For any aspiring young boxer his ultimate goal is to hopefully become a world champion, some may never get beyond domestic or regional level and are happy to remain at the level they are on, some might be happy becoming a journeyman, yet some will break away from the rest and start challenging for world honours, the “cream,” as they say, “will rise to the top.”
Without wishing to bore you of tales of yesteryear, my now departed granddad, could name you every world champion in every weight division from the 50s and 60s, but if you check back the history books that era of one champion simply didn’t exist either.
However, this issue of proliferation of titles is hardly new, as any boxing history buff will tell you, especially if you go back earlier in history than the 1950s. Just over 100 years ago you had a “coloured world champion” and “white world champions”, boxing associations in America, Europe and Britain all sanctioned “world” title bouts, the IBU title, a forerunner for the European Boxing Union, was at one point considered a “world title” until the Second World War and the Nazis and Fascists took control of Europe.
Today, we have four “legitimate” world sanctioning bodies; WBA, WBC, IBF & the WBO, however there is also a labyrinth of other sanctioning bodies who profess to tell us that their titles are also “world titles.” Such bodies like the IBO, WBF, WBB, UBO, WBU etc. the list is practically endless.
At the time of writing, there are currently 84 titles spread over the four quarters of the globe, these titles are split between the four main bodies, some are classed as super champions, others as regular champions, interim champions and at least one fighter is a unified world champion.
Make sense? Well things are about to get complicated. For starters let us leave two of the sanctioning bodies to one side; the WBO & IBF, who to be fair, do seem to be sticking to their own rules. The WBC is hardly stellar when it comes to enforcing their own rules fairly but we can touch on them later. What has prompted this article or rant, choose whichever you think it is, is a company based in Panama; the oldest sanctioning body around the World Boxing Association (previously known as the National Boxing Association) and their decision to sanction the recently announced Martin Murray vs. Jarrod Fletcher fight in Monaco in February 2014.
Of the 84 titles currently in circulation, 33 of those titles currently belong to the WBA in different formats such as Super champion, Regular champion and Interim champion. However, this could very well have changed by the time this article is published.
Some of the most respected figures in boxing have a hard time trying to understand this complex situation. I have tried my damndest to get my head around it also. I have in the last two years also entered into dialogue with the WBA’s vice president, Gilberto Mendoza Jnr and have yet to receive any sort of satisfactory response and until the last few months all dialogue has since stopped, email addresses that were previously in active use all of a sudden are no longer in operation.
The situation the WBA have created is tenuous. In the super bantamweight division Guillermo Rigondeaux entered into his fight with Nonito Donaire as the WBA “Regular” champion. Donaire entered the same contest as the WBO champion. Rigondeaux won a 12 round decision thereby unifying the WBA “Regular” title with the WBO title.
Are you keeping up? Good, because it now starts getting complicated. As a result of Rigondeaux beating Donaire the WBA “upgraded” Rigondeaux up to WBA “Super” champion because he had unified their title with another sanctioning body. Now WBA rules clearly state, “if a President and Committee designate a Super Champion, the vacant regular title need not be filled.”
Taking this into account why did the WBA quickly arrange for the then vacant “Regular” title to be, ultimately, posted by Fedex to Scott Quigg prior to his fight with the highest ranked contender Yoandris Salinas?
Ultimately Quigg drew with Salinas which saw the English fighter hold on to his “title”, however does Quigg deserve to be allowed to call himself a “world champion” even though he never won the title in the ring when in fact it was posted to him? The hardcore fan certainly doesn’t regard Quigg as a proper world champion.
Why does the division also have a WBA interim champion in the name of Nehomar Cermeno?
Are you still keeping up with me? Now my understanding, and I’m willing to be corrected, but an interim title is meant to be a title that was created when a particular world champion was unable to defend the true title because of medical or legal issues beyond the fighter’s control.
Unless I fell asleep for months on end but hasn’t Rigondeaux been defending his title? Of course he has, so why the need to create another two titles from the same sanctioning body in the same division? The simple answer is…money!
