Boxing Views: An Idea to Bring About Unification

21.08.07 - By Paul McCreath: We have read a lot of articles in recent months about the many things that ail boxing. There are numerous theories but the one thing that most fans agree on is that there are too many champions. The average casual follower of the sport has no idea any longer who the champions are.

Unlike back in the fifties, when there were only eight weight classes with one champion in each, we now have 17 different divisions with four main alphabet bodies each recognizing their own title holder. That leaves a potential of 68 possible "world" champions, far too many.

One possible solution to the problem would be to go back to the original eight weight classes or something close to it. The fact that so many boxers are forever jumping back and forth between the divisions shows we don't need nearly as many as we have now. That solution would help but I will leave that discussion for another day. There is a better way.

Unification is often talked about as the best way to bring back champions that all the fans know but how do we get unification? It should be pretty obvious by now that the sanctioning bodies are not willing to work together to bring this about. We occasionally get a single unification fight but how long does the result last? It is usually right back to split titles again in a matter of months.It is just not in the best financial interests of the alphabet boys to have unified titles.

The answer to this problem is a very simple approach, a new format. We must bypass the sanctioning bodies altogether. One of the major promoters or even better several of them working together should set up an annual World Championship Tournament. This might sound unlikely but it is possible. They have worked together before on big fights. Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya are co-operating now. Arum has even worked with Don King in the past. King works with Sauerland and used to have a deal with Frank Warren. Warren is working right now with Team Palle on the Kessler-Calzaghe fight. Sauerland has even done joint promotions with Universum. It does happen. If the money is there they will do it.

The tournament would involve the eight best fighters in the world. It could work with any division but I would suggest starting with the heavyweights or middles. Once the idea catches on and gains popularity it could be expanded to more weight classes. For just the first year the four alphabet champions would automatically qualify for the quarterfinals. The other four fighters could be selected from a qualifying round involving the next best eight fighters in the world. It would be important to use independent ratings, perhaps The Ring's, or even some compiled by a panel of boxing writers from the main boxing web sites.

The various rounds would have to be scheduled well in advance in order to allow the fighters to clear their calendars of any other obligations. They could hold the quarterfinals in the spring, the semis two or three months later, and the big title match in the fall. All bouts would be over 12 rounds. Some bouts would be big enough for PPV. Others would go on HBO or Showtime. Some early rounds might be more suited to ESPN and of course other networks in the rest of the world outside USA would be involved. The purses would have to be large enough to attract the best fighters but with TV that would not be a problem. With no sanctioning fees to pay the fighters would get a larger share of the purses.

The end result of this tournament would be a universally recognized champion and the alphabet titles would soon go away. With most of the best boxers involved in the competition any remaining alphabet belt holders would have a hard time getting meaningful opponents for their defenses and the money would soon dry up. You can imagine the lack of credibility any champion would have who refused to participate in the competition. Eventually the sanctioning organizations would go away because their source of income would be gone.

The following year they could do it all again. Give the four semifinalists from the first year a birth in the quarterfinals and the other four could be selected from qualifying bouts. This way we would get lots of meaningful qualifying matches and new contenders would have a chance to fight their way up to the top. The old bum of the month trick would no longer work. We would see only deserving challengers for the title.

My idea probably will need a bit of fine tuning but the basic plan would work.Now all we need is for the promoters and the top fighters to step up to the plate and make it happen.

Article posted on 22.08.2007

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