COMMENTARY | This Saturday, Tomasz Adamek (47-2, 29 KOs) will take on Steve Cunningham (25-4, 12 KOs) in a heavyweight rematch of an entertaining cruiserweight battle from four years ago. Back in 2008, Adamek took Cunningham's IBF world cruiserweight title in a hard-fought contest that thrilled fight fans lucky enough to be tuning in to the sparsely-viewed Versus channel.
Now, Adamek-Cunningham II is getting a valuable showcase spot on NBC. The styles match-up is still outstanding and it will still likely produce heated, fan-friendly action. The only difference this time is that only an IBF North American title will be at stake. No world strap, no interim world strap, no diamond belt. The winner will not be able to call himself world champ of anything-- and nobody cares.
Rewind to a couple of weeks back and the awesome spectacle of Pacquiao-Marquez 4. The WBO had wedged their silly "Champion of the Decade" belt into the mix, but it added nothing to the entertainment value of the bout or the rush of Marquez's sixth round knockout punch.
Looking back further, likely Fight of the Year winner, Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado, also took place away from any "world title" designation. The hellacious back and forth action had nothing to do with the token WBO Latino light welterweight title attached to the contest. Rios came from behind to stop Alvarado because of pride and for the right to keep pushing forward to bigger and better things in his career.
The point of all of this is to highlight the utter uselessness of boxing's sanctioning bodies and the complete irrelevance of their world titles.
Promoters and managers love having world titles popping out of every orifice and stacked in every closet. Fighters love to win belts. The networks also love these shiny accessories that allow them to trick casual fight fans into thinking that some marginal match-up is actually a WORLD title bout. So, seemingly every day, new belts and new titles get dreamed up by the brain trusts at boxing's four recognized sanctioning bodies-- The IBF, WBA, WBC, and WBO (and if you really want to go crazy, you can lump in upstart organizations like the IBO, WBF, and WBU).
How crazy have boxing politics become?
Arthur Abraham would be hard-pressed to make any legitimate Top Ten super middleweight list, yet he just made the first defense of his newly-won WBO world title. When a "world" champion isn't even among the ten best fighters in his division, you know the inmates are running the asylum.
Sorry, Arthur Anraham-Mehdi Bouadla was not a world super middleweight title fight-- except, possibly, in the Bizarro World. In this world, though, Andre Ward is the clear consensus no. 1 super middleweight with Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler competing for no. 2. Oh, and by the way, Froch and Kessler are also "world" champs at the moment.
But this is not to single out the super middleweights. Every division in the sport-- all seventeen of them-- has similarly absurd goings on because of the ever-present sanctioning body drama. We have reigning world champs who have yet to fight a legitimate Top 20 opponent, new belts being manufactured for specific fights, and, at one time, short-sighted boardroom planning within the WBA had the organization recognizing four simultaneous world featherweight champs.
The craziness runs the gamut from the utterly obscene to the completely laughable, but all can agree that it does the actual sport of boxing no good at all.
The preponderance of world titles allows the best fighters in the division to easily avoid one another and, just as often, prevents them from facing one another even if the desire to fight is there.
For instance, in the light heavyweight division, four world champs share the glory at the top of the food chain-- Chad Dawson (WBC), Nathan Cleverly (WBO), Tavoris Cloud (IBF), and Beibut Shuenov (WBA). None of the four have met and none are close to meeting because, while all like to posture and talk unification, the realities of the sport prevent this from happening. All have mandatory defenses issued to them from the sanctioning body and most of these mandatories tend to be easy touches. Unless they're willing to vacate their titles and become a challenger to another champ's belt, none of these four will be fighting any time soon.
Even if some of these champs did unify, it's now common practice for one of the organizations involved to find a way to strip their belt from the winner in order to have yet another title bout. Or, better yet, simply create another world title and have two reigning champs.
Hardcore fight fans have known about the ever-shrinking significance of the world title for some time now. It hardly registers when so and so wins a belt or when some bit of office politics at a sanctioning body costs a real champ his title. It's sad that so many fans have become desensitized to this foolishness.
In the absence of a real centralized authority, boxing's power brokers have brought in these sanctioning body carpetbaggers to serve as fake authorities. For 3% of each fighter's purse, these organizations offer up the pretense of order and structure, but are really doing little more than lining their own pockets and serving those who control the money flow in the sport.
The establishment of an independent centralized authority would fix most of this. Actually, this is the only reform boxing needs. From there, we can work on PEDs use, fix scoring abnormalities, and finally send these sanctioning body phonies back underneath the rocks from which they crawled.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.