weren’t exactly what fans were clamoring for at the time. Nonetheless, they were in the ring.
We touched on inactivity several months ago and will not continue down that route. Besides, nothing has changed. In fact, it has gotten worse. We were told last November that a deal had been struck for a fight between Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Ryan Garcia. Truthfully, I was informed leading up to the Jose Zepeda-Regis Prograis Pay-Per-View event in Carson, California, that they were far away from the consummation of a deal. The specific term that was provided was “fake announcement.” Nearly three months later, we still have no fight, and the boxing schedule for the year is as bare as the Gila River. It’s drier than a British romantic novel.
On that note, let’s move up the hierarchy of the list of complaints about boxing. In today’s monotonous diatribe, we will enter the world of watered-down belts and useless sanctioning bodies. 17 weight classes currently operate under the four-belt system. Therefore, there is the potential for 68 separate championships.
For instance, imagine talking to a casual fan and trying to teach them about the WBA’s championship pecking order.
“Ah, I like this fighter because he’s the WBA Regular world champion.”
“Well, he isn’t actually the champion.
“What? What do you mean? It says he’s the champion.
“Well, in the WBA landscape, the Regular champion is not considered the top fighter in that respective weight class. That designation belongs to the “Super” champion.”
That’s just one headache. The other sanctioning bodies — the IBF, the WBC and the WBO — all have legitimate belts and not-so-legitimate titles, which are often glamorized as the real thing. To boot, each organization creates its own rankings and designates someone as a mandatory challenger. The champion in each weight division, in some cases, is required to make one mandatory defense a year or be stripped.
There are some exceptions. Hypothetically speaking, the WBC champion could be approaching the deadline to face his mandatory. They could request an exemption to face the WBO champion for a possible unification fight. The sanctioning body can also put its foot down and turn down a proposition for basically any reason.
Why Should Bivol Not Fight Beterbiev?
Now for a real-life example. WBA “Super” light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol wants to fight IBF/WBC/WBO champion Artur Beterbiev for 175-pound supremacy. WBC head Mauricio Sulaiman says no — for now — because Bivol is Russian, and that will surely make Vladimir Putin quiver at night—the audacity. Meanwhile, Beterbiev, his champion, was born in Russia. However, the difference maker for Sulaiman is that Beterbiev is a legal resident of Canada. This is nothing more than flagrant idiocy and possibly the worst excuse for blocking an undisputed championship fight.
Bivol is not funded nor managed or associated with the Russian government. He lives in California. However, WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury was previously advised by an alleged crime boss in Daniel Kinahan, whose gang was sanctioned by the U.S. government last year, which included a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. You know, the same guy accused of murder and drug smuggling. No big deal. You can represent us. We’re proud to be on your team. But, ahem, Mr. Bivol, you’re from a country that is led by a murderous sociopath. I’m afraid you’re going to have to get back in line and send us an official letter stating why we should give you a shot at the undisputed championship. It’s laughable.
Sanctioning Bodies Too Often The Problem Not the Solution
The problem isn’t simply that there are too many belts; it’s the people in charge of these sanctioning bodies and how they decide who can fight for the belt. We are too fixated on politics and not on boxing. Tyson Fury is undoubtedly the best heavyweight on the planet, yet he’s not among those rated in the IBF, WBA or WBO, where Oleksandr Usyk holds the belts. So, you’re telling me Deontay Wilder is rated in three of the four sanctioning bodies, but the guy that arguably beat him three times, including consecutive knockouts, is rated in just one? It doesn’t make sense.
We always hear about the top 15. Fight a guy in the top 15. We're setting the bar too low. We need to reevaluate the rankings for every weight class across every sanctioning body and scale it down to the top five. However, these rankings need to be done accurately. That means no way Filip Hrgovic gets a title shot against Usyk for beating a guy who was ranked outside the top 10.
Here Are Some Ideas To Improve Boxing
Bob Arum told Michael Woods that there are good things going for boxing right now. Bless Bob for his optimism. Nah, we need help. Each champion should be required to defend their title(s) against a fighter ranked no less than fifth. They must also defend their championship against a top-two challenger every 13 months. This means Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford would be stripped for not fighting one another, opening the door for guys like Vergil Ortiz Jr., Jaron “Boots” Ennis, and Eimantas Stanionis to stake their claim in the legacy of the welterweight division. Furthermore, no more being inactive for 18 months and keeping your belt. Should you choose to remain on the sidelines, your belt will disappear.
Boxing is a business, and business stinks right now. So instead of inactivity and unworthy championship fights, many undefeated records will go by the wayside. That's not a bad thing. Minus the lousy pay, we need to Dana White this horse. Everyone should be fighting the best; we always hear it, but it's not applied very often. If this method is followed, it would serve as a moment of truth for boxing fans worldwide, as to who is truly the “Big Fish.”
As the great Larry Merchant once said, “Nothing's going to kill boxing, and nothing's going to save it.”
The golden days of boxing are over, and the sport has too many players for it to go back to the way it used to be. However, as long as we aren't at a complete standstill, I suppose that's better than nothing.