By Mauricio Sulaiman
Son of Jose Sulaiman / WBC President
Boxing is unique, with a fascinating history and perhaps, of all the sports, the one which has evolved the most, as the rules have changed dramatically, transforming what used to be actions of brutal, pure savagery into the art of self-defense, “The Sweet Science.”
Today I chose the topic of ratings, or rankings, in boxing. I have talked with numerous fans, as well as many people who are involved in boxing, and almost everyone does not know or understand how the rankings work.
Let’s start by defining what they are. The rankings are the method to list boxers qualitatively. That is through a list of the best in each division. There are 17 weight divisions, from heavyweight to minimumweight. World champions can only fight against ranked boxers, and that is where these lists draw their interest and power.
The history is important. The rankings in boxing were born in 1924, is a publication of the “The Ring” magazine. They used to print a yearly summary of the best of the year – best fighter, best fight, etc. Eventually, starting in 1932, the owner of this magazine, Nat Fleischer, took the initiative to publish, according to his opinion, the list of the best fighters for each of the 8 divisions that existed at that time.
Fleisher was inspired by the college football rankings, which were the creation of Walter Camp, known as the “Father of Football.”
The World Boxing Council was founded in February 1963 and initially used The Ring rankings as a guide for sanctioning boxing activity. My father, Don Jose Sulaiman, joined the WBC between 1964 and 1966, basically as a volunteer, because he was passionate about boxing and was coming from the provinces to make his life in the capital of Mexico, as he partnered with Buffalo-based manufacturing company Graphic Controls. It was in 1966 when he took on more formal responsibilities, and in 1968 instituted the WBC rankings. Since then, the world rankings are compiled month by month, is one of the top priorities of our body’s activity.
The WBC rankings committee is made up of honorable people with extensive knowledge of boxing. They are members from all over the world and devote countless hours to this work. There is a committee director, a sub-director, an executive secretary, 22 active members, and 8 advisors.
How does the committee work? Ratings are published during the first 5 days of each month. During each month, the members of the committee are engaged in gathering results of fights and diverse information that has to do with the fighters’ activity from their region. Ten days before releasing the rankings, everyone sends their recommendations to the executive secretary and the director. Numerous sheets and charts are made with a large amount of data to analyze, which generates the first draft, which is sent to the entire committee for review and a round of feedback is given. All comments to the draft are taken and these are analyzed by the director and special advisors. We reach conclusions, and a second draft is generated. After the revision of that second draft, it progresses to a final revision, where sometimes a third draft has to be generated, to then proceed with the official publication of the monthly rankings by the WBC.
Once a year, the rating committee meets for a three-day session before the start of the WBC annual convention. The official ratings are then discussed in an open floor, where every single person can take the floor and present their case in front of the Board. This process has given the sport and the WBC great pride as it is transparent and open to all.
Rating boxers is a very complex task that requires deep boxing knowledge, common sense, analytical ability, impartiality, total honesty, and a sense of justice. It is a very interesting procedure and requires the need to analyze each case. Records are simply numbers, and these can be misleading. A boxer may have an undefeated record with many KOs, but sometimes the story can be very different.
What is studied and analyzed about a boxer in order to grasp the full importance of his profile and rate them properly?
· Record – This gives you an idea in numbers of fights, won, lost, and draws, plus wins by KO.
· Level and quality of opposition – It is necessary to study the opponents who the boxer has faced.
· Site of the fights – It is analyzed if he fights at home, if he is the favorite, or if he is the visitor with factors against him. An important element is if he fights abroad and internationally.
· Recent activity – It is analyzed if he is an active boxer if he is a prospect, an established boxer, or a veteran in decline.
· Recent results – The results of his last fights are analyzed.
· High-level fights – Having high-level rivals, championship fight
ts and experience is a very important factor to be considered.
Other considerations that are relevant:
· The decisiveness of his victories.
· Victories in major fights.
· Amateur career.
· Behavior in their private life.
· Activity in WBC regional championship fights.
An intangible aspect involves seasoned experts contributing with their personal opinion of those boxers that they see in their regions.
The WBC rates 40 fighters per division and we have a unique requirement. To be rated, the fighter must enroll in the “Clean Boxing Program,” which is a worldwide, random anti-doping program administered by VADA. If the athlete does not accept to enroll, he is removed from the rankings and not allowed to compete in fights of our organization.
The rankings list only and exclusively involves the boxers eligible to compete in the world championship of our organization. Boxers who are committed to fight in another organization are not ranked, simply because they are not eligible to fight for the WBC as they have other commitments.
The world champion has the obligation to fight the official challenger of the division once a year. The official challenger is not necessarily ranked #1. To reach this privileged position, you must win a final elimination fight or be voted by the WBC Board of Governors and ratified as Mandatory Contender.
The dream of every boxer is one day to conquer the Green and Gold Belt of the WBC, and the first step is to be rated. There are so many stories from legendary boxers remembering the day they saw their name for the first time in the rankings!
Did you know? Julio Cesar Chavez was a relatively unknown boxer to the boxing world, but not to the WBC. When the super featherweight world championship was vacant in 1984, a fight had to be ordered to crown the new champion.
“Azabache” Martínez was ranked number one and J.C. Chávez was placed at number two. Even against the criticism of some sectors in Europe and the United States, that fight was ordered. This is how one of the great careers in the history of boxing began.
We were at an annual convention in Cancun and my dad and I made a series of jokes to be recorded with a hidden camera. I remember how I enjoyed planning the joke on the director of the rankings committee, Frank Quill of Australia. In the final session, my Dad asked me to give the following message to Frank:
“Frank, my dad asks us to rank Mike Tyson #1, as he will return to boxing, and he will be fighting our champion Klitschko.” (Tyson had been retired for 7 years) After a prolonged pause and a puzzled face, Frank asked the committee for a break and requested an urgent meeting with Don Jose, which I took with him, and while Frank presented his resignation from the committee, my dad couldn’t stop laughing. Finally, they both enjoyed a very long laugh.
I wish to sincerely thank Don Majeski and Victor Cota for their helpful guide to writing this article.
Thank you. I accept any comments, ideas, or recommendations at firstname.lastname@example.org