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Snips and Snipes 15 October 2020: Confusion About WBC's 'Franchise Title'

Saturday’s fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teo Lopez has to be one of if the most anticipated fights of the year. It has that mix of the already legendary Lomachenko against the young upstart Lopez. The supreme craftsman against a fighter with the power to end any fight with a single punch and render skill redundant. The lead up to the fight has reflected these differences with the brash Lopez mouthing threats of imminent destruction and Lomachenko exuding a quiet confidence. I slightly favour Lomachenko but above all I hope we get a memorable fight and avoid any controversy.

The WBC has really tied themselves in knots over this fight even though it is for Lomachenko’s WBA and WBO titles and Lopez’s IBF title. The WBC are adamant that all four versions of the lightweight title are on the line as Lomachenko is their “champion” and that raises the question of what title Devin Haney holds and what the WBC means when they designate a fighter (Haney) as their World champion. Lomachenko was announced by the WBC as their “Franchise” champion (I initially thought wrongly that perhaps they had given him the franchise to sell WBC Green McBurgers). Then interim champion Devin Haney was upgraded to WBC champion in their ratings issued on 9 October. On 9 November Haney beat Alfredo Santiago in a fight which was advertised as being a defence of the WBC world title.

If Haney is not their world champion why did the WBC allow the fight to be advertised as a world title fight with no qualification announcing that it was not for the real WBC title but for a version of their world title as Lomachenko was in fact their real champion and why did they not advise the promoter that he was not in fact promoting “the WBC title” but a lesser version of the title similar to the WBA secondary title. They announced at one time that the “Franchise” title was not transferable but all the Lopez team had to do was ask for the “Franchise” title to be on the line and gone was the “non-transferable”.

The hypocrisy of designating Lomachenko as WBC “Franchise” champion is that Lomachenko has fought in 13 fights involving a WBO world title, 4 involving a WBA title and just one WBC title fight. Strange to pick as your “Franchise” champion someone who in six years as a pro had never shown any interest in fighting for your title. I could understand them designating Wanheng (Chayaphon Moonsri) who during six years as WBC minimumweight champion and through twelve WBC title defences has never fought for any other sanctioning body other than the WBC. A similar case could be made for Deontay Wilder who fought in eleven WBC title fights bringing in huge sanctioning fees, The “Franchise” is not about loyalty -- otherwise Lomachenko would not qualify -- it is about profile and Lomachenko has the profile and Wanheng does not but the case of Wilder is more puzzling.

However it is misleading for the WBC to describe Haney as WBC champion in the ratings they issued on 9 October and then have Mauricio Sulaiman declare only a few days later that Lomachenko remains the real WBC champion and just to rub it in if you look at the WBC ratings the banner headline at lightweight declares Lomachenko is the Franchise champion in such large letters that you almost need a magnifying glass to see that Haney is the champion which seems to me to be an insult to Haney. Even the WBC can’t have two world champions. Oh sorry! This is boxing so of course they can. I guess that the fight between Haney and Yuriorkis Gamboa on 7 November is for the WBC secondary title. Oops sorry world title.

Another of my rants but this is not about Lomachenko who for me is the most accomplish boxer in the world today but about a sanctioning body doing double speak over who is their champion.
There is talk of IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington fighting Can Xu, the holder of the WBA secondary title, in December. Depending on what happens in the fight mentioned below between Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz.

The time lost to COVD-19 is leading to a rush of outstanding shows being packed into the last three months of the year. Apart from Lomachenko vs. Lopez, and an excellent undercard on the show, on 23 October in Mexico City Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Julio Cesar Martinez all put there WBC title on the line against Carlos Cuadras, Israel Gonzalez and Maximino Flores respectively a joint-production by Promociones Zanfer and Matchroom Boxing. Three excellent title matches that mark the official return of boxing to the Mexican capital.

October 31 will see “Monster” Inoue putting his IBF and WBA bantamweight titles on the line in Las Vegas against feisty Australian Jason Moloney in a fight that promises to be explosive. Just as big will be the fight in San Antonio between Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz. This is an unusual one as it will be for WBA titles in two different divisions-lightweight and super featherweight - but still an intriguing match. On the same night in England Oleksandr Usyk steps into the ring for the first time in a year as he fights Dereck Chisora with Tommy McCarthy and Bilal Laggoune clashing in a well-matched contest for the vacant European light heavyweight title and Lee Selby facing unbeaten Australian George Kambosos in a fight that will tell us how much former IBF featherweight champion Selby at 33 has left in the tank and how high Kambosos might climb.

November offers us Devin Haney defending the WBC lightweight title in Hollywood Florida against Yuriorkis Gamboa on 7 November and one week later Terrence Crawford defends the WBO welterweight title against Kell Brook in a fight that fills me with trepidation. After taking severe punishment in his losses to Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence, Brook has fought his way back with good wins over Siarhei Rabchanka, Michael Zerafa and Mark Deluca so he has earned the chance but there is the fear that another bad beating awaits him at the hands of Crawford. November 21 will see the return contest between Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte a fight that will send one of them into the boxing wilderness.

