Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fixing Boxing

Long term readers know that my favorite sport to watch is boxing.  When everything goes according to Hoyle, or rather Marquess of Queensberry, boxing is man versus man, and the better man wins.  There's no blaming the wide receiver, point guard, or pitcher.  If Fighter A wins,  Fighter A wins.  If Fighter A loses, Fighter A loses.  Of course, this ideal doesn't take "sloppy" judging and officiating into account, but that's a problem of execution, not design.  Nevertheless, when everyone executes their role correctly/honestly, boxing is an exciting sport to watch.

The real problem with boxing is an issue I've addressed before. Professional boxing is made up of multiple weight classes, some with more than one name, and different sanctioning bodies recognize different champions for each weight class.

Table of current boxing championship belt holders as of: 12/07/2014
Subject: Table of current boxing championship belt holders as of: 12/07/2014 | Source: BBC Sports

It's a mess.  Andre Ward and Carl Froch share a Super-middleweight title,  Scott Quigg and Guillermo Rigondeaux share a Super-bantamweight belt, and Floyd Mayweather holds titles in more than one weight class, which is SUPPOSED TO BE illegal.  This hodge podge doesn't even take each sanctioning bodies' interim champions, silver champions, emeritus champions, or diamond champions, for each weight class, into account.  Once we count those, each weight can have as many as twenty "champions."

When a weight class has twenty champions, it has no champion.  Belts and championships have become meaningless in boxing.

During the fabulous days of yester-year, there were eight weight classes...,
  • Flyweight: 8 st (50,802 Kg / 112 lbs)
  • Bantamweight: 8 st 6 lbs (53,525 kg / 118 lbs)
  • Featherweight: 9 st (57,153 kg / 126 lbs)
  • Lightweight: 9 st 9 lbs (61,235 kg / 135 lbs)
  • Welterweight: 10½ st (66,678 kg / 147 lbs)
  • Middleweight: 11 st 6 lbs (72,574 kg / 160 lbs)
  • Light Heavyweight: 12½ st (79,378 kg / 175 lbs)
  • Heavyweight: (unlimited)
...and one champion per weight class.  Fans knew who "the champ" was, and people could root for, or against, the guy.  Today, if a fighter has a big name, and a decent management team, they can have a  belt.  If a boxer has enough pull, and a belt isn't available, a sanctioning body will commission a new title for him.  Heck, if I put my mind to it, I could probably obtain a 147 lb title.

People point to this title soup and laugh at boxing, and justifiably so.  Boxing's credibility is going to remain in the dumper until it fixes itself and establishes a clear hierarchy for each weight class.

As I see it, there are two possible ways boxing can be fixed, and by "fixed," I don't mean paying off a judge or having Bubba take a dive.  I mean, there are two ways to solve the problem.

The first way is for fans to latch onto one sanctioning body as THE sanctioning body, and ignore the other three.  If people only went to IBF sanctioned fights, for example, promoters would only schedule IBF sanctioned fights, and the other three sanctioning bodies would dry up.

This tactic has worked for other sports.  The United States Football League (USFL) played three seasons, from 1983 to 1985, before surrendering to the realization that fans don't want to watch football in the spring & summer. Similarly, the American Basketball Association (ABA) ceased to exist when the NBA swallowed them up in 1976.   Sports leagues/bodies collapse when fans don't support them.

Unfortunately, the fan solution won't happen in boxing, because there's no clear cut reason to support one sanctioning body over the others.  Without that distinction, fans won't care enough to boycott big fights in order to bankrupt sanctioning bodies.

My other solution is a Superman type solution.  Essentially, for this solution to work a Donald Trump or Bill Gates level benefactor would need to swoop in, buy controlling interest in all four sanctioning bodies, and merge them into a single sanctioning body.  This solution would have the added benefit of allowing our hero to restructure the weight classes in a way that makes sense.

Unfortunately, people would call such a forced merger a monopoly, and they'd be crying, "restraint of trade."  I can't picture a philanthropist who cares enough about boxing to adopt such a headache.

In a nutshell, both solutions are incredible long shots, neither of which will realistically occur.  Until networks stop treating every fight as the finale of a Rocky movie, by having a belt be at stake, die hard boxing fans are going to be stuck following a sport the rest of the world thinks of as a joke.


  1. GREAT JOB. If boxing went back to AT LEAST one Champion per division, it would get back to main-stream sports....but until then, how can anyone, even die-hard boxing fans actually know who holds ALL the belts.