IS IT REALLY ALL THAT DIFFICULT?
Seriously, the idea of a sanctioning body recognizing champions, compiling rankings and maintaining a semblance of order falls well short of brain surgery in terms of complexity.
One man, through lineage in ideal circumstances or necessity in others, is presented with hardware signifying him as the man to beat in a given weight class.
A “champion,” if you will.
Several more men – 10, 50 or 100, depending on how deep an exam is preferred – are stacked based on talent, achievement and momentum to create a crop most qualified to compete with said champion for said jeweled hardware.
“Contenders,” if you like.
Put them all together and you’ve got a simple, transparent and easy-to-follow model.
Somewhere, though, it’s gotten lost in translation.
Systemic shortcomings became media tolerated.
Sub-par alternatives were suggested as only options.
And, in the long run, the sport’s good name has been perverted.
Rather than the ideal scheme where the best fight the best for all the right reasons, boxing’s collective integrity is now compromised by captive promoters, passive TV executives and connected players required to work the sanctioning body system.
Useless fights get made. Unqualified fighters advance. The same old names are rewarded and the same governing bodies thrive.
And slowly but surely, a disillusioned audience turns to other diversions.
Given the atmosphere, who could blame them?
Amid qualifiers like “interim,” “emeritus,” super,” “regular,” “undisputed,” “unified” and “in recess” foisted by some organizations, the word champion – to put it mildly – carries far less cache than a decade ago, let alone in the sport’s most recent golden age in the 1980s.
As for the newly unveiled “diamond” classification, when it rains it pours.
Sadly, the word “contender” isn’t faring much better, with a recent title fight for a media-approved world belt at 122 pounds featuring a challenger who’d won just twice in his last six fights and just once in his career over a foe with fewer losses than wins.
Not exactly what the forefathers drew up, is it?
But that doesn’t mean positive solutions don’t exist.
Rather than accepting status quo and increasing irrelevance in the mainstream sports world, the International Boxing Organization is – in the buzzwords of election-speak – offering change.
Computerized rankings. No superfluous world title belts. Reasonable rules for champions.
In other words, everything it promises with a “Champion of Integrity” tagline.
Contrary to others, the IBO ratings are extremely simple, reflecting the linear aspect of “to be the man, you have to beat the man.” They are independent and purely calculated on results, with points awarded for wins and more points awarded for higher quality wins.
No opinion is factored in at any step, other than deciding what division to assign fighters who’ve fought a few pounds higher in tune-up bouts than they would when competing for a title.
Fighters realize the only way to speed a climb in the ratings is in the ring.
“You won’t go high in the IBO ratings by signing with a favorable promoter or promising some long-term deal. You need to fight someone ranked high and you need to beat them,” said Ed Levine, the IBO’s president.
“If you are a fighter and horrified by your lowly rating, you need to show us your record and whom you have beaten that’s higher than you and when. It really is that simple.”
Not a novel concept, but hardly widespread.
A tour of the IBO’s official Web site (iboboxing.com) shows one champion per division from heavyweight to bantamweight and includes two prominent names – Chad Dawson (light heavyweight) and Manny Pacquiao (light welterweight) – not included on the roll call of any other organization at those weights.
Future Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr., a former IBO champion at 175 pounds, traveled to Australia to fight IBO cruiserweight champion Danny Green in early December. Danny proved his elite status in that fight.
Also on the list are respected veterans Sakio Bika (super middleweight), Anthony Mundine (middleweight). Jackson Asiku (featherweight) and Lovemore N’Dou (welterweight), as well as up-and-coming undefeated stars Cesar Seda Jr. (junior lightweight) and Mlungisi Dlamini (lightweight).
Consensus heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko also holds an IBO belt, and is happy to do so.
“I compare the IBO rankings to how things are done in tennis,” he said. “People can look at those rankings and check out where one guy relates to another and check out how many points they have. I’m glad to be at the top of the ratings and I’m proud to be holding their belt.”
As for the classes now vacant, Levine contends it’s for the right reasons.
And it won’t change simply as a matter of convenience.
The IBO has a few vacant titles but mainly it’s because we won’t just sanction anyone and we will tell the truth regarding their ranking when we do so. Obviously, we like to see all our champions at No. 1 and we have three of them – Wladimir, Manny Pac and Chad Dawson. Regardless, we will not pollute the ranks with interim champions or super champions or anything of that nature. We’re in the business of having great fighters fight great fighters for one legitimate title. That’s the direction that we have always taken and will continue to take.