Messy middleweight division highlights need for central authority in boxing

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
(L-R) Canelo Alvarez won Danny Jacobs' IBF belt earlier this year to unify the middleweight division. Now he's at risk of being stripped of that title. (AP)
(L-R) Canelo Alvarez won Danny Jacobs' IBF belt earlier this year to unify the middleweight division. Now he's at risk of being stripped of that title. (AP)

Only in boxing could a division loaded with as much high-end talent as the middleweights be in such a shambles.

Canelo Alvarez, who won three of the four belts in the ring last year when he defeated Gennadiy Golovkin in Las Vegas, will soon shed his second.

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In June, the WBC gave him the ridiculous title of franchise champion, which does nothing but confuse the public and prevent growth among the casual fans.

On Tuesday, the IBF ordered Alvarez and Sergiy Derevyanchenko to make a deal for a title fight or go to purse bid on July 23. If, as is almost dead certain, Alvarez doesn’t comply, he’ll be stripped of the IBF belt.

So then, he’ll go from having been the unified IBF-WBA-WBC champion to having just the WBA belt. And the WBA is more ridiculous than the other three sanctioning bodies by a factor of 50 in terms of how it handles its belts. Rob Brant already has a WBA belt, but give it time and a few more WBA champions could pop up.

Having multiple champions in the same division benefits the sanctioning bodies, because they collect sanction fees from the fighters for each title fight. So in the case of the WBA, where they have frequently had a super champion, a champion and an interim champion, you go from collecting sanctioning fees from two fighters to collecting from six.

The fight game thrives when there is a single clearly defined champion and well-known, highly regarded challengers.

The current system is beyond a mess and is hard for the most dedicated fans to follow. Boxing may have the smallest number of hardcore fans of any of the major sports -- if we even regard it as a major sport -- because of all the nonsense and mismanagement that has occurred throughout the years.

It desperately needs to attract new and younger fans, and it’s possible because there are an extraordinarily large number of compelling fighters 27 and under who have the potential to become stars.

They won’t in the current environment because there is no central authority in boxing and no one whose job it is to look out for the best interests of the sport as a whole rather than the best interests of themselves.

When Alvarez declines to participate in the purse bid, he’ll be stripped and it’s all but certain that the IBF will order Derevyanchenko to fight Golovkin for its vacant belt.

All that will do is provide a cheap way for Golovkin to get a belt after having lost his in the ring.

Golovkin is interested in fighting Alvarez for a third time, and feels he got a raw deal in the first two fights, both of which are in Las Vegas. He no longer wants to fight in Las Vegas because he feels he got the short end of the stick in both decisions.

(L-R) Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez both celebrate after the final round in their WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight championship bout at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 16, 2017 in Las Vegas. (Getty Images)
(L-R) Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez both celebrate after the final round in their WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight championship bout at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 16, 2017 in Las Vegas. (Getty Images)

I felt Golovkin defeated Alvarez in their first fight in 2017, and I scored their 2018 bout a draw. Judges had their first fight a split draw and their second fight was a majority decision for Alvarez. The second fight, though, was much closer and could have gone either way. Golovkin doesn’t have much of a complaint because, as UFC president Dana White says, when you leave the outcome in the hands of the judges, you have to accept whatever they come up with.

Golovkin’s petulance in refusing to fight Alvarez in Las Vegas will likely mean the third fight won’t occur this year, and that will put him into position to win a title he doesn’t deserve and which should come with the biggest asterisk possible.

What is best for the sport often conflicts with what is best for individual interests and that’s what’s at stake here.

What makes the most sense is for Alvarez and Golovkin to fight in September for whatever middleweight belts Alvarez has left at the time, and then for Derevyanchenko to face either WBC champion Jermall Charlo or WBO champion Demetrius Andrade for the IBF belt.

That would then allow a scenario in which the winners could meet for three of the four belts that would in turn establish a clear hierarchy in the division.

If Alvarez chose to move up to light heavyweight to challenge Sergiy Kovalev, than the scenario at middleweight would change slightly. In that case, Golovkin and Derevyanchenko should fight for the IBF title and Charlo and Andrade should meet for the WBC-WBO belts.

Those bouts would provide the best potential challengers for Alvarez.

And if the fighters, managers and promoters actually wanted what was best for the sport’s long-term health, they’d agree that the Golovkin-Derevyanchenko winner would face the Andrade-Charlo winner in December, with the ultimate winner facing Alvarez in May for the undisputed belt.

That, of course, won’t happen because there are exactly zero people with a stake in the game who care about anything other than their own immediate success.

The middleweight division, despite a large number of good fighters and potentially attractive bouts, will go on as it usually does, aimlessly and without direction or a coherent plan.

Lots of guys will wrongly call themselves champions and they’ll only help the sport to sink more slowly into the abyss.

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