I am sure that the boxing fraternity breathed a collective sigh of relief at the news that the sport’s leading governing bodies have agreed that one fighter per weight division should receive the distinction of world champion. Once upon a time pugilism had eight champions in eight weight division guaranteeing that only the very best were world champions. That all changed over time but the real boom occurred in the 1960s with the formation of the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Council (WBC).
By the 1990s control of the sport appeared to be held by an alphabet soup of “world organisations” but over time the WBA, IBF, WBC and later the WBO would emerge as the tastiest of the soups on offer. Truthfully the title “world champion” has lost its weight in gold in boxing. With all due respect, how can anyone really call themselves the welterweight world champion when Floyd Mayweather is a belt holder in that weight division?
What it has really done is further stir the age-old pound-for-pound debate. Well, that’s on the positive side of things i.e. giving grown men something to talk about at work. On the negative the result has been far more profound. Owing to the plethora of titles on offer, why would any fighter (great or not) step into the ring against someone that might not only beat them, but do some serious damage? Considering the kind of money at stake, would you want to take that risk?
I believe with every fibre of my being that this is the true reason we have not seen Mayweather meet Manny Pacquiao in the ring. The Pac-Man is past his prime now, in my opinion, but we should have been treated to three bouts between these two welterweight warriors by now. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought thrice, so why not? As it stands, we may never see it and if we do, it will hardly be the blockbuster boxing bout we might have been treated to some five years ago.
Yes, there have been several potentially epic clashes in years gone by that never happened but it is criminal how the American and Filipino have not gone toe-to-toe. It is the kind of situation that has seen the popularity of the sport decline and has had me privately pondering if pugilism will still be alive in 50 years. However this latest agreement between the sport’s big boys brings fresh hope.
In the words of the WBC themselves, “This is perhaps the biggest breakthrough achieved by the leadership of the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation.” The trio also discussed issues around implementing instant replay, weigh-in protocol, medical studies, scoring system and amateur boxing but the idea of a truly legitimate world champion, is the one that stands out and the sooner steps are taken to make it a reality, the better.
The next Leaders Summit has been set for late November, probably in Panama, and it is worth keeping a very close eye on the developments that emerge from there. This could very well be the U-turn the sport has been crying out for.