Is Boxing a Dying Sport ?

By Tom Donelson, BASN boxing writer
Updated: August 1, 2012

IOWA CITY, IOWA (BASN)—Boxing is a sport run by byzantine networks of sanctioning bodies, promoters, various states commission with a few television networks adding their own influence. If there is a central problem with boxing, it is the fact that there is no true central body that set rules, regulations and sanctioned fights or officials. Until boxing decides to put the sport under a central umbrella, it will continue to lose market shares and decline as nothing more than secondary sport; rarely seen and rarely heard.

Throughout boxing history, nothing close to a central authority had ever been created even though there were selected bodies that people accepted as the final authority Fans, pundits and boxing authorities alike recognized a single champ through a proper lineage but this ended in the late 1970′s when Ali said good bye to boxing.

There were period before the modern era, there were few times in which multiple champs were declared. One example was the late 30′s and early 40′s, two Middleweight champions existed side by side. How many remember Ernie Terrell owning a piece of the Heavyweight champion between 1965 and 1967? (Of course, the only one who recognized Terrell was Terrell and maybe his family members. When Ali humiliated Terrell in their 1967 unification bout, it simple reinforced that Terrell championship belt was a mere illusion.) These moments were rarities and for the most part, boxing had recognized a specific champions in particular weight division.

Boxing failure to put together a central body is what sealed its doom as a major sport and its decent into minor league status. When boxing had a “central authority”, much of it was related to organized crime so that hardly counts as being centralyl run. (Of course, you could make the case the mob did run the sport efficiently but hardly anyone would want to repeat that experience.)

Today, there is the WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF, and IBO and there may be a few that I have forgotten. When you add the power of promoters to influence who fights who for what championship and the various state boards in the United States, what is missing is consistency.

The other combat sport, MMA, have managed over the years to unify under the Dane White UFC label.

There are those who question to me, Dane White’s methods, but you can’t argue that UFC is the main body that all MMA fighters aspire to. If you are the champion of UFC, you are considered the best. I interviewed an official with the now defunct International Fight League and he told me, “Our best fighters are maybe a warm up fight to an UFC event but UFC champions are the best in the sport.” Can that be said of boxing? Can anyone say if a WBA champion of a particular weight division better than the WBC? Or explain how the best Middleweight Sergio Martinez has no recognition as a sanctioning body champion? In the heavyweight division, there are super champions and then there are champions. The various sanctioning bodies figure since no other heavyweights will defeat either the Klitschko’s brothers, they might as well invent a few other championship belts so other fighters can at least have a shot at a title until the Klitschko’s retire. Need those sanctioning fees.

If you can’t name the champions in your sport without having to look them up, you have a problem. Nor does it help that there are no real discipline for bad judging. The recent Pacquiao-Bradley is a good lesson where everyone who actually saw the fight and not sitting in an judges’ chair knew who won the fight. Yet, no one was discipline or even called into the commissioner office. In other sports, there are mechanism like instant replay existing to aid the officials on the field plus the various sports take responsibility to ensure that their officials are prepared. Nevada is one of the best state commission and if they have trouble ensuring good judges, what does that say for the sport?

Boxing survival and possible revival will come down to one thing and one thing only, a central unifying body that sets the rules, rankings and is responsible for the officials judging the fights. Until that happens, boxing will remain in limbo. In a future column, I will attempt the impossible to get from boxing chaotic spot to a more unified body.