Boxing’s widespread problem means more belts, confusion

This year has a chance to go down in history as one of the greatest in boxing for at least 25 years, maybe longer. For years we have complained about the mismatches that were put together and how they debased the belts.

Someone, somewhere, heard the screams.

So far in 2022 we have seen the following significant fights:

  • JoshTaylor won a split decision over Jack Catterall for the undisputed super lightweight title.

  • Gennady Golovkin stopped Ryota Murata for the unified middleweight titles.

  • Errol Spence Jr. stopped Yordenis Ugas for the unified welterweight titles.

  • Tyson Fury stopped Dillian Whyte for the WBC/Lineal heavyweight titles.

  • Shakur Stevenson decided Oscar Valdez for the unified super featherweight titles.

  • Kate Taylor won a split decision over Amanda Serrano for the undisputed women’s lightweight title.

  • Dimitri Bivol decided Canelo Alvarez for the WBA light heavyweight title.

  • Jermell Charlo stopped Brian Castaño for the undisputed super welterweight title.

  • Gervonta Davis knocked out Rolando Romero for a WBA lightweight title.

It gets better. On Saturday (Sunday in Australia) George Kambosos Jr fights Devin Haney for the undisputed lightweight title. On June 7, Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire Jr. fight for the unified bantamweight title.

Artur Beterbiev meets Joe Smith for three of the four light heavyweight title belts on June 18 in New York. Jesse Rodriguez and Sri Sor Rungvisai meet in San Antonio on June 25 for the WBC super flyweight title. Also on this map, Murodjon Akhmadaliev will face Ronny Rios for the unified super bantamweight titles.

Oleksandr Usyk faces Anthony Joshua for the unified heavyweight title in Saudi Arabia on July 23. And on September 17, Alvarez meets Golovkin for the undisputed super middleweight title. Claressa Shields will fight Savannah Marshall for the undisputed women’s middleweight title in September. And Mikaela Mayer will fight Alycia Baumgardner for the combined women’s super featherweight titles on a date to be determined.

That’s just part of what’s going on.

But, and there’s always a but, it’s far from perfect. But this time, instead of blaming cautious promoters or risk-averse managers, timid boxers or TV networks who don’t want to mingle, the blame lies squarely with the sanctioning authorities.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 05: Canelo Alvarez holds various belts while speaking during a press conference at the KA Theater at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on May 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Alvarez will challenge WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Dmitry Bivol for his title on May 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez holds multiple belts. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

When you talk to a boxing fan who has died and tell them all the great fights and great fights that have already happened and what’s on the schedule, the real reaction is eye rolls.

They have been conditioned by years of false promises not to believe it. And they’ll come back with a version of the quote, “It’s impossible to know who the champion is in any weight class,” which should make anyone with an interest in boxing, be it financial or rooted, cringe.

It is true, however, and is perfectly embodied by the Kambosos-Haney fight. It’s billed as for the undisputed championship, and it is, but the sanctioning bodies, in this case the WBA and the WBC, make it hard to understand.

If you were paying attention, you saw Davis brutally defeat Romero to retain the WBA lightweight title. So how is one to believe that the Kambosos-Haney winner is the undisputed champion when undisputed means the fighter who holds the IBF-WBA-WBC-WBO belts in the same division?

And then the WBC caused trouble a few years ago when it took Vasiliy Lomachenko from WBC champion to WBC franchise champion. No one realized what it was, and what it mainly was was an opportunity for WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman to give one of the best fighters in the world a snazzy, shiny new belt.

The problem with this, however, is that titles should be won and lost in the ring, not through sanctions that elevate them to a different status or create a duplicate title.

Kambosos vs. Haney is for the undisputed lightweight title because Lomachenko won the WBA-WBC-WBO belts in the ring and Teofimo Lopez won the IBF belt in the ring. Before Lomachenko and Lopez fought, Sulaiman told reporters that the winner would be the WBC champion.

Lopez won that fight and was undisputed, although he wasn’t called that because of the confusion surrounding the franchise belt’s status. And when Lopez lost to Kambosos, it made Kambosos the undisputed champion. But Haney clinched a WBC belt, which is why Lopez derided him as the “email champion.”

It’s a common problem. At heavyweight, Usyk upset Joshua last year and won the IBF-WBA-WBO titles. Fury has held the WBC title since beating Deontay Wilder in 2020. But on June 11 in Miami, Florida, Trevor Bryan will defend the WBA heavyweight title against Daniel Dubois. Bryan got the belt — essentially a gift from the WBA to promoter Don King — in 2018 when he stopped BJ Flores for the WBA’s “vacant interim heavyweight title.” There’s rarely a need for a caretaker belt, and there wasn’t in 2018, but the WBA did and now it’s clouding the picture.

Josh Taylor celebrates winning the junior welterweight bout against Jack Catterall at the OVO Hydro, Glasgow.  Picture date: Saturday February 26, 2022. (Photo by Steve Welsh/PA Images via Getty Images)

The super lightweight class is left without an undisputed champion after the WBA stripped Josh Taylor of his belt in early May for refusing to perform a mandatory defense. (Photo by Steve Welsh/PA Images via Getty Images)

Boxing’s stakeholders – promoters, TV execs, managers – need to call a meeting with the heads of these sanctioning bodies and point out how damaging it is to the sport if they continue these shenanigans.

It’s bad enough when each of the four sanctioning bodies has a different champion. But if a single sanctioning body has two or three champions within a division, it devalues Everyone the strap.

Fighters should not be stripped if they are fighting a champion from another organization or if they are defending against someone in the top three at least once a year.

Organizations should rank all fighters in their ratings, including those who wear belts in other organizations.

And there should never be an interim champion unless the actual champion can’t defend the belt after six months of inactivity and can’t return within three months.

That would give meaning to the belts, help bring back some wayward fans, create new ones, and bring a sense of order that boxing lacks.

So Kambosos and Haney fight for the undisputed title. The winner should then fight Davis, who so impressively beat Romero to put an end to all doubts.

And then maybe this little hot phase of boxing will be more than that and grow into something really meaningful and long-term.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *