Boxing is one of the most convoluted cultures in sports. With four alphabet organizations –the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF–generally accepted as the sport’s major sanctioning bodies, another one hoping to become the fifth someday soon (IBO), The Ring magazine crowning their own world champions and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) doing the same thing in a slightly more strict manner, boxing is just plain hard to understand and follow.
Part of my job with Gambling.com is explaining how boxing works and why things came to be that way. So when the chance came to interview the person I consider to be the best boxing writer in the world today–the cofounder of the TBRB, Springs Toledo–I jumped at the opportunity.
Here are all of Toledo’s words exclusively made available to our great readers here at NYFights.com.
NYFights.com: Why does the TBRB exist?
Springs Toledo: It was founded on the premise that boxing, if it is going to ever become a rational sport, needs to have a rankings board that is unanswerable to any of the sport's power-brokers and that it needs a system that is based on common sense -namely the idea that the world champion in any given division can only be singular and the obvious point that only a contest between the top two contenders crowns said champion under an open throne. It needs to have objective, merit-based rankings because without it, it's not possible to have a system that can identify the rightful champion. What we have now are several little fiefdoms more or less appointing champions based on popularity and purse-sizes. Worse than that, we have too many fans and nearly all the writers following their edicts as if they weren't insane. There are seven so-called champions in the super middleweight division alone. That's laughable, but not funny.
NYFights.com: Does the TBRB track “lineal” champions?
Springs Toledo: The “lineal” champion doesn't quite mean what many think it means. It isn't whomever The Ring tells you is the champion and it isn't necessarily the champions identified by the Transnational Rankings Board either. The line is often broken due to retirement and abdication, which means that Tyson Fury is the “lineal heavyweight champion” but he is not the current champion because he abdicated. Any rankings system that keeps the seat warm when a champion retires or abdicates is not rational. Now, if Anthony Joshua fights Deontay Wilder anytime soon, that will be a fight between #1 and #2 and the official winner becomes the true divisional heavyweight champion. Fury may be the lineal champion but you see how that is more of an honorary title. There is no need to get hung up on “lineal champions” any longer because boxing has a system that makes perfect sense.
NYFights.com: How is the TBRB different from THE RING?
Springs Toledo: First and foremost, we are not owned by a promotional entity. To be sure, I would not accuse The Ring of loading the upper echelon of their ratings with Golden Boy fighters, but the fact remains that there is a clear and undeniable conflict of interest there, regardless of good intentions.
While they have backed off of the 2012 policy change that allowed not only #1 vs. #3 but also #2 vs. #5, The Ring has just decided that George Groves vs. Callum Smith will decide their next super middleweight champion. They have Groves at #1 and Smith at #3 and so are skipping over their #2 -Gilberto Ramirez. It will therefore not be a contest between the two best contenders in the division, which, if boxing's sanctioning bodies didn't routinely make clownish calls, would be a cause for real concern in the sport. Groves is #1 in the Transnational Super-Middleweight Rankings but Smith is #8. As far as we're concerned, Groves will have to overcome Gilberto Ramirez -who is #2- to become the division king. To leave him out in the cold, is a real head-scratcher and, I think, unfair to him. Did he or did he not earn that #2 rating?
NYFights.com: How would you rate the progress the TBRB has made over the last six years? Has it gained traction in the boxing community?
Springs Toledo: It is the go-to rankings for purists and what I call ‘thinking fans’ all around the world. It has been referenced by The New Yorker, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Grantland.com, The Daily News, even the Kiev Post. Many websites carry our rankings but again, we never expected a revolution where boxing -as irrational as it is and as it has been for fifty years- would see a sudden reversal when so many of its insiders are throroughly invested in continuing the confusion. If boxing ever becomes rational -meaning if it once again recognizes that a divisional world champion can only be singular- then we'll be around to provide a framework.
NYFights.com: Why doesn't the TBRB give out actual belts? Does it ever plan to do that?
Springs Toledo: Because we've pulled in a grand total of $0.00 in the five and half years since we began. We don't plan to ever be able to afford belts and we have no desire to stick our hands in a fighter's pocket either.
NYFights.com: How are people selected to be on the voting panel?
Springs Toledo: Writers, boxing historians, record-keepers, and commentators who have no compromising connections to managers, promoters, fighters, etc., are invited to contact us if they are interested and hold the same or similar values. We are always looking to beef up our non-American membership. At times, a member will let us know of someone who may work out well as a member and we'll make enquiries.
NYFights.com: Where do you see the TBRB in 10 years?
Springs Toledo: Who knows? We just do what we can week by week.
NYFights.com: How can people support the TBRB?
Springs Toledo: Spread the word on social media. Have a drink at the pub and when someone tries to tell you that so-and-so is the world champion, check to see where so-and-so is ranked on TBRB.com. If he is a contender, straighten that person out; illuminate for them the difference between a champion and a contender. Quote Public Enemy and tell them “don't believe the hype.” Tell them that boxing is beautiful inside the ropes but outside the ropes it's Alice in Wonderland.