ED TOLENTINO - Belts for everyone
ED C. TOLENTINO

To this day, a number of boxing fans still cannot figure out why Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman are both listed as WBA welterweight champions. Thurman, however, has been bragging that the version of the WBA title he holds is the legitimate one and that Pacquiao is actually challenging for it.

Thurman speaks the truth and you can blame the head honchos of the WBA for the title confusion. The WBA has this corkscrewed policy of promoting a “regular” WBA champion to “super” champion after the latter posts a number of successful defenses or beats a counterpart titlist from the WBC, WBO or IBF. Thurman previously held the WBA “regular crown but was subsequently promoted to “super” champion. The WBA then declared the “regular” belt vacant and this is the title Pacquiao won over Lucas Matthysse in July 2018.

In effect, the WBA has two champions in one weight class and boxing fans can only shake their heads at such a bizarre and confusing set-up. Clearly, greed is the motivation behind this. By creating more belts, the WBA gets to receive more sanctioning fees. Case in point: When Pacquiao defended his “regular” crown against Adrien Broner and Thurman his “super” belt opposite Josesito Lopez, the WBA bankrolled sanctioning fees for both fights.

Calls have escalated for the WBA to do away with such a practice, but to no avail. As if things cannot get more complicated, the WBC recently decided to join the bandwagon.

The WBC recently stripped Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez of his middleweight title and promoted him to “franchise” champion. The interim WBC champion, American Jermall Charlo, was promoted to regular WBC middleweight champion.

After Alvarez defeated Daniel Jacobs in May, he held the WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight crowns. Alvarez is on track to unify all four crowns, but leave it to the WBC to spoil everything. Instead of just directing Alvarez to make a mandatory defense against Charlo, the WBC decided to give them separate titles.

According to the WBC, the “franchise” champ is a special designation, which the organization may bestow to a current WBC champ who “has achieved and maintains the highest of statures in the sport.”

Here’s the catch: The WBC stated that a franchise champ is not obligated to honor rigid, mandatory title obligations. In a way, the “franchise” belt gives Alvarez a convenient excuse to dodge his mandatory defense obligations. Of course, it can always be argued that the “franchise” belt is not a world title, just a special designation, and whoever is bestowed such “honor” is not really obligated to make mandatory defenses. If such is the case, then the honor should have been bestowed on Alvarez without taking away his regular WBC title. Then again, this is the WBC, which for the past several years has created a slew of meaningless titles, i.e., Diamond belt, Silver crown.

This writer has always been opposed to boxing organizations stripping world champions of their belts for whimsical reasons. A champion should be made to defend his title against the best challengers in his weight class. A champion should only lose the belt if he retires/dies, moves up in weight or is actually defeated in the ring.

As things stand, the title distribution in pro boxing figures to be more messy and confusing with the WBC following in the WBA’s footsteps. In the middleweight division alone, the WBA has two champions (“super” champ Alvarez and “regular” champ Robert Brant), the WBC also has two (“franchise” champ Alvarez and “regular” champ Charlo) while the WBO has Demetrius Andrade. Alvarez is still the IBF champ, but the IBF is reportedly mulling on stripping him of the crown if he refuses to make a mandatory defense against Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

There was a time when pro boxing only had eight weight classes with one champion each. There was only one sanctioning body (the National Boxing Association, later renamed the World Boxing Association), no bastard or junior divisions and no such thing as an interim champ. The lone champion was instantly the undisputed king of his weight class. A kid can readily recite the names of the world champions and holding a title belt back then was really an honor.

The proliferation of boxing organizations, titles and weight classes has greatly prostituted the term “world champion.” The quality of the fighters has also been affected. These days, even a journeyman can pick up a belt.

With the penchant of the organizing bodies to create more Mickey Mouse belts, they might as well stage their fights in Disneyland. Truth be told, the Miss Universe tiara packs more credibility than a world boxing crown.



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