Switching Gears (for the fate of boxing)

09.10.07 - By James Bedell: As I watched Peter v McCline unfold Saturday night, I couldnít help but notice that my mind was wandering to other issues pertaining to this fight and the outcome. Who will the winner face? Will they try to unify, or just fight some bum? Why has it been so long since Peter last fought? How was McCline even approved as a challenger? What the hell is an ďinterimĒ title? It seems to me that the politics of boxing have gotten WAY out of hand in the past twenty five or thirty years. We have seventy three heavyweight champions, about 300 interim champions, etc, etc.(Donít even get me started about the ďsuperĒ and ďregularĒ champions..)

samuel peterThese guys are making ridiculous purses, paying even more ridiculous sanctioning fees, and it seems to me that the only people coming out on top are the ones NOT throwing the punches. Itís obvious to me that it is not about the sport itself any longerÖits about the money involved Its been a long time coming but I cant keep quiet about it anymore. Iíve come up with a list of ten things I feel would get boxing back on the right track. I know that I will take a lot of flack for this and that its not going to be the solution to every problem. It should, however, give the brass in charge a place to start.

1. One unified governing body- Yep, you knew this was coming. Look, I donít have all the answers. Hell, I canít even begin to tell you how you should go about deciding who gets to be the ones making the decisions. What I do know is that it is imperative that we have one recognized champion in each weight division. It is also imperative that we have one governing body responsible for investigating foul play when it comes to fights, fighters, referees, judges, trainers, and especially promoters. You canít possibly know who the best really is when you have four champions walking around claiming to be the best. Even when the media claims a certain fighter as a ďrecognizedĒ champion, with four belt holders you can make an argument either way no matter what. (Yes, I know this is all easier said than done).

2. Performance pending purses- I know Iím sick and tired of seeing fighters making 3 zillion dollars per fight only to waltz around for twelve rounds. Honestly, I donít care how much money you make per fightÖjust earn it!!! Thatís why I propose fight purses that are dependant on a fighters performance. Now im not saying take half of a guys purse because he got dominated in a fight. What I am saying is having the legal option to taking money from a fighters purse if he quits, if he does not make weight, or if it is obvious that he is there to just run and collect a big pay check. Again, nothing is perfect, and no im not the one in the ring taking punches. But in my opinion, calling yourself a PROFESSIONAL fighter means that anything less that 100 percent effort should not be tolerated.

3. Fight waivers- I donít know how many times I have seen a referee stop a fight and felt that the losing fighter didnít even have a chance to recover. I think a medical waiver could eliminate this. While it wouldnít be mandatory, a fighter could choose to waive his legal rights to injury in a fight so that a referee could let him continue in the event of injury. In other words, let the man have the full ten count!!! Seem kind of barbaric?? Ask any fighter who has had a fight stop prematurely and I think youíll be surprised at the answer. Yes, referees and doctors are there for a fighters safety and they are tremendously important. They are not the ones, though, taking the punches. Let the fighter decide when enough is enough.

4. ďBackground checksĒ on referees and judges- This one may seem a little weird to you but in the wake of fight fixing and bad politics(you know what I mean) I think its necessary to see how many times a certain referee or judge has worked a specific promoters fight. I think this would eliminate a lot of the paranoia that exists in the boxing world today. It would also ensure that neutrality exists among fighters/promoters and the officials.

5. Fight is fighters decision- Weíve heard it all before. A fighter gets a bad rap for fighting limited competition and his excuse is that he fights who his promoter tells him to. This can be changed by making the choice of opponent the final legal responsibility of the fighter himself. This way, there are no excuses. If a fighter is padding his record, heíll have no one to blame but himself. And if a fighter truly wants to fight another good fighter, heíll get a legitimate opportunity.

The next four are assuming that a single governing body is never created.

6. Eliminate interim titles- Titles should be won inside the ring. If a champion is injured, he should have x number of days(not more than twelve weeks) to recover and reschedule. If he cannot meet the deadline, the title is stripped and the number 1 and number 2 fighters fight for the title. If the fighters arenít available for the title shot, the title stays vacant until they are ready to fight. The injured fighter should be given a chance to reclaim his title once the injury has healed.

7. Minimum number of yearly defenses for a champion- Barring an extensive injury or a real beating in a fight, I donít think its too much to ask of a champion to defend the title at least three times a year. Having a deadline to meet would eliminate legal squabbling over purses, fight locations, etc.

8. Reduce/eliminate sanctioning fees-Doing this would allow a fighter a better chance to get a title shot or defend the title against a worthy opponent. The sanctioning fees are ridiculous and unnecessary. How will the sanctioning bodies going to make up the money they would lose from reducing/eliminating fees? I donít know, thatís why they are the ones sanctioning the fights and not me. I think they have a personal responsibility to the fighters they represent to treat them fairly and not rob them of the money they earn. If nothing else, at least explain where the money you are charging is going.

9. Uphold the rules you set-Each sanctioning body has rules and regulations on how they rank fighters and determine who should fight for a title. Why, then, are unranked fighters getting title shots? How are unranked fighters mysteriously being ranked in the top five after beating no one? If you are going to have rules, you should be legally held to them. Itís not fair to fighters who really deserve a shot that they cannot get one because they donít have the dough to line the right pockets.

Are you winded yet? Iím almost done.

10. Make championship fights FIFTEEN rounds-A championship fight is a special fight. There is a lot at stake, more so than any other fight. In the age of super athleticism, I donít think questions can be answered in twelve rounds unless there is a knock out. I think contender fights should stay at ten or twelve rounds but I think three extra rounds for a title is fair. You want to be the best? You got to prove it.

I know most of these ideas are long shots at best but Iím not trying to change things over night. There is a lot of good in boxing right now, donít get me wrong. I just think that the bad out weighs the good. I love this sport very much and I donít want to see it dwindle down to a carnival sideshow. We need to emphasize what this sport isÖa warriors sport. It should be about the sport itself, not the rewards that come with it.

Article posted on 09.10.2007

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