Everyone knows the famous scene from Network where Peter Finch proclaims "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!" It's practically ingrained in our consciousness, even those of us who haven't seen the movie.
Boxing needs a call to arms of that caliber. Not the quality of fighters, necessarily (heavyweights excepted), but the people who run the sport, who give us, the fans, our entertainment and who greedily seek our dollars while delivering an inferior product. And by that, I mean the so-called alphabet organizations.
Of the four major boxing organizations (WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO), only one (the IBF) is even based in the United States (The WBO website does not make it clear where it is based). The WBA and WBC are based in Mexico and Panama, respectively. And given both countries' penchant for naked and blatant political corruption, it really is no wonder that these two titans of the pugilistic world would choose to follow in their paths. Kickbacks for Top-10 rankings and title shots, interim titles, "super champions," "champions in recess," "champions emeritus," the list goes on and on. A dead guy even made the rankings...and moved up....twice.
Jose Sulaiman, president of the WBC, loves to flout the will of boxing fans and openly disdains doing the right thing with regard to the kinds of matchups that fans want to see. Just this past week, he made it clear that the WBC would not accept the official results of the Timothy Bradley/Edner Cherry fight that were scored by the Mississippi commission judges. Instead, he bought ringside seats for three venerable WBC veterans and had them secretly score the fight from ringside. Once that information was discovered, he and his judges should have been dealt with severely.
Some may wonder why I'm so up in arms about this, and I'll tell you why. Because the best fights can never get made as long as this poor man's Mafia charade continues. Earlier this year, Mr. Sulaiman and the WBC stepped in and stripped light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson of his belt for not fighting mandatory challenger Adrian "the Shark" Diaconu. Dawson's reason? He was already scheduled to fight IBF champion Antonio Tarver. So instead of leaving an awesome unification fight alone, what does the WBC do? Makes Diaconu the champ automatically. So now he can say he won a title without beating the champion, and strut his stuff as if he had. Here's hoping (though not expecting) that the WBC lets Dawson fight Diaconu after Tarver, because he'll show the WBC, and the world, why the fight wasn't worth his time.
The IBF did its own version of title-jerking just today when it stripped Paulie Malignaggi of his title before his fight with Ring Magazine and IBO champ Ricky Hatton for refusing to fight Herman Ngoudjo (whom he'd beaten only eight months ago). The fact that Ngoudjo was the mandatory again so soon (even after a brilliant performance against Souleymane M'Baye) alone is enough to raise eyebrows. But again, instead of letting a great unification fight take place, the IBF had to muck it up. And since they're based in New Jersey and are therefore American, they need to be investigated for their corruption. Fans are being cheated. Come on now, I like Ngoudjo, but does anyone want to see him fight Juan Urango for a title that neither took from Malignaggi? Are fighters so vain as to think they actually deserve a title won under such circumstances? Oh wait, I forgot, we're in the Entitlement Age now (no pun intended).
Here is a simple fix to start the process. More will be needed, but for starters, alphabet organizations need to stop pretending that other champions don't exist when the rankings come out. I've seen many times how Fighter A might have the WBA strap, but isn't even ranked in the others lists. Get these guys in the rankings and set up some mandatory unification fights. Second, if a fighter has more than one belt (Nate Campbell, for example) and you want to be a stickler on him fighting his mandatory, fine, but if he loses, he only loses the one title. For example, if the IBF wants him to fight Joel Casamayor and Casamayor wins, Campbell only loses the IBF portion.
But even better, guarantee all champions exceptions to their mandatories if obviously bigger and better fights can be made, either prestige or money wise. Malignaggi is getting seven figures to fight Hatton, and might get half that for Ngoudjo. I know this would inconvenience the mandatories, but guess what? They still get their chance. But penalizing a champion for seeking a better fight than the mandatory is just plain wrong, especially when most fighters now only fight 2-3 times a year.
We don't have to get rid of the alphabet organizations (though it would be nice), but perhaps add a four-champ box-off tournament every five years. One night, four-round fights. No man boxes more than eight rounds, and if the undefeated crybabies who don't want to chance their "zero" complain, make it unofficial. It's the fans who should benefit.
History has proven that when people get tired of something enough, they can (and will) get rid of it. Why boxing fans haven't reached that point with the alphabet organizations is beyond me.