‘SIMPLY the pioneers’ is the tagline on the World Boxing Association (WBA) badge. It alludes to them being the best sanctioning body in existence because they’re the oldest sanctioning body in existence.
After changing their name from the National Boxing Association (NBA), the first world heavyweight title fight staged under the jurisdiction of the WBA pitted champion Sonny Liston against challenger Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) in 1964. What a terrific start to life for the new and improved sanctioning body, a dramatic coronation of a soon-to-be legend and a contest destined for immortality. Then, in a nod to their pioneering skills and knack for chaos, they stripped Ali for agreeing to rematch Liston and matched Ernie Terrell with Eddie Machen for their vacant title.
Fast forward 58 years to 2022 and the latest fight for the WBA world heavyweight title will match champion Trevor Bryan [above left] against challenger Jonathan Guidry on January 29 (while their ‘super’ champion, Oleksandr Usyk, prepares for his rematch with Anthony Joshua).
Bryan, ranked No. 35 by BoxRec and promoted by Don King, is making the first defence of the belt he won 12 months ago. Prior to beating Bermane Stiverne (also promoted by King) for the vacant strap, he was the Interim belt-holder thanks to defeating BJ Flores. Stiverne, then 42, was approved by the WBA as a challenger at the request of King, even though he hadn’t won a fight in six years. Flores got his chance after rebounding from a three-round thrashing at the hands of cruiserweight Tony Bellew in 2016 to beat Jeremy Bates and Nick Guivas (combined age of 84) in horrible mismatches.
The credentials of Jonathan Guidry, 17-0-2 (10), are so poor he makes Stiverne and Flores look like Liston
and Ali. Guidry, ranked 256th in the world (and 73rd in America) by BoxRec, has never partaken in a bout scheduled for more than eight rounds and he’s had just one fight since 2019. That was a points win over Rodney Moore, 20-19-2 (9), who some of you may remember from his peak of 2002 when he briefly held the NABA light-heavyweight trinket.
Guidry now finds himself 13th in the WBA rankings, just above Joseph Parker and Tony Yoka, who reside in 14th and 15th respectively. Daniel Dubois is number one. Yet Joe Joyce, who defeated Dubois just 14 months ago, is not ranked at all. Michael Hunter, fresh off a draw with Jerry Forrest, is two. Robert Helenius is three. Hughie Fury is four, ahead of Joshua and Deontay Wilder in fifth and sixth.
Guidry’s August victory over Moore didn’t seem to get the WBA’s attention at first. He was unlisted in their September ratings. Same for October and November. But in their latest set of ratings – released on December 31, shortly after Don King made it clear he needed an opponent for Bryan’s upcoming title defence – Guidry suddenly appeared. By the way, the bloke who made way for him was Mark De Mori, who has won nine fights against truly atrocious opposition since being squashed by David Haye six years ago. Quite what De Mori, ranked 211th in the world by BoxRec, was doing there in the first place is also a mystery; among those nine victories since the Haye debacle were three wins over Laszlo Toth, ranked 742nd by BoxRec, and a further three against boxers who had lost their previous six outings.
All of these shenanigans should be bothersome to anyone who cares for the sport of boxing and its future. That includes commissions, promoters, broadcasters and other media who continue to facilitate the crimes of the WBA. That facilitation comes in several forms. Such as instigating the crimes in the first place, like King ‘persuading’ the WBA to insert unworthy boxers into their rankings. Like the networks shouting about these ‘championship fights’. And almost everyone in boxing then calling the winners of such fights ‘world champions’.
While on the subject, it’s only fair to say that the WBA, though the worst offenders, are not the only ones doing this. In recent months I have noticed challengers land in the rankings of the IBF – like featherweight Kiko Martínez – and the WBO – like light-heavyweight Steve Geffrard – not because they have won a fight that merits their placement but because they are about to be gifted a title shot. But Jonathan Guidry, who alongside Trevor Bryan will pay the WBA thousands of dollars to sanction their contest, is on another level of hocus pocus.
There is a train of thought that suggests that all these belts are good for the boxers; it gives them more chances to be a success and therefore earn. Problem is, the rankings are so blatantly rigged it’s surely only a matter of time before someone from the outside world pays attention. That could spell trouble for all of us.
Back in 1964, Cassius Clay earned that fight with Sonny Liston after defeating Doug Jones and Henry Cooper, while Liston had won and retained his championship status by twice hammering Floyd Patterson. Today, Jonathan Guidry can say he got his shot at a once-prestigious title, now owned by someone who has never beaten a world-class boxer, by outpointing 46-year-old Rodney Moore over eight rounds.
Is it only Boxing News who can see this is plainly ridiculous? Of course not. Gilberto Mendoza Jnr, the president of the WBA, must explain the actions of his organisation.
The WBA are indeed the oldest sanctioning body. And they are growing older and older. Their sight is failing them and their hearing has gone. They are very selective about what company they keep and they should probably see a doctor, because they’re showing all the signs of mental deterioration to the point of insanity. And if they’re not insane, well, the only other explanation is they’re crooked. And whether insane or crooked, they’re not fit for purpose and most certainly not fit to rule.