Sadly the super bantamweight division isn’t the only division affected with such a preposterous situation. Only recently the very inactive WBA “Regular” light heavyweight champion, Beibut Shumenov was “upgraded” to “Super” champion, a nice wee “promotion” for your inactivity.
So what happened to the “Regular” title? That’s right, earlier that same evening that Shumenov defended his “Super” title, the two highest ranked contenders in the light heavyweight division with the WBA faced off with Juergen Braehmer defeating Marcus Oliveira by decision to become the “Regular” champion. Presently there is no interim champion.
At super middleweight the “Super” champion is Andre Ward. Carl Froch, who unified his IBF title with the WBA “Regular” title against Mikkel Kessler, is currently classed as “World Unified champion” by the WBA, and to top it off, the division also has an interim champion, Stanyslav Kashtanov from the Ukraine.
The light welterweight division sees Danny Garcia, Khabib Allakhverdiev and Johan Perez hold the super, regular and interim titles respectively.
The featherweight division sees Simpiwe Vetyeka, Nicholas Walters and Jesus Cuellar hold the super, regular and interim titles respectively.
In the flyweight and light flyweight divisions all three titles are also occupied, all title holders are active, however at least two of those belt holders have since moved up in weight and will be vacating their titles at some point.
We all know boxing is a business but shouldn’t a fighter being aiming to fight and beat the best man in division or that organisations title holder? That is how you become a champion beat the man that actually holds the belt, instead of having titles created for you.
The WBA has recently decided to upgrade their middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin to “Super” champion whilst immediately calling for their interim champion Martin Murray to face off against the number 3 ranked contender Jarrod Fletcher for the “Regular” title.
I’m not going to knock Murray for taking the opportunity or his promoter for putting his fighter in line for a title shot, but why create a title for Murray when he had the opportunity to face Golovkin?
Murray was/is the interim champion, he is meant to be the next line for a shot at Golovkin, but instead he is given the opportunity to face a lesser opponent in order that he can become a “world” champion.
With the greatest respect to Jarrod Fletcher, he was blown out in two rounds by a 14 fight novice in Billy Joe Saunders then 5 victories later he is ranked number 3 with the WBA, this is hardly the record of a fighter that is deserving of a supposed “world title” shot.
Whether Martin Murray has avoided the Golovkin fight isn’t really the issue here but the conduct sanctioning body is most certainly the issue.
A few years back the then “Super” champion, Felix Sturm kept applying to the WBA for a waiver on his mandatory defence against Golovkin. The WBA granted his request before Sturm lost his title to Daniel Geale. Immediately the WBA told Geale he had to defend the title against Golovkin or be stripped.
Now according to correspondence I had with Mr. Mendoza the WBA received no waiver from Geale’s camp to extend the mandatory and was therefore stripped of the title in favour of a big money fight against compatriot Anthony Mundine. That is fair enough.
According to the WBA rules adopted back in 2010 the WBA would grant super titles to those fighters that have “made 5 or 10 (if it was the case) successful defences of his title.” According to the updated version of 2013 this rule still stands.
If you have a good memory, please cast your mind back or check Boxrec and look up the records of Miguel Cotto (light middleweight) and David Haye (heavyweight). None of these two fighters made 5 or 10 successful defences of their WBA titles yet were upgraded to “Super” champion.
In fact Cotto made one defence of the “Regular” title prior to being upgraded to “Super” champion before his fight with Ricardo Mayorga, whilst Haye made two defences of the “Regular” title before being upgraded to “Super” champion prior to his unification showdown with Wladimir Klitschko.
Prior to his fight with Andre Ward in the Super Six, Mikkel Kessler was upgraded to “Super” champion after having not made the appropriate defences or having had unified the title with another sanctioning body. Why would that be? Perhaps the WBA didn’t want their title getting tied up in a tournament that lasted two years and therefore limiting the amount of money that could be made from sanctioning fees? The cynical side of my character brings me to the conclusion that this is the case.
So how do we solve the situation? Well the hardcore fans want to go back to one champion per division, which means one title. Realistically that just simply isn’t possible. If you had only one title per division then you could just imagine how long it would take for a contender to get a shot at the title considering the amount of politics that revolve around the sport, you only have to think back to what Marvin Hagler had to go through before he got his title shot.
