April 22, 2021

Talk is Cheap, But it Doesn’t Mean Boxing Can’t Be Cured

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Whaddya know? It’s that time of year again.

Even in a pandemic.

Hope will soon spring eternal at National Football League training camps. Short-term pretenders are being revealed by bona fide contenders on major-league baseball diamonds.

And media types are going medieval on boxing sanctioning bodies.

OK, I’ll concede the latter one is more year-round than seasonal, but it certainly seems the vitriol has been ratcheted up once again amid summer’s doggiest days.

Writers, podcasters and Wi-Fi-enabled rabble-rousers have taken aim at the WBA in the last couple weeks, setting particular sights on an Aug. 8 show in Los Angeles that included a pair of “interim” championship bouts involving fighters with, let’s just say, less-than-obvious qualifications.

Actually, let’s go ahead and just say they were garbage.

The critiques always yield eloquent commentary, especially with guys on a certain journalistic level.

And it’s a guaranteed win with fans who’ve been perpetually programmed to reject anything presented without the championship approval of a certain monthly magazine.

Funny thing, though, upon returning from an oratory Valhalla where titles don’t matter, no one ever gets around to suggesting what should be done with baby once the bath water has been dumped.

My guess… because it’s not quite as simple as it seems.

While the alphabets make a worthy target thanks to missteps too numerous to list, it’s a naïve overreach to assume flicking them off like a light switch will cure the sport’s championship-sopped ills.

Like it or not, structure matters. And unless a would-be substitute blends substance along with self-righteousness, the rhetoric generated is little more than glossy lipstick on a still-unsightly pig.

For example, let’s say Canelo Alvarez – who owns both the WBA and Ring belts at 160 pounds – decides to chuck the Panamanian trinket to become champion of a brave new alphabet-free world.

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Though lemmings would suggest Satan had been toppled, the existing framework at the so-called Biblical savior no more ensures a high-end super fight – i.e., dates with fellow claimants Jermall Charlo (WBC), Demetrius Andrade (WBO) or Gennady Golovkin (IBF) – than fondling Rosary beads or praying to Tim Tebow.

Presuming Canelo fights every 18 months, doesn’t lose to a middleweight and manages to mix in a top-five contender at 160 every two years without failing a PED test, he can steer clear of guys like Boo, Triple-G and the Hit Man until the rapture. And never once have to answer for it.

If your idea of salvation is Alvarez vs. Ryota Murata on an endless loop, congratulations.

If not, too bad… and that’ll be $1.99 a month, please.

No surprise, it’s no different for those residing on the green-belted side of the street.

If WBC king Tyson Fury followed Canelo’s hypothetical lead and wrapped himself in a magazine-sanctioned heavyweight cocoon, he’d need only peek out once in a while to slap aside an Andy Ruiz – rather than again dealing with the likes of Deontay Wilder, or, gasp… Dillian Whyte or Anthony Joshua.

In fact, steer clear of the seven deadly sins – losing in your championship weight class, moving to another weight for more than one fight, staying inactive for 18 months, not defending your title in 18 months, not facing a top-five foe in two years, retiring, or failing a PED test – and you’re the boxing equivalent of a Supreme Court justice or a dictator in third-world banana republic.

Champion for life.

Suffice to say, if you were pining for a solution with a little more substance, the subscription-based fix won’t satisfy.

As much as disgust-mongers might hate to admit it, boxing without an apparatus of mandatory challengers and title-stripping teeth is no better off than boxing now. And rather than simply handing the keys to the loudest source of indignation – or the one that your grandfather used to read – the real solution is fixing the existing system, not trashing it.

Funniest thing is, when you get beyond ranting and actually start thinking, it’s not an impossible renovation.

Take the bats of out biased hands and rank contenders by a computer. Ditch the silvers, supers and interims and diamonds and install one champion per weight class. And make sure those champions fight a No. 1 challenger at least once every 12 months, lest the title belts be handed over to someone who will.

If the existing bodies won’t do it by public demand, create one that will.

Period.

It’s not as clever as creating catch phrases or sanctioning acronyms on Twitter, and it didn’t warrant anyone applying pancake makeup and haranguing in a tuxedo. But it’s as much a remedy in 60 seconds as the holy rollers have generated in all the time it’s taken to establish a shoddy status quo.

Don’t get me wrong, I like thumbing through a monthly Bible as much as the next guy.

But if it’s all the same to you, I’ll be taking my pilgrimage business elsewhere.

* * * * * * * * * *

This week’s title-fight schedule:

No title fights scheduled.

Last week’s picks: 1-0 (WIN: Benavidez)
2020 picks record: 15-3 (83.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,131-368 (75.4 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.