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The Sad Truth of Boxing Rank: Alphabet Soup Bashing

By Brian Wilbur

Exposing the ludicrous rankings of the sanctioning bodies has been done before; many times. Max Kellerman did a nice piece for ESPN back when Kellerman was an irresistible and opinionated lightning rod instead of an annoyingly daft Larry Merchant wannabe on HBO.

“Boxing Confidential: Power, Corruption and the Richest Prize in Sports” by Jim Brady systematically shreds the credibility of the sanctioning bodies (along with promoters and other aspects of the fight game) and supports its attack with ample evidence and documentation. Brady’s book might be the best boxing expose book ever written yet inexplicably is now out of print and hard to come by at a reasonable price. Excerpts of Jim’s book used to be available for free online but sadly that website no longer exists.

Other than Kellerman and Brady, just about every prevalent boxing writer has called out or discredited the sanctioning bodies at one time or another. So, even though this subject has been covered many times previously, the injustices perpetrated by the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO are so obvious and so heinous that they are worth revisiting periodically, especially to clue in new boxing fans who might be erroneously holding one or more of the sanctioning bodies with esteem.

The idea of a sanctioning body to govern boxing is not what I am against. Before there was an organization to declare who was, and was not, a champion, the champion could sit on his title for years at a time and no one had the authority to strip him of the title. There were no official rankings in place that would dictate who would fight for the vacant title. The concept of an organization that has the authority to order matches is not a horrible one.

The problem with boxing today is that the organizations who have this power are constantly abusing it. All four of the major bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO), are guilty of the same crimes. How can four independent organizations be so corrupt and/or incompetent in the same way? The only logical explanation that I can come up with is that one of them found a profitable business model and the others followed suit.

There are almost an unlimited number of reasons why the incompetent sanctioning bodies are a cancer to the sport of boxing. One glaring reason that I will focus on is that their monthly rankings are an abomination.

Every weight class ranking from every sanctioning body is terrible, however, as an example I will show the WBC’s heavyweight rankings from February 2011.

Champ: Vitali Klitschko
1. Odlanier Solis
2. Denis Boytsov
3. Chris Arreola
4. Tomasz Adamek
5. Ray Austin
6. Jonathan Banks
7. Alexander Povetkin
8. Juan Carlos Gomez
9. Bermane Stiverne
10. Chauncy Welliver
11. Tony Thompson
12. Eric Molina
13. Alexander Dimitrenko
14. Sergei Liakhovich
15. Hasim Rahman

To say idiots compiled the WBC rankings would be an insult to idiots across the world.

Denis Boytsov has never beaten, or even faced, another boxer ranked in the top 20. What has he done to be considered the #2 contender in the world? Maybe you could put him in the bottom half of the top 10, but there is no argument for #2.

Jonathan Banks has no business being the in top 10. He has beaten no ranked heavyweight boxers in his career. His resume is nothing but fights against journeymen, which he sometimes struggles against as demonstrated by his draw against Jason Gavern last year.

I think I speak for everyone except for their immediate family when I ask who the f@#* are Bermane Stiverne and Eric Molina and what are they doing in a ranking of top heavyweights?

Solis, despite a couple of okay wins, is a curious choice for the #1 position, especially considering that the WBA and IBF do not have Solis in their top 15. How can one group think so highly of a boxer to have him ranked #1, yet the others don’t even consider him worthy for an optional title defense? There must be business dealings between the sanctioning bodies and fighter’s managers. That is the only way I can explain the discrepancy. Odlanier Solis’s manager decided to give all of his bribe money to the WBC and ignored the WBA and IBF.

To give you an idea of what the rankings should be, here are the boxrec and Ring Magazine ratings. The first is an unbiased computerized ranking system. I offer the second set done by journalists because computerized rankings, though fair and usually close to reality, are unable to rank intangibles that should be considered when doing rankings.

1. Wladimir Klitschko
2. Vitali Klitschko
3. David Haye
4. Tomasz Adamek
5. Alexander Povetkin
6. Eddie Chambers
7. Tony Thompson
8. Samuel Peter
9. Odlanier Solis
10. Dereck Chisora
11. Chris Arreola
12. Ruslan Chagaev

Ring Magazine
Champ: Wladimir Klitschko
1. Vitali Klitschko
2. David Haye
3. Alexander Povetkin
4. Tomasz Adamek
5. Ruslan Chagaev
6. Eddie Chambers
7. Denis Boytsov
8. Nikolai Valuev
9. Alexander Dimitrenko
10. Chris Arreola

As you can see these two are similar. The top 6 are almost identical and most of the names overlap. Nikolay Valuev is one that appears in Ring but not in boxrec, but that is because Valuev has not fought in over a year thus is omitted from the computerized rankings until he fights again. Any semi-educated boxing fan using an objective approach would compile similar rankings to what Ring and boxrec put out. The WBC heavyweight rankings are very different.