However, considering the absolute mess the WBA have created it is now time for them to take a leaf out of the book of the WBO and IBF and have one champion. Very seldom will you hear of an interim IBF champion and very rarely do the WBO have interim champions.
Presently the WBO have one interim champion in Moises Fuentes with the full champion being Donnie Nietes. Both are expected to rematch some time in 2014, though it appears the WBO created the interim title in order to determine a mandatory challenger to Nietes. Fuentes, who moved up in weight to fight Nietes initially was the WBO Strawweight champion, however he decided to vacate and move up in weight and is now in line for another shot at the full title.
The WBO also have two “Super” champions, Omar Navarez and Wladimir Klitschko, there are no “Regular” champions, the “Super” champion status has been afforded to them to due to the number of successful defences they have made of the said title.
The WBC on the other hand are perhaps second line for the worst and most inconsistent body behind the WBA. They stripped Andre Ward of the WBC title for inactivity, yet were only too willing to keep extending Vitali Klitschko’s reign as WBC champion even though he hasn’t defended the title in over a year.
Adrien Broner currently holds the WBC Lightweight title and hasn’t defended the title in over a year. Now Broner can’t claim that he had a legitimate injury that has meant he can’t defend the title, yet Andre Ward was legitimately injured and was stripped. Ward, thankfully and publically, rejected the WBC’s attempts to install him as the nonsensical “Champion Emeritus”.
Derek Chisora was removed from the WBC rankings because of his poor behaviour prior to and after his fight against Vitali Klitschko, whilst Floyd Mayweather Jnr did prison time for misdemeanour battery and two counts of misdemeanour harassment and was allowed to hold on to his WBC Welterweight title.
Where is the consistency? There is none. Why? Because the title is worth more attached to the supposed “bigger named” fighter rather than the person that actually deserves to hold the title.
Look at the situation when Sergio Martinez won the WBC & Lineal World Middleweight championship. After defending the title in empathic fashion against Paul Williams the WBC title was stripped and handed to Sebastian Zbik in order that Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr would get an easier route to winning the title. This isn’t fiction, it is fact. Meanwhile, Martinez was given the supposed “honour” of fighting for the “vacant” WBC “Diamond” title in his next fight.
The situation is a complete farce.
The WBA can claim that they are creating a situation whereby they are allowing lesser fighters to fight for a “world title” and thereby generating a decent payday for said fighter. That is fair enough, but all they are doing is diluting who the true champion is and misleading the casual boxing fan whilst also picking up more dollars in sanctioning fees.
How can Scott Quigg legitimately claim to be a world champion when the true champion either at the weight or by the organisation is Guillermo Rigondeaux? He can’t and neither can Martin Murray if he succeeds in Monaco in a few months time.
Then again how can a fighter become the undisputed champion when all these organisations have their own agendas and conflicts of interest? It is nigh near impossible for it to happen.
From memory the last fighter that I remember being the true undisputed champion was Bernard Hopkins at middleweight. Joe Calzaghe had to vacate the IBF title as they were forcing a mandatory defence on him and recently the WBC seem to be hell bent on not allowing their title to be unified with other titles.
The entire situation is truly a mess and the late broadcast commentator Howard Cosell probably said it best when Joe Frazier picked up the heavyweight crown versus Buster Mathias after Muhammad Ali had been forced into exile, “Joe Frazier is the champion of nothing, because the champion is and still remains to be the man called Cassius Clay, fighting under the name of Muhammad Ali.”
Harsh, but true and Frazier knew he would never be accepted as the true champion so set about doing all he could to get the Ali fight and prove to the world who was the champion.
To become or class yourself as a world champion, then you must either beat the lineal champion at the weight (if one exists) or you beat that organisations champion, and by champion, I mean the main champion. If the title is vacant then number 1 and 2 square off to become that champion.
If the four main organisations are here to stay then they must have only one champion per organisation, the hardcore fans wish of one champion per division is sadly a thing of the past, and as I stated above, there wasn’t always one champion, history is littered with the issues we are having today, but not to the same degree.