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Is having so many world titles actually … good?

world titles
Multiple world titles increase opportunities for boxers but have lost all importance, writes Mark Massow

IT’S been an interesting year so far, to say the least, with one constant that isn’t likely to go away any time soon. I’m not referring to the issues surrounding coronavirus but the proliferation of titles available on the world scene. As has been recorded in extensive detail on these pages, the amount of sanctioning bodies and explosion of belts on offer has skewed the perception of what a ‘world title’ should mean and the standard of the participants.

The hardcore fan has long since accepted that the title situation is in a ridiculous state of disrepair but it would seem these fans are not a promoter’s target audience. Why appeal to a small group of die-hards, avidly sat at ringside discussing the abilities and records of the protagonists on show, when you can target a greater number of casual fans?

I recall attending a show in the Nineties when one of Britain’s leading boxers won a fringe world belt. While watching the new champion accept his applause I wondered to myself how many in the audience really recognised the winner as a ‘world champion’. On leaving the venue some half hour later I overheard one particular gentleman say to his friend ‘See that, a world champion. You don’t get better than that!’ In reality, the boxer may just have sneaked in to the world’s top 20 in their weight category.

The promoter may take pride in the quality of contests they stage but ultimately they’ll judge success on the amount of punters through the door (or television viewers tuned in). The vast majority of ‘world title’ contests are staged by the ‘big’ promoters, namely those with a television deal. Small hall promoters can’t do much in the way of ‘promoting’ outside of social media engagement. The onus is on the boxer to promote and sell tickets to his own contest. In a way, some boxers even seem to promote their promoter more than their promoter promotes the boxer!

Having the opportunity to advertise a ‘world title’ on a bill helps attract attention to the show, regardless of whether the main eventers are actually world class. Subsequently, the more titles on offer, regardless of the quality, the more shows can be sold as staging a world title contest.

IBF world titles

The sanctioning bodies are companies not necessarily there to do the right thing. They exist to promote their own interests and further their own agenda. Some are better at it than others and have made genuine improvements in the sport. Longevity can help an organisation’s cause, although getting the best boxers to compete for your title should be the best advert for it. That’s why some titles have been ‘handed’ to top professionals in the past when a sanctioning body may have been in its infancy. Or, as has happened more recently, established sanctioning bodies ‘inventing’ a title so the sport’s royalty can parade one of their belts.

Although most of us reading these pages each week like the idea of one champion per division, if that were to be the case then someone ranked in the lower region of the top 10 could conceivably have to wait several years to get his shot at the title. The days of the sport’s premier stars competing each month are long gone. In a way, the extra titles provide opportunities for boxers that were not there in the past so it’s not all bad. Ultimately, boxers like boxing for titles and promoters realise the added interest of having them on their shows. It’s the (hardcore) fans who shake their heads at the seemingly endless letters attached to each contest. And when did they matter?

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