Bob Jones: Boxing world a disgraceful circus

There is only one champion in each division — the rest is flimflam created by TV companies and opportunists.
Kiwi Joseph Parker could not at this stage foot it with the real top level heavyweights. Picture / AP
Kiwi Joseph Parker could not at this stage foot it with the real top level heavyweights. Picture / AP

Boxing has a solid spectator base in every country but periodically someone special comes along and the entire population seemingly becomes engrossed.

We experienced that here in the 1990s with David Tua and again today with the more personable Joseph Parker.

Frankly, this is punishing for me as a known aficionado, for everyone insists on discussing it, necessitating having to explain the disgraceful circus of modern world championship boxing.

The most common question I receive currently is whether Joseph can take the heavyweight title from Britain's Anthony Joshua.

My quick answer is no, for two reasons. First, Joseph is nowhere near ready for the top echelons and second, Anthony Joshua is not the world heavyweight champion.

Modern heavyweights mature in their early 30s so at 24 Joseph has plenty of time to develop if properly matched, although unfortunately, on past form, this is an unlikely prospect.

The meaning of the word "champion" is hardly debatable, thus there can only be one. Yet at any given time today there's as many as six supposed world champion claimants in each weight division. Here's the background as to how this absurdity arose.

World championship boxing in the eight original weight divisions from flyweight to heavyweight, became firmly established in the early 1880s. Despite no world governing body, there was never any dispute as to who the champion was, he being the boxer who won the title by defeating the existing champion.

In 1922, New York journalist and boxing historian Nat Fleischer launched Ring magazine.

Fleischer invented ratings, a practice which extended first to other sports and subsequently spread to every conceivable activity. Ring magazine became boxing's bible, its integrity and ratings unquestioned, and remained that way for a further decade after Fleischer's death in 1972, despite the advent of numerous rival periodicals.

In the 1960s, it was accepted the eight weight divisions had too wide a range spanning lightweight, welterweight and middleweight and two new divisions, light-welterweight and light-middleweight were introduced.

Championship fights were always huge global events in each division and their title-holders were frequently household names. Compare that with today's scene with nearly 100 boxers claiming to be the world champion in the now absurd 17, largely contrived, weight divisions.

This ludicrous situation arose through satellite television which turned boxing into an incredibly lucrative sport for boxers and television channels.

In response, in the 1980s opportunists formed purported world governing bodies, referred to cynically as the alphabet soup by aficionados.

The World Boxing Council (WBC), the World Boxing Association (WBA), the International Boxing Federation (IBF), the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) and many others sprouted up. By 1990 a dozen such organisations existed who claimed to be the world governing organisation for boxing.

Essentially, they were motivated by profit, charging promoters "sanctioning fees" to "recognise" their contests as either championship fights or, as with the Parker-Carlos Takam bout, mandatory challenge bouts. The financial benefits were further enhanced by insisting that their members be given judging and refereeing roles and their travel and hotel costs be met and they paid fees.

Anthony Joshua with his IBF belt. Photo / AP
Anthony Joshua with his IBF belt. Photo / AP

All of this was at the urging of television channels who wanted audience-pulling championship fights. To compound their earnings through more championship bouts they created an absurd seven further weight divisions, some with only a few pounds differential. Their greed did not stop there.

Next, they created dozens of different imaginary championships such as Pan Atlantic, Asian-Pacific and such-like nonsense. Thus once coveted world championship boxing events became meaningless with every contest, no matter how insignificant, being labelled as some sort of championship bout with a cheap ornate victor's belt being brandished for the winner.

All of these outfits issued ratings for each division, often bearing little relationship to each other. It was no secret that one could buy oneself a ranking. How else do you think Joseph first cracked it?

One of these outfits once rated a fighter who had, in fact, died. Over the subsequent six months he excelled beyond anything he'd managed while alive, rising steadfastly up the ranks. True boxing fans ignore all of this rubbish and know exactly who the real champion is in each division.

So back to the heavyweight division. After Lennox Lewis retired in 2003, Ukrainian, Vitali Klitschko was universally accepted as the heavyweight champion.

Over the subsequent decade he successfully defended the title against allcomers, retiring in 2012 to run for the Ukrainian presidency albeit, to avoid vote-splitting with the other major pro-West liberal candidate, eventually withdrawing and instead becoming mayor of Kiev.

Following his retirement his young brother, Wladimir (known as Dr Steelhammer - he has a PhD, as has his brother), was widely and rightly accepted as the world champion as he also had also beaten all major contenders.

Last year, Vladimir, now 40, lost the title in a shock upset to England's unbeaten Tyson Fury. Fury is from a traveller family, sometimes wrongly described as gypsies. In fact, they're old-fashioned Irish Catholics, holding to conservative practises now even abandoned in Ireland.

Then on flimflam grounds the IBF declared the title vacant and nominated two relative novices to fight for the vacant championship. The winner, American Charles Martin (by an injured knee, which says it all) was then lured to Britain to defend his bogus championship against Anthony Joshua.

Joshua, the London Olympics gold medallist, is a much-loved British sporting figure who is undefeated, although like Joseph, mostly against poor opposition. But the fans happily bought into it and filled the 02 Arena to watch him easily dispose of the hapless Martin in just over a round. In doing so they deserted their own true world champion, Tyson Fury, never popular for being from the despised traveller group.

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Joseph Parker is highly talented. I discerned that in his amateur days and put him on the payroll, thus enabling him to fight all over the world before eventually turning pro. But he and his team should be patient. He is not a huge puncher and constantly fails to use his best weapon, namely his jab. His No1 IBF ranking is farcical.

He would at best rate 15th in the world. At 24 he has time on his side and should be taking learning fights against better quality opponents and not the Solomon Haumonas of this world.

At the moment, he could not foot it with the real top level heavyweights and should steer clear of them for a couple of years, when he doubtless will be able to. Sadly, it appears this won't happen.

- NZ Herald

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