Why Austin Trout’s Title Isn’t Real — But Don’t Tell Miguel Cotto


By Ivan G. Goldman

Austin Trout is mostly unknown to the general population, but largely because he holds the WBA super welterweight title, he gets to fight far-better-known Miguel Cotto on Showtime Saturday.

Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime

Trouble is, if you look closely at Trout’s title, you discover it’s only sort of a title. In fact, it’s not the title at all because Floyd Mayweather, who decisioned Cotto last May, holds what the WBA calls the WBA super world champion super welterweight title. Being a champion is a lot like being pregnant. You either are or you aren’t, and the WBA champion is in fact Mayweather, who appears to be hibernating this winter.

Trout, 25-0 (14 KOs), won his championship that isn’t really a championship by decisioning Rigoberto Alvarez in February 2011 and has defended it successfully three times. But as acutely observant fans know, Trout’s title, such as it is, is merely a device that the Panama-based WBA uses to extract additional cash from fighters. It’s a common alphabet gang ploy. The networks that carry these fights sometimes pretend bogus championships are real and sometimes they don’t. But in the center of the ring Trout will be introduced as a champion, and lots of people will actually believe it. The announcers are paid by the promoters, who want their fighters to be called champions even when they aren’t. If the promoter says the fighter is champion of the Milky Way Galaxy, the announcer will say it too.

If you check out the WBA directory you find its officers are spread around the world from Asia to Latin America, with the main office in Panama and the treasurer in Venezuela. Faraway locations less accessible to IRS snooping are a form of extra insurance.

The thing about Cotto, 37-3 (30 KOs), is that like most fighters, he’s a sucker for championship belts, which is why the alphabet gangs’ naked scams succeed and why he and Trout are willing to pay fees to the WBA for the right to win or retain a bogus title. Even the Klitschko brothers, who speak four languages apiece and hold Ph.D.s, let the gangs wet their beak in the proceeds from their fights.

It’s because the title swindle proved so lucrative and easy to perpetrate that the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO mobs dreamt up not only championships, but super championships, geographical championships, “interim” championships, and so on. The tenacious WBO, the newest big-time boxing mob, elbowed its way into the picture much like the determined Hostess company, which figured if it kept calling its chemical-laden Twinkies a pastry long enough, people would start to actually believe them. I’m looking for a fifth alphabet gang to win a place at the table someday, making the sport’s governing bodies even more similar to the five U.S. Mafia families (Insiders tell me that these days the IBF is more legitimate than the other three).

The alphabet gangs don’t have all the power, of course, but their schemes and declarations can still make things happen — or not happen. Sometimes we see them strip champions of their titles for inactivity or taking on an unsanctioned opponent, and sometimes they force titlists to take crummy fights. But the rules are arbitrary, and fighters with the right juice receive special dispensation.

The WBA recently stripped Danny Geale of his super world middleweight title shortly after he thought he won it fair and square by decisoning Felix Sturm in Germany. But the WBA wanted his next fight to be against its regular middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan, whose title isn’t really the title at all. Instead Geale opted to take a rematch from Anthony Mundine, the only pro who ever beat him (it was by split decision). So now Sturm, who generates tidy fees for the WBA in Germany, remains its super world middleweight champion even though he lost his last fight. Geale will defend his still-intact IBF title from Mundine. You could argue that kayo artist Golovkin is a tougher fight than 37-year-old Mundine, but the WBA didn’t argue much at all. It just made its move. Hasta la vista, Geale baby.

Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE

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