FOR this column my instructions were quite simple: If you were granted five wishes to make the sport a better place what would they be and why?
In truth, you’d need that many wishes to sort out the sanctioning bodies. In many ways they hold all the keys to a better sport so my five steps to a better sport are all entwined to one overriding aim: A serious overhaul of the sanctioning bodies.
One: The sanctioning bodies have generally lost control of the sport. The stronger promoters and most influential fighters have been running rampant for years, getting around rules and sanctions and traditions on a frequent basis. The first thing that needs to happen is that the four major bodies, the WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO, would have to actually follow their own rules and guidelines to the letter, regardless of what high-profile promoter or boxer is trying to bend them. Better still, they all follow the same rules on everything, from drug cheats to making the right fights.
A sanctioning body can’t be a part-time boss who sometimes looks the other way. There should be no grey areas, only black and white. Same rules for anyone and everyone in the sport, from the lowest earning mini-flyweight champion to the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world.
Two: My second wish is that all spurious ‘world titles’ are abolished immediately. That means no more regular, super, silver, interim, gold, franchise nonsense. There is not a young boxer anywhere on the face of this planet who lays awake at night dreaming of becoming a champion under any of those guises.
At no point over the next 200 years will any boxer go on live television to tell the world after a title win and declare, “Oh boy! I’ve dreamed of being the interim champion ever since I was a kid!”
Furthermore, I’ve been in the boxing game for almost 40 years and I literally could not tell someone – even if my life depended on it – what these titles are and what they mean, so I’m quite sure most fans don’t know either.
Three: In a similar vein, get rid of Intercontinental, International, Youth and USNBC titles. All too often some kid will win a youth title by defeating an opponent several years older than the cut off age of 23.
Intercontinental and International belts sound the same and, if you break it down, they mean being champion across several continents or countries. Isn’t that the world? We have too many of those titles already.
People win a USNBC championship, which I am understanding is some sort of “national title” here in America, yet virtually none of the guys who win this belt then defend it in their weight class.
Four: Given all the confusion I’ve outlined, my fourth wish is to ban the introduction of any more sanctioning bodies. There’s no room, irrespective of their intentions. Again, the room for further confusion is zero.
Five: This one is also directed at the governing bodies and athletic commissions: We have to stop sanctioning fights like Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor. At least when Pete Rademacher challenged Floyd Patterson for the world heavyweight title back in his 1957 debut he was coming off a gold medal winning performance at the Olympic Games the previous year.
Although not an experienced professional, he was a very capable boxer who had at least proven to be the best amateur in the world. Admittedly, it was far from ideal but Mayweather vs McGregor and the like are significantly worse.
If there was ever an instance in the entire history of boxing that clearly, positively, and embarrassingly illustrated that money has the power to literally make rules and integrity disappear it was the abhorrent Mayweather-McGregor circus.