Like I said before, the rankings of all of the sanctioning bodies stink of corruption and are utter nonsense. The WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO are equally bad. The WBA claims that their ratings are “based on the boxer’s own caliber, their level of activity, and their level of opponents”. With that mission statement you would think that the rankings would be backed up by logic. The reality is that the WBA puts out rankings that are ridiculous and random. One would think that the ratings committee put the names of 100 boxers on a dart board and wrote down the names the darts hit. Unfortunately the real reason the rankings are so poor is probably due to managers paying for high rankings, or in other words, blatant corruption. Bob Arum said in 1982 that he had to pay to obtain rankings, confirming what everyone already knew.

Luckily most boxing fans already know how poor the rankings are and rightfully ignore them.

As ludicrous as the rankings are, sometimes the alphabet soup groups don’t even abide by their own rules. The WBA rules state that “only boxers rated by the Association are eligible to fight in sanctioned contests.” Yet on January 8th, William Joppy fought Beibut Shumenov for the WBA Light Heavyweight title despite not being rated in the top 15 and despite going 0-2-1 in his last three bouts. Joppy was stopped in six rounds in a match that should have been a non-title fight. The WBA though, are not in the business of turning down sanctioning fees so they allowed the title defense.

Interim championships were created in the event that the real champion was unable to defend his title (due to injury perhaps). The concept was that the sanctioning bodies would still be able to collect sanctioning fees while the champion was out of commission, and assuming they did not want to strip the injured champion.

In July of 2005, Jorge Arce won the interim WBC Flyweight title after negotiations between Arce and WBC Flyweight Champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam kept falling through. The Mexico based WBC did not want their favorite Mexican flyweight to have to wait any longer to have their championship, nor did they want to strip the longtime WBC champ from Thailand. Arce made four defenses during his time as the interim WBC Flyweight Champion from October 2005 to April 2006.

During Arce’s reign as the interim champion, Wonjongkam fought three times and defended his “regular” WBC Flyweight title twice. What, you may be asking, is the purpose of declaring an interim champion when the real champion is actively fighting? There is none other than to collect sanctioning fees from two champions instead of one. Since then, the WBC has renamed their interim title the “silver” title so that they can give them out freely without criticism if the regular champion stays active.

Not only do we have four “major’ world title belts per weight class because there are four sanctioning bodies, but we have multiple world champions per weight class within one sanctioning body. And I am not just talking about the declaration of interim champions either, although that is a major offender.

The WBA has “regular” and “super” world champions. The WBA claimed that they will upgrade the regular championship to super if the champion unifies with another belt or makes 5 successful defenses. Then the regular belt will be vacated and fought for between the top two contenders.

However, the WBA recently upgraded Miguel Cotto’s recently won Junior Middleweight Championship belt to super status. Cotto has not yet made a single defense of his WBA belt, nor has he unified the title. The WBA are not following their rules for regular and super belts, and there is no rhyme or reason to their upgrading to super.

With no rules followed, there is no difference between the regular and super belts as they can be fought for or awarded at any time by the WBA. The WBA are declaring two champions per weight class as a shameless and obvious attempt to collect more fees.

The WBA has interim, regular, and super championships. The WBC has silver, regular, emeritus, and diamond championships. Do the math and you get seven champions per weight class, and I haven’t even mentioned the IBF and WBO yet! The sanctioning bodies are trying to pass all of these belts off as legitimate championships. What a joke!

This madness needs to stop. It is up to each individual fan, promoter, TV executive, and boxer to make a concerted effort to discredit the sanctioning bodies. They have created a situation where winning a world title belt has no meaning anymore.

Fans: do yourself a favor and ignore the sanctioning bodies. They lost their credibility ages ago and their relevance in boxing dwindles by the day as they continue their ludicrous practices.

Being a World Champion used to mean something. With the title proliferation in its current state, is anyone even keeping track of who is declared a champion anymore? If so, why bother? Do you really think that in 30 years anyone is going to give a shit about who the WBA Co-Interim Emeritus Champion is? Absolutely not.

There is only one true champion per weight class. The current business model of boxing is not sustainable. The key to boxing’s future is to phase out the sanctioning bodies and go back to one champion per weight class. Only then will boxing have a fighting chance to survive and thrive in the next millennium.

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