The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board: More Support is Needed

07/19/2015 - By Adam McMeeking - Comments

On 18th July, 2015, Arthur Abraham won his fourth encounter with Robert Stieglitz via sixth round KO, successfully defending his WBO belt and maintaining his position atop The Ring super middleweight ratings. A fight between Abraham and James DeGale would crown a new Ring Magazine champion – they are the number one and number two rated fighters in their division respectively. Potentially, if these two 168 pounders fail to negotiate a fight, DeGale could in fact fight the number five rated Gilberto Ramirez for the once prestigious Ring title.

Andre Ward, one of the most accomplished champions the super middleweight division has ever had is nowhere to be seen in the current Ring ratings.

Ward may well seek new challenges at light heavyweight in the near future, but at present, no such decision has been made official. The 31 year old Californian has never lost a fight, never stated he cannot make the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds, never contemplated retirement, and is still one of the top five pound for pound fighters on the planet. Legal issues and injuries have hindered his career. Over two years without fighting a top five contender in any weight class – under The Ring Magazine’s policy, this was sufficient explanation to prise his title from him. An inactive champion can negatively impact on the sport, but diluting the title is more detrimental. Ward has after all, already comfortably beaten “King” Arthur Abraham.

Rewind to September, 1925, and Jack Dempsey, the world heavyweight champion and inaugural Ring title holder had not fought for two years. Under the modern Ring policy the Manassa Mauler’s title would not have been lost before 120,000 spectators in the famous duel with Gene Tunney the following year, but instead, would have been plucked from him without a single punch being thrown. The magazine would surely have been ridiculed, and the belt would have become meaningless almost as quickly as it had been introduced.

Boxing historian Bert Sugar famously referred to the growing number of world title organisations (WBO, WBA, IBF, IBO etc. etc.), as “alphabet soup”. From 1922, throughout much of the next 90 years, the Ring ratings and the champions they awarded often provided boxing with some much needed clarity. Unfortunately the May 2012 Ring policy makes it possible to crown a champion even without the number one rated boxer being present, and allows champions to be stripped of their title far too easily. Consequently, the Ring belt became merely a few more letters swirling around in the cold gruel that is boxing’s alphabet soup.

The chaotic mix of world title organisations that is present in boxing today distorts and scrambles any chance a potential new boxing fan has of deciphering who the champions and their main rivals are. Apparently Ruslan Chagaev is currently the “regular” WBA heavyweight champion, after having beaten a 41 years old Fres Oquendo in July last year. Deontay Wilder is the WBC heavyweight champion, yet the division’s true champion, Wladimir Klitschko, is not even rated in the top fifteen of this organisation’s rankings.

From a financial perspective, dare I say it; perhaps these “world titles” do have a place in boxing, as they create far more opportunities for promoters and therefore the boxers themselves, than having just one champion per division ever would, but In order to give transparency and credibility to the sport, it is essential to have one ranking organisation that stands out from the rest as being fair, accurate, and trustworthy. The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) is this organisation. Their ratings are the ones that all sporting fans should turn to if they want to quickly and accurately assess who the best fighters in professional boxing are.

The TBRB consists of in excess of forty members from over fifteen countries across the world.

They have been selected because of the following attributes:

– They have no connections to sanctioning bodies or promoters, and have no biased interest in any particular boxer.

– They are knowledgeable about modern boxers/bouts.

– They are reputable, fair and objective.

– They are able to recognise and confront those in boxing who are abusing the sport and confusing the public.

There is one champion per division. The key concept is simple:

If a champion is beaten in a bout within his weight-class, he loses his title to his conqueror. If the title is vacant, it can only be filled if the number one and number two rated boxers within that division fight each other.

The current TBRB champions, including how they won the title, are as follows:

– Heavyweight – Wladimir Klitschko (W12 Alexander Povetkin 2013)

– Light heavyweight – Adonis Stevenson (TKO1 Chad Dawson 2013)

– Super middleweight – Andre Ward (W12 Carl Froch 2011)

– Middleweight – Miguel Cotto (TKO10 Sergio Martinez 2014)

– Light middleweight – Floyd Mayweather (W12 Saul Alvarez 2013)

– Welterweight – Floyd Mayweather (W12 Manny Pacquiao 2015)

– Light welterweight – Danny Garcia (W12 Lucas Matthysse 2013)

– Super bantamweight – Guillermo Rigondeaux (W12 Nonito Donaire 2013)

– Flyweight – Roman Gonzalez (TKO9 Akira Yaegashi 2014)

In the early 1990’s Riddick Bowe disgustedly threw his WBC belt in a trash can at a press conference in London, thereby relinquishing the title before the organisation take it from him.

“The WBC is wrong, and I will not be intimidated by them,” Bowe said. “I am the heavyweight champion of the world, and today I withdraw my recognition of the WBC. For as long as I am champion, I will not recognize or defend this dishonest belt.”

The undisputed champion’s act was in protest to the WBC’s attempt to force him into a mandatory defence in his next fight.

More recently, In May 2015, Floyd Mayweather explained at the post-Pacquiao-fight press-conference that he was going to relinquish all of his world title belts. Why? “Other fighters need a chance. I’m not greedy,” he explained.

Can you imagine Sugar Ray Robinson in the 1950’s happily giving away his world title to his closest rivals – the likes of LaMotta and Basilio – in a bid to prove he wasn’t selfish? In those days the world championship belt meant something.

The credibility and prestige historically associated with being the world champion, “the real” champion, needs to be restored.

TBRB champion status cannot be tossed in a trash can, it cannot be given away because “other fighters need a chance”, and it cannot be withdrawn because a mandatory defence has not been met. A TBRB champion can only lose his title if he retires, announces that he will leave his division, or is beaten – in the ring.

The Ring title was originally intended to be a way of highlighting “the true and only world champion in a given weight-class”, but in the eyes of three of the magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel members, the introduction of the May 2012 championship policy meant this was no longer the case. These three journalists – Springs Toledo, Cliff Rold, and Tim Starks – promptly resigned from the magazine, and went on to create the TBRB in October 2012, in a bid to continue The Ring’s original mission. Soon after its formation, this non-profit organisation quickly gained the stamp of approval from a well-respected boxing figure when Teddy Atlas praised their efforts on ESPN Friday Night Fights in 2013.

Progress is being made. There are now twenty one boxing dedicated websites (including East Side Boxing and The Sweet Science) that display their rankings, up from eight, two years ago. Disappointingly though, many of boxing’s most popular sites still fail to do so. These other sites are simply muddying the water, they need to catch up.

Whenever a “world title” fight takes place all media outlets reporting the fight, should, at the very least, explain where the combatants rank among the real divisional rankings – the Transnational Boxing Rankings. That way, even a passing sports fan would immediately appreciate that when watching the likes of Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz (ranked number one and number two with the TBRB) defend their IBF and WBC titles, they are not actually fighting for the true lineal super bantamweight championship of the world. The real champion is the Transnational Boxing Champion, which in this particular division’s case is Guillermo Rigondeaux.

Equally important, if not more so, is that the fans of the sport show their support, by regularly using and referring to both the Transnational Rankings, and their champions.

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