Without looking too far ahead 5 December will be a big night with Errol Spence defending the IBF and WBC welterweight titles against Danny Garcia in Texas and in London Luke Campbell and Ryan Garcia fighting for the interim WBC lightweight title. The big event for 5 December will be Tyson Fury returning to the ring against an opponent yet to be named. I have seen Bob Arum talking about Oscar Rivas, Efe Ajagba and Agit Kabayel who are all in the WBC ratings with Otto Wallin claiming he should have another shot at Fury and Charles Martin also being touted by some sources. The great pity is it won’t be Deontay Wilder.

Although there was a return clause in contract for their last fight it was time sensitive and the option expired so for now Wilder is out of the picture. If Anthony Joshua beats Kubrat Pulev on 12 December and Fury beats whoever he faces on 5 December then Fury vs. Joshua will be on for sometime next year. Hopefully it will be for all four versions of the title but that depends on whether the WBO order Joshua to defend their title against Usyk (or Chisora) or be stripped. Nothing is ever straight forward in the heavyweights.

One thing I won’t be looking forward to next year is Manny Pacquiao vs. Conor McGregor. Pacquiao has taken the step of signing a partnering contract with Paradigm Sports who also handle McGregor. That is a “clearing of the decks” move and the fight goes from improbable to highly probable. One of the questions that has to be asked is whether their fight will be for Pacquiao’s WBA title (Floyd Mayweather Jr was an ex-champion when he fought McGregor). You might think it would be impossible for a guy who has lost the only boxing contest he has ever had to fight for a title but if you do think that then all I can say is “money” and “WBA” which should be enough to make anything possible.

Not everything goes to plan. German outfit Universum had a show set up for Dusseldorf this weekend. It would have featured Kazak heavyweight Zhan Kossobutskiy, who the IBO seem to have designated as official challenger to Anthony Joshua, and unbeaten German heavyweight hope the 6’ 8 ½ Christian Thun. The show was bannered as “Back to Business”, Unfortunate choice of words as the show was cancelled on Monday over a spike in COVD-19 cases in the area! A blow to Universum but it is good to see them back in boxing.

I worry (sometimes I think I worry too much) about boxing. The sport seems to be regressing. We recently had an outfit talking about returning to fifteen round title fights and now we have bare knuckle boxing with one of its recent shows being included in Box Rec’s list of shows for that week. Where will this lead. Will we see boxers in knee britches, fights staged outside on turf, no ropes and no judges, a “mark” scratched on the turf, fifty round plus fights ( the longest bare knuckle fight lasted 6 hrs and 15 mins)etc.etc. Why does this sort of thing only happen in boxing?

I am also concerned that boxers are getting soft. At one time we had nicknames such as “Bonecrusher”, “The Executioner” and “The Assassin”. Now we get “The Prodigy”, “The Chosen One”, “The Problem” , We had a fighter last week whose name was Wendy and a boxer with “Grandad” on his short’s band (personally I liked that one)we need to get the guys back on a red meat diet.
Saw a lovely little story along the lines of “everything comes to those who wait”. David “Poison” Kotey shocked boxing when he beat Ruben Olivares to win the WBC featherweight title in 1975. After one of his world title fights in 1976 he supplied $45,000 out of his purse to meet a request from the administration in Ghana to finance the import of mackerel which was a staple diet and in short supply. It was a loan which the Sate promised to repay to Kotey when he returned to Ghana but the State defaulted on its promise. After over 40 years of fighting to get his money last week the Ghanaian President instructed the Finance Ministry to pay the debt. Justice for the man who blazed the trail as the first ever Ghanaian world champion. Now can we discuss 40 years interest on $45,000!

About the Author

Born in Scotland, Eric Armit started working with Boxing News magazine in the UK in the late 1960’s initially doing records for their Boxing News Annual and compiling World, European and Commonwealth ratings for the magazine. He wrote his first feature article for Boxing News in 1973 and wrote a “World Scene” weekly column for the magazine from the late 1970’s until 2004. Armit wrote a monthly column for Boxing Digest in the USA and contributed pieces to magazines in Mexico, Italy, Australia, Spain, Argentina and other countries. Armit now writes a Weekly Report covering every major fight around the world and a bi-weekly Snips & Snipes column plus occasional general interest articles with these being taken up by boxing sites around the world. He was a member of the inaugural WBC Ratings Committee and a technical advisor to the EBU Ratings Committee and was consulted by John McCain’s research team when they were drafting the Ali Act. He is a Director and former Chairman of the Commonwealth Boxing Council. Last year (2019), Armit has been nominated to the International Boxing Hall of Fame to which he said, “Being on the list is an unbelievably huge honour.”

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eric Armit.

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