By: Sean Crose
“It will not make any difference,” Tyson Fury co-promoter Frank Warren tells ESPN, “what belts they are fighting for because the public are not watching for the belts, they want to just see them in the ring, but we want them on the line because it’s the first time all four world heavyweight titles could be unified.” Warren is referring to a heavyweight dream fight between Fury and multi-titlist Anthony Joshua, a potential all England heavyweight epic, that could announce the first undisputed divisional champion in ages. Sure enough, both Fury and Joshua are now at the point where people would rather see them fight each other than adhere to the regulations of various sanctioning bodies which could keep the match from happening. Still, belts remain important in the contemporary fight business. One would rather have them than not.
With promotional, broadcast and organizational rivalries plaguing the sport, however, there may be a desire to break from accepted and long standing practices in order to give fans the fights they most wish to see. This would be good for fans, as well as very bad for many of the powers that be. With that in mind, more confusion and consequences may come along thanks to a break with tradition. It’s hard to imagine, for instance, the sport of boxing operating without officially sanctioned titles.
That’s why it appears that Warren, Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn, and possibly Bob Arum (who also promotes Fury) will do their best to make sure Fury and Joshua (should they fight) enter the ring in possession of their respective belts, of which there are more than a few. “Whatever it takes,” says Warren, “to make the belts on the line we have to try.” As things stand, Fury holds the WBC heavyweight title, along with (arguably) the lineal title, while Joshua holds the WBA, IBF, and WBO straps.
One of the good things about title belts is that they come with responsibilities – namely giving mandatory contenders the chance to fight, or even become, the biggest names in the business. Should belts be done away with, or should they become irrelevant, fans might possibly be left seeing the most popular fight the most popular rather than the best fight the best. The business of boxing, already shady thanks in part to sanctioning organization’s shenanigans, might find itself in a worse place without them.
In the end, however, when two world champions wish to fight each other – something all too uncommon in today’s fight game – and the powers that be won’t allow them to, people can’t be surprised if those fighters toss the rules, and their belts, aside.