How Did the Four Organizations Get Started & What Have They Accomplished?
By: Ken Hissner
The WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO have taken 8 divisions to 17 and a top 10 contenders list to 15 but has it been good for boxing? Let’s see and find out what they have done.
The oldest is the World Boxing Association which in 1921 was founded as the National Boxing Association. In 1962 it became the WBA. It has bounced back and forth from 1975 in Panama to Venezuela in the 1990’s and early 2,000’s and back to Panama in 2007.
Gilberto Mendoza of Venezuela was President from 1982 until his death in 2016. His son Gilberto Jr. took over at that time. It’s been said they are the worst for honoring champions.
The World Boxing Council came about in February of 1963 when Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos called a meeting and under 11 countries including the US, PR, ARG, UK, FR, MEX, PH, PAN, Chile, Peru, VZ & BRZ. Presidents included Luis Spota, Ramon G. Velazqez both of Mexico. Then Justinano V. Montano, Jr. of the Philippines with Jose Sulaiman of Mexico becoming President from 1975 until his death in 2014. Then his son Mauricio took over.
The started drug testing first. They have increased the champions from 8 to 43. They have Silver, Green, interim and many off shoot belt holders.
The International Boxing Federation (then USBA) was formed in the US with a strong contingence from South Korea. In December of 1983 Heavyweight champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” was complaining (what’s new with him?) about fighting these “young lions” so Bob Lee who had failed in an attempt to become the WBA President in 1982 formed the IBF. Holmes then could defend against such boxers as Scott Frank and Marvis Frazier whose father “Smokin” Joe Frazier put him in with Holmes though his son only had 10 fights. Holmes was 44-0 at the time with 17 defenses. Needless to say Marvis only lasted 2:57. After the mismatch Holmes declared “that’s for all the whippings your daddy gave me in the gym!” Lee already headed the United States Boxing Association out of New Jersey so making boxers like Holmes champion automatically would bring in financial gains for Lee.
The two paragraphs prior to this were from this writer. The following is right from the IBF in part which I am thankful for their contribution.
The idea to form the United States Boxing Association (USBA) materialized in September of 1976 when the organizers decided it was time to form a new organization based in the US and comprised of legitimate boxing commissioners from the United States and its territories. Twenty-four US Commissions came together in April of 1977 to consider the structure or the organization. The association’s first convention was held in December 1977 at which the constitution and by-laws were adopted and the USBA was well on its way to play a major role in US boxing.
In its early years the USBA served as a springboard for it boxers to the rankings of the World Boxing Association (WBA), one of the two international sanctioning bodies at the time. In April of 1983 the members of the USBA voted to expand the organization and create an international division during the annual convention in Atlantic City, NJ.
The move to branch out was led by Robert W. Lee, Sr., who subsequently was voted the entity’s founding president. He was working as deputy commissioner for the NJ State Athletic Control board. He had reached the position of second vice-president of the WBA and had run for the presidency in 1980 and lost. It was then that he began seeking support to expand the USBA internationally.
In 1984, a vote was passed to change the name of the organization to the name it currently operates under, the International Boxing Federation. The IBF began rating female boxers in June of 2010, and crowned its first female champion Daniella Smith, in November of the same year.
As the organization continued to grow and prosper on a global scale, its leaders convened once again to address the organization’s name. In January 2018, the sanctioning body announced it would conduct business as the IBF. The USBA title would still exist as a regional title under the umbrella of the IBF.
The last to join the organizations and is still sometimes left out is the World Boxing Organization (WBO) founded in 1988 in Puerto Rico as a non-profit after attending the WBA convention. Its first president was Ramon Pina Acevedo of the Dominican Republic. He would be followed by former world champion Jose Torres of PR. In 1996 he retired being replaced by the current President Francisco Varcacel a PR lawyer.
In 2004 the WBC started putting the WBO champions in their ratings while the IBF didn’t until 2007. One of their most recognized champions would be Joe Calzaghe from Wales who made 21 defenses in the Super Middleweight division retiring with a 46-0 record. He didn’t come to the US until his last 2 bouts defeating Bernard “the Executioner” Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr.
The WBO’s first heavyweight champion to oppose the other organizations Mike Tyson was Italy’s Olympian Francisco Damiani. “Merciless” Ray Mercer took care of Damiani with one uppercut to the nose in 1991. In Mercer’s next fight after blasting out Tommy “The Duke” Morrison he vacated the title. Then got out boxed by a much older Holmes. In 1992 he tried to re-gain the title which was held by Wladimir Klitschko of the UKR getting stopped in 6 rounds.
The WBO was mainly recognizing European and Asian with the UK boxers to follow in the beginning before coming to the US with success. The WBO has now some 16 world champions.
More Boxing History
Are Championship Belts Worthless?
Are Championship Belts Worthless?
By: Brandon Bernica
Every big fight night, you’re all but guaranteed to see high-level boxers flocked by their teams. Usually, one member of these teams carries out a fighter’s prized memorabilia: championship belt(s). The ring announcer reminds the crowd which belts are at stake in the upcoming fight. And after all the smoke clears and the fight finishes, one man comes out on top, taking with him his own belt and that of the man he just beat.
As pretty as belts are to look at, many in boxing argue that there are simply too many these days to care. For the uninitiated, each division in boxing features four belts – the WBC, WBA, WBO, and IBF – and the more belts you possess, the more viable your argument is as the top dog at your weight. Yet each belt organization is free to make its own arbitrary standards. Not only do sub-top 5 fighters often win championships before the elite class, they garner an exaggerated profile as top-notch when, in reality, they’re far from that status. Furthermore, unifying titles to find a “true champion” rarely occurs. This is due to a lack of cooperation between sanctioning bodies and the unwillingness of fighters to challenge themselves further after winning a title.
Even though the belt organizations run boxing like the Wild West and rankings are skewed, belts still offer boxers great amounts of promise. When a fighter reaches the pinnacle and wins his first championship, his role shifts from hunter to hunted. Since other fighters, now petition to fight for his crown, his bargaining power (and bank account) grow exponentially. Additionally, that fighter’s trainer becomes a championship trainer. Trainers such as Robert Garcia and Freddie Roach built deep stables of talent after they proved their merit with their initial championship-winning fighters.
Belts represent opportunity, perseverance, and pride. While some might argue that four belts remain too many, to fighters that means four different routes to accomplishing a lifelong dream. Most boxers grow up envisioning themselves hoisting a belt victorious in the center of the ring; giving more opportunity to turn this into reality is a plus. And while boxing sabotages itself in failing to pit the best against the best, the belt framework brings us one step closer to that hope. If the organizations could just pass bylines together to coordinate unifications, cream of the crop matchups could become more frequent. Again, each step in this chain provides life-changing money for fighters, setting them up better for retirement.
While it’s easy to point fingers at these sanctioning bodies for the issues in the sport, these groups have immense authority in a divided landscape. They control the incentives that drive fighters to fight: money, titles, notoriety, etc. Because of their standing, they can use their voices to advocate for improvements in boxing. The WBC has already taken some pivotal stands themselves. They decline to sanction professional fighters who decide to fight in the Olympics against amateurs. In addition, many fighting under WBC rules undergo rigorous VADA drug testing to ensure that no one cheats to the top.
In the destabilized ecosystem that is boxing, change is necessary. Instead of looking at belts as symbols of evil, it might be more productive to view them as conduits of boxing growth. By making the self-serving characters in the fight game operate under reasonable regulations, our sport can grow closer to a proper framework similar to the NBA and NFL. Still, belts are boxing’s Stanley Cup or Lombardi Trophy, meaningful through the journey to obtain them. They should stay that way.