THE WBA got some good press out of their “one heavyweight champion” tournament but really it changes nothing. They have a real champion in Tyson Fury who won the title against the real champion. However according to the WBA the return fight between Fury and Wlad Klitschko is just a quarter final in their “tournament” and the winner of that must fight the winner of a fight between Luis Ortiz and Alex Ustinov to get to the final. On the other side of the draw were Ruslan Chagaev and Lucas Browne a fight which Browne won so he is in the semi-finals. He will fight the winner of a fight between Fres Oquendo vs. TBA. That’s the Oquendo who has not had a fight for almost two years, but when they tried to screw him over his fight with Chagaev, he took them to court and won, so he has to be in the tournament and goes straight into the semi- final. It is quite clever really as it assures the WBA of six title fights and six lots of sanctioning fees. The easy way to achieve the same end would have been to stop having Interim and secondary titles and just recognise Fury as the one world champion-as he truly is in everyone’s mind except that of the money for brains WBA. The biggest bit of hypocrisy came in their announcement of the Tournament when they said they were holding the Tournament “In order to have one champion like everybody is expecting from the WBA, and like everybody wants”- but only in the heavyweight division it seems. If you want to talk delusional hypocrisy ratings then that remark shows that the WBA are No 1 and we all know that within six months the WBA will forget all the rubbish in the announcement of the tournament and reintroduce the interim and secondary titles.
It looks as though Deontay Wilder will go into the lion’s den and fight Alex Povetkin in Russia in May. The WBC had already been overgenerous in granting Wilder voluntary defences so if he pulls out of this he should and probably would be stripped. I find this fight more interesting than any in the WBA tournament and much more valid as a title fight than Charles Martin and Anthony Joshua. All this activity is down to Tyson Fury beating Wlad Klitschko which has released a log jam of heavyweight fights.
The fight for the vacant EBU heavy title is also a good fight for both Kubrat Pulev and Dereck Chisora as it gives both a chance of going forward to a world title fight. Pulev took 11 months out after losing to Wlad Klitschko and has returned with two modest level wins. Chisora is becoming the “Derry Mathews” of the heavyweight division for the number of times he has been knocked back only to fight hard to resurrect his career. It is also being talked of as an IBF title eliminator. That must be true as between the IBF ratings of 3 December and the current ratings Pulev jumped from No 13 to No 8 and Chisora from No 15 to No 9.
Do AIBA [the governing body for Olympic boxing] really feel that they can take over professional boxing? Their President Dr. Ching Kuo Wu said he “thought it was important that the AIBA should govern the sport of boxing in all its forms”. Having one governing body and one champion is an outdated wish boxing has gone way past that. The four major bodies are here to stay and the proliferation of titles will continue and not diminish. The truth is that we tend to be hypocritical about this. Fans and journalists such as myself may say this hurts the sport but if one of our favourite /local boxers wins a title we all get on the band wagon and call him a world champion. Promoters and TV continue to show boxing because it is getting good figures and they have plenty of ‘world’ title fights to sell to fans/advertisers. Whether it is Top Rank, Golden Boy, Al Haymon, Sauerland, Matchroom, Queensberry etc. they all want to have world champions on their books. If there were only 17 world champions power would quickly finish up in the hands of a very few people/TV companies with others scrabbling for crumbs from their table. One governing body is a pipe dream and a governing body that has no idea how the commercial side of boxing works is doomed to fail.
Dr Wu says he wants professionals at the Olympics and says there is no reason why they should not compete in Rio. But the boxing schedule for Rio is already laid down and should be fixed and firm.
They have said the best fighters should fight at the Olympics but unlike athletics, basketball, swimming etc. boxers do not compete every week and their preparation time for a fight can run into months so if the AIBA think that fighters can adequately adjust to fight over the Olympic distance in such a short space of time they again don’t know the professional game.
When you add that the top boxers will already have some form of contract with a manager/promoter/TV who may not want to release them, that in many countries the amateur and professional boards are separate and not always on good terms, that boxers have their own trainers, that how these professionals will be selected and by whom, who covers the insurance if a professional suffers a career ending injury, etc, etc, etc. The devil is in the detail.
What upsets me most is the crushing of the dreams and hopes of so many youngsters who go to a gym with dreams of one day winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Mr Wu has no concerns over mismatches because of their stringent qualification tournaments but there is a world of difference between being a member of an elite boxing programme – effectively being paid to fight – and the plight of the amateur bodies in Africa where some countries do not have the money or the facilities to make it any sort of level playing field. It is difficult getting the money for amateur boxing out of their governments now and sponsors (if any) and if the government and sponsors perceive that the chances of their boxers getting any sort of medal in competition with professionals is zero they won’t want to throw their money away.
My heart and my condolences go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Shona McTaggart who died recently after a long battle with illness. Shona was the lady who made sure things went smoothly for Rodney Berman’s South African Golden Gloves organisation and if they did not it was Shona who sorted them out and got them back on track in a tough but firm way. I know the whole Golden Gloves team will miss her deeply so RIP Shona.
The President Emeritus of the WBA Gilberto Mendoza also died recently. I have never pretended to like much of what the WBA does although much of it arises out of the need for sanctioning bodies and promoters to find a working relationship. For the WBA he served as President for thirty-three years before passing the leadership to his son. He took over the Presidency at a time of considerable in-fighting and left the organisation much stronger than he found it. He also introduced and drove the WBA KO Drugs campaign to show that in these areas the sanctioning bodies can give a lead. My condolences go to his family.
On a different note it was uplifting to see Paul Williams getting into the training side of boxing. It has been almost four years since a motorcycle accident left him paralysed from the waist down just as he was preparing for a big fight with Saul Alvarez. It has taken a lot of pushing from his trainer/manager George Peterson and a lot of courage from Paul to get him back into a role in boxing and he deserves every success.