Photo Credit Eric Jamison
Manny Pacquiao defeated Antonio Margarito last November in a fight that was billed as Pacquiao attempting to win his eighth world title in as many weight classes. Manny already held the record with seven titles in seven weight classes and was attempting to push his record even farther. The two pugs fought for the vacant WBC light middleweight championship.
Having a claim as a world champion is much easier in today’s boxing scene than it was in the past. One only has to win one of the four alphabet soup belts, the WBC, IBF, WBA, or WBO, in order to boast to be a world champion. One could also win a claim to the historical title lineage or win the Ring Magazine belt to be considered a world champion even without holding an alphabet soup belt.
Manny Pacquiao thrashed Antonio Margarito, winning the WBC’s version of the title at that weight class. Thus, he successfully became the only boxer ever to hold eight titles in eight weight classes. Right? Technically I suppose so using the definition of a modern boxing champion in the previous paragraph. But let’s look at the recent history of that 154-pound WBC title to see how much credibility it has.
On July 25th, 2009, WBC Light Middleweight Champion Vernon Forrest was shot and killed by a group of low-life thugs during an armed robbery. The three men were arrested and are awaiting trial with the death penalty potentially in their future. The world needlessly and tragically lost a terrific boxer and an even better human being that day.
Vernon’s belt obviously became vacant and the WBC had the task of crowning a new champion. The most obvious candidate to fight for the title was the WBC’s interim champion at that weight class, Sergio Martinez. Martinez turned down the opportunity, instead opting to fight Paul Williams at middleweight for big money on HBO.
One would think that the next move for the WBC would have been to arrange a bout for the vacant title among some the boxers whom they rated highly within that division. At the time their top three were Alfredo Angulo, Ricardo Mayorga, and Julio Cesar Chavez JR., in that order.
No such bout ever occurred.
Instead, the WBC sanctioned a match between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito for their vacant 154-pound belt. Pacquiao had never fought at junior middleweight prior to that match. Margarito had fought once in the last five years at junior middleweight in a meaningless tune up fight.
Margarito’s story about getting suspended for trying to use loaded hand wraps against Shane Mosley is well documented. Inexplicably, the WBC instantly made Margarito the number one contender when he returned from his exile despite being a proven cheater, despite having done nothing of merit in his new weight class, and despite coming off of a one-sided knockout loss. WBC president Jose Sulaiman essentially commended Margarito for cheating through his actions and various public statements defending the Mexican boxer.
Margarito was, and still is, a disgrace to boxing with no right to fight for any title until he proves that he can fight without loaded hand wraps, especially not at junior middleweight. Margarito had very little experience or success at that higher weight, having found his championship success at welterweight.
How, or why, would these two be sanctioned to fight for the vacant WBC light middleweight title? I possibly see why Pacquiao would get a pass directly to the title shot at junior middleweight considering that he was a pound for pound champion and a reigning world champion one weight class down, but only if he was fighting an established champion at 154 pounds. That was not the case. Manny was fighting for the vacant title against someone (Margarito) who was also new to the weight class and had no business being ranked inside the top 10.
The sanctioning of Pacquiao and Margarito by the WBC stunk. The WBC obviously wanted to get a cut of Pacquiao’s massive purse in the form of a sanctioning fee and bent over backwards to make sure that their title was at stake.
After Pacquiao won he vacated his new belt because his appearance at junior middleweight was only intended to be a cameo and he had no intention of sticking around to defend the belt. What is happening to the belt now is further discrediting the WBC belt and tarnishing Pacquiao’s claim as an eight-division champion.
A young Mexican slugger named Saul “Canelo” Alvarez won the WBC silver junior middleweight championship last July. For those who don’t know, the WBC silver titles are in place of the old “interim” label. So, in the WBC there are no more interim champions but there are plenty of title claimants to the silver belts. Alvarez, despite being a largely unproven, green prospect was first in line for a shot at the real belt based on the fact that he held that division’s “silver” belt.
That part is fine even if I don’t agree with Alvarez being rated as the #1 contender at junior middleweight, at least the WBC is consistent with their own rules up to this point.
What blows my mind is that the WBC is allowing Saul Alvarez to fight Matthew Hatton for vacant WBC junior middleweight belt. Hatton is best known for being Ricky Hatton’s younger brother but has found moderate success in the European circuit’s welterweight division. Hatton has had no significant fights at 154 pounds and has never beaten anyone that the media would consider at top 15-ranked contender in any weight class or at any point in his career.
Matthew Hatton bypassed a long list of WBC junior middleweight contenders ready and willing to fight Alvarez for the vacant belt, including Ryan Rhodes, Alfredo Angulo, Sergio Mora, and Kermit Cintron among the notables. Hatton is not ranked in the WBC 154 rankings, though he is, perplexingly, ranked #5 in their welterweight rankings.
A vacant title should be awarded only when the clear #1 and clear #2 ranked contenders fight. The WBC is hand picking undeserving boxers from any nearby weight class for no logical reason.
In the first case (Margarito vs. Pacquiao) you had two name opponents who were foreign to the weight class, one of whom was coming off a loss and suspicion for cheating. The next case (Alvarez vs. Hatton) you have two guys who would not be on most people’s top ten list fighting for the vacant title.
This belt, the WBC junior middleweight championship, is completely meaningless based on their recent actions and their vast history of poor decision making. How can boxing historians put any weight on the belt of an organization that runs business is this manner? They are giving titles away willy nilly, sanctioning any bout if the money is right. Pacquiao’s accomplishment of eight titles in eight weight classes is in serious question.
If the WBC sanctioned a fight between Pacquiao and Eric Crumble (look him up on boxrec) for the 168-pound title would we consider that nine titles in nine weight classes for Pacman? Absolutely not, and nor should we accept his claim to eight titles either, until he fights and beats a legitimate champion at 154 pounds.