By Michael Montero
Only a few days after the controversy of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament finals, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) has ordered an immediate rematch between Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since last Saturday, you either saw or have heard about the abysmal officiating of Russell Mora, who repeatedly allowed Golden Boy Promotion’s Abner Mares to hit his opponent below the belt over the entirety of the bout. To miss a few calls here and there is forgivable, but to blow the call like Mora did in the 11th round – where Mares hit Agbeko right in the middle of the cup, yet was awarded with a knockdown – is a classic example of how the 3rd man in the ring can directly affect the outcome of a close fight. What was quite possibly a 10-9 round for Agbeko suddenly became a 10-8 round for Mares, ultimately changing Jimmy Lennon’s post fight announcement from “and still…” to “and the new…”
The silver lining in all of this is that the IBF saw what we the fans saw and did the right thing. Imagine that, a sanctioning body doing the right thing! Sounds insane, right? But this just goes to show that some of the alphabet boys are better than others, not all sanctioning bodies are created equal. And in this writer’s humble opinion, the IBF stands alone as the best of the major sanctioning organizations in professional boxing. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but they actually tend to follow their own rules while the rest seem to change them as they go. Here are some quick stats to show you what I mean.
Current World Champions:
IBF – 16
WBO – 19
WBC – 20
WBA – 34
Divisions with Multiple World Champions:
IBF – 0
WBO – 2
WBC – 3
WBA – 13
Types of World Titles:
IBF – Regular
WBO – Regular, Interim
WBA – Regular, Interim, Super
WBC – Regular, Interim, Emeritus, Silver, Diamond
Consider that of all the sanctioning organizations, the IBF is the only one to not hand out “Interim” or “Emeritus” titles like they’re candy. Furthermore, they’re the only group that has fewer champions (16) than there are actual divisions in pro boxing (17). What sets them apart is the fact that they award only one champ per weight class – none of the others can claim that. So if you follow the IBF, at least you know who their champions are. By contrast, look at the WBA in the lightweight division. They currently recognize Juan Manuel Marquez as the “Super” Champion, Brandon Rios as the “Regular” Champion and Robert Guerrero as the “Interim” Champion. How the hell is the casual boxing fan supposed to know who to call the lightweight champion of the world when there are THREE of them in the very same sanctioning body? It’s confusing enough for a lot of folks that there are often four different champions per division, but now there are three in one organization alone? Madness!
But it’s more than that; it’s also the ethics of some of these people. Take the WBC and what they did to Timothy Bradley recently. He had held the WBC junior welterweight title for some time, but was suddenly stripped for no apparent reason. There was no mandatory due and Bradley had not been inactive for more than a year. Yet when the Erik Morales-Lucas Matthysse match was announced as part of the undercard for the upcoming Mayweather-Ortiz PPV card, the WBC promptly stripped Bradley and announced that Morales-Matthysse would be for their “vacant” 140 pound championship. It’s pretty evident that WBC dictator – oops, I meant president – Jose Sulaiman is trying to help his boy Erik Morales become the first Mexican to win titles in four different weight classes. This isn’t the first time Sulaiman has shown bias toward a Mexican fighter, or the first time the WBC has changed their rules on the fly and stripped somebody for no reason. Those of you who remember the Graciano Rocchigiani fiasco years back know exactly what I mean.
And I really don’t mean to beat a dead horse with the WBA, but just look at their ongoing madness with the heavyweight division. In a couple weeks Ruslan Chagaev will fight Alexander Povetkin. It’s a very solid matchup that could certainly propel the winner to a top three ranking in the division – that’s great. What’s not great is the fact that this fight will be for the WBA “regular” heavyweight title. As you ponder the sanity of the WBA officials, remember that Wladimir Klitschko just won their title only a month ago by embarrassing David Haye. It didn’t take but a couple weeks for the disgusting WBA to sanction a bout for the “regular” title since Klitschko was a unified champ and therefore recognized as “super” champion. Interesting how the belt that Klitschko took from Haye was a “regular” one, yet suddenly became a “super” one the very minute it exchanged hands, isn’t it? Also consider this – the winner of the Chagaev-Povetkin match and subsequent WBA “regular” heavyweight champion will either be a guy that Klitschko already destroyed (Chagaev), or a guy that shamelessly ducked him (Povetkin), turning down a career high payday in the process. Even more pathetic, the guy ranked #3 behind Chagaev and Povetkin is none other than Hasim Rahman; the same man Klitschko totally decimated back in 2008. So it wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility to end up seeing the Chagaev-Povetkin winner having to face Rahman for their “mandatory” next year. Try explaining to your casual boxing friends how Wladimir Klitschko is the WBA “super” champion, while the “regular” champ (and their mandatory!) is either a man that he’s already beat into submission, or a guy that ran from him like Wesley Snipes from the IRS. But I digress…
The point of my rant is that while the WBA and WBC may often have us boxing fans pulling out our hair, there is a silver lining here, and that is the IBF. This organization not only has clear rules, but they actually follow them. You can be sure that when the IBF declares a mandatory, that fighter has probably earned it (their recent HW tourneys for instance). There are no divisions with three champions, no stripping of titles for political reasons, no looking the other way when an injustice is done onto a fighter. This latest Mares-Agbeko scenario is the perfect example. For what it’s worth, Golden Boy Promotions is who wanted Russell Mora as the ref and got the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s blessing, while Agbeko promoter Don King protested for somebody else. But the IBF has taken things out of the promoter’s hands, the athletic commission’s hands and even the network’s hands. With the order for an immediate rematch they are putting control back into the fighter’s hands and that’s the way it should be. Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko get to settle this for everybody and answer all our questions.
So the next time you’re strapped for cash and wondering if you should pony up for a PPV or tickets to a local fight card, don’t only think about who’s promoting the event – think about who’s sanctioning it. That’s important too. At the end of the day the only power we boxing fans truly have with the promoters, networks and sanctioning bodies themselves is with our wallets.
Please note that the opinions expressed above are that of the writer only and not those of this web site. So if any of you alphabet boys want to get upset and write some nasty emails, send them my way. Questions, comments, hate mail? You know what to do. [email protected]