VERA CRUZ, Panama—On Day Three of the 94th WBA convention in Panama, a panel of journalists and promoters was convened to address the issues surrounding interim and super champions, in addition to the ongoing problem of judging fights.
As expected, the journalists were of one mind, for the most part, while the promoters were of another. But there was also some common ground.
There was no line drawn in the sand, but passions ran high.
The journalists were almost uniformly opposed to interim and super titles. They felt that there should be one champion, and only one champion, and that multiple titles watered down the sport.
They had a point. But considering how boxing has evolved, devolved, and revolved over the centuries, having a single champion, much like in the good old days, is somewhat naïve.
There was a time when kicking, choking and biting were commonplace in the prize ring. There was a time when there were eight weight classes and 15-round fights. There was a time when weigh-ins occurred on the day of the fight. There was a time when there weren’t several sanctioning bodies vying for a piece of the same pie.
That time, however, is not now.
The journalists’ desire to turn back the clock has its appeal. The lure of the past is strongest when the present is most disturbing. But the thought of returning to the golden olden days and golden olden ways is as idealistic as it is unrealistic. It’s not that the past didn’t have its virtues. It’s that those virtues, whether they were virtuous or not, are out of sync with boxing today.
The promoters presented a unified front that was grounded in humanism. They defended multiple titles from the perspective of the boxer. TV depends on titles to attract a viewing audience, but several promoters pointed out that the boxers, who are not only fighting to win but fighting to survive, can advance their careers and future prospects if they have an interim or a regional title.
That belt is an affirmation. Without it, some might say, they’re just another bum in the park.
But several journalists appeared to believe that that which has meaning only has meaning if they bestow it, which more or less comes with the territory.
Boxing, however, is not about journalists. It’s about the boxers. We exist because of the boxers. They do not exist because of us.
Granted, there is a symbiotic relationship between boxing writers and the subject they cover. But journalists have chosen to become journalists, whereas the majority of boxers had no choice. It was either starve to death or fight to the death, a choice that few of us are forced to make. Boxers spill blood, sweat and tears, as one journalist pointed out, but of course they sacrifice more than that, even more than the eye can see. We journalists may have made sacrifices. But our sacrifices pale in comparison to what boxers sacrifice to become four-round fighters, let alone a world champions.
The promoters understand this. More seasoned than the writers, while being a little rougher around the edges, they seemed to intuitively grasp the necessity of doing everything humanly possible for the fighters, even if it means creating titles where none existed.
The truth of the matter is that without fighters who thrive, we cease to exist.
The subject of super titles was less heated. Everyone agreed that it was an indicator of supreme excellence, and that in lieu of a single champion that every man, woman and child knows, like when Jack Dempsey or Joe Louis reigned supreme, the concept of Super Champion, while perhaps not perfect, was the next best thing.
There was even more unanimity on the subject of judging. The promoters and journalists were no happier with judging than everyone else. A few promoters on the panel spoke about their fighters being “robbed” and how it ruined their careers. The journalists felt that if a judge is incompetent or worse, they need to be suspended, or at the very least retrained, and it should be written about at length so that they can be, for want of a better word, humiliated.
That’s way too punitive for my tastes. Judges are human. Humans make mistakes. In addition, boxing is the most subjective of sports—one man’s knockout artist is another man’s sweet scientist—so the sport has a problem for which there’s no easy solution.
But all is not lost.
After the battle royal between journalists and promoters drew to a close, both sides shook hands and congratulated the other for a fight well-fought, whether it was a win, a loss, or a draw crying out for a rematch.
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.