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Too many belts will spoil the sport

Does boxing have too many belts and too many champions?

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has recently come out and criticized boxing for having too many belts. This is not the first time he has voiced his concerns on the matter, and considering his status as one of the best of all time, his words should not fall on deaf ears. He is not the only one who feels this way, as many others in the boxing world have also grown tired of the overly complicated title situations present within modern boxing.

There are a total of 68 championships across the 4 “alphabet” organizations in boxing: the WBO, IBF, WBC, and the WBA. Furthermore, the WBC has franchise, silver, and interim titles, which only adds to the title confusion. The WBA has super, regular, silver, and interim titles. The WBO has a regular and global title. The IBF is the odd one out of the bunch, with only a single regular belt per weight class.

Mayweather believes all of the belts leave the boxing world with no actual sense of true hierarchy between the weight classes.

“There’s no such thing as a super champion, not at all,” said Mayweather. “There are too many belts. This is not good for the sport of boxing. Belts now are like a fighter winning an amateur trophy.”

It seems as though modern boxing and the sanctioning bodies that make a living in the sport have begun taking advantage of the “deregulated” nature of boxing. They are able to set forth titles and belts which often end up being superfluous. This often causes the title of “champion” to take on much less meaning. Titles have arguably become just another way for these boxing organizations to charge fees.

Each time a title changes hands, the new champion must pay a sanctioning fee to the organization from which the belt originates. A standard sanctioning fee is usually around 3% of the fight purse, which is deducted on the night of the fight. If a fighter were to win all four belts on a single evening, that round of fees would cost them a robust 12% of the fight purse.

While this issue is an undeniable one, it is unlikely that any of the major sanctioning bodies will make any changes on the matter. The WBO recently brought their WBO Global Championship into use and the WBA promised to remove their Super belts nearly a decade ago, but they have yet to follow through on their word.

There is, however, some semblance in this tunnel. The Transnational Boxing Ranking Board (TBRB), which was formed late in 2012, has strived to flourish where the other organizations have failed. The TBRB is an all-volunteer organization formed by boxing journalists, historians, record keepers, and other experts to offer unbiased and fair rankings. The TBRB recognize a single champion in each weight division and their rankings are voted on by the 25 members on their board.

“If I was a man of power in boxing, I make one organization. No WBA and WBC. I’d have one championship.” —Muhammad Ali, Sport interview (December 1981)

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