Snips and Snipes 4 March 2021: British Heavyweight Boxing Goes Full Circle
By Eric Armit
Fri, 05 Mar 2021
As I write I am waiting for the details of the Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury fight to be announced. Bob Arum has said that it is a done deal and will be signed sealed and revealed shortly. It could be the most expensive fight in the history of boxing certainly in heavyweight boxing and it will be between two British heavyweights-you know about British heavyweights don’t you?
That’s the ones that the American press at one time labelled “The Horizontal Heavyweights” but now if you were listing the top ten active heavyweights in the world, Deontay Wilder is the only American who would be in the list and Charles Martin and Michael Hunter would just about make it into the top 20.
I feel that perhaps boxing has completed a three hundred year cycle as according to the Ring Record Book and Encyclopaedia, it was Englishman James Figg who was the first to be looked upon as heavyweight champion back in 1719 (at that time we had some colonies somewhere to the West as I recall) so once again Britain is the centre of the world of heavyweight boxing.
Obviously the aim will be to have the largest live gate possible and I just hope it is in Britain or the USA and not sold off to some Emirate with no boxing tradition. As seems to be a growing trend it appears there will be a return clause in the contract before the result of the first fight is even known (I thought return clause contracts were banned?) but as long as we get a controversy free fight worthy of the occasion I will be happy. We will then have a unified heavyweight division-until a sanctioning body strips the new champion.
The poor showing by Avni Yildirim came as no surprise to anybody and Mauricio Sulaiman says he is going to investigate the process for nominating mandatory challengers. Well it is a bit too late to shut the gate now as the horse bolted a long time ago. In August the WBC ordered Saul Alvarez to meet Yildirim and yet in September they dropped Yildirim to No 2 (two positions above Anthony Dirrell who had beaten Yildirim in Yildirim’s last fight in February 2019) but he remained the mandatory challenger even though he had not won a fight since September 2018.
Ratings are subjective. Boxing is not like other individual sports such as golf or tennis. In those sports where there is a recognised world body the best from across the world constantly face the best on a weekly basis making it easy to operate a points system to arrive at No 1. In boxing a top level boxer will fight 5 or 6 times a year at the most and rarely against any of the other top boxers renders any points system meaningless and with four major sanctioning bodies who almost always exclude from their ratings any mandatory challenger from another body the search for a worthy mandatory is further limited.
Another factor complicating the selection of a suitable mandatory challenger is the strength of the champion. Yildirim might have seemed a reasonable choice as a mandatory challenger for Caleb Plant or Billy Joe Saunders but not Alvarez so do you factor that in when deciding to nominate a mandatory challenger. It is not easy.
I did world ratings for Boxing News magazine on my own for many years and can honestly say I was never really happy even with my own ratings. Luckily I only had oversight from Ron Olver the assistant Editor and then later Harry Mullan the Editor but no lobbying. Sanctioning bodies are lobbied constantly by promoters and managers doing their job and sanctioning bodies-all sanctioning bodies-have to work with promoters which is another factor. The sanctioning bodies have also bastardised the very principle of ratings by rewarding positions in their ratings based on a fighter winning one of their minor tiles irrespective of the opponent faced. Usually the sanctioning body provides no oversight except to make sure the sanctioning fee is received. A promoter can pick his fighter’s opponent so the promoter knows how much it will cost him to get his fighter rated but no one seems to look at it that way.
Many years ago Bobby Lee Snr then the President of the IBF got caught selling spots in their ratings. As a result the IBF was put under court supervision and its rules re-written. If you look at the IBF ratings today you will often see the No 1 and No 2 positions vacant. This is due to one of the rules introduced during the supervision period. The rule states:
For a boxer to be rated in the number one (1) or number (2) position, he must be rated in one of the top five (5) available positions and beat another boxer rated in one of the top five (5) available positions. Boxers competing in bouts not scheduled for 12 round IBF Eliminators will not eligible for ranking above number three (3).
It is so commonsensical that you wonder it needs to be written into a rule. How could you get to No 1 without ever beating someone in the top 5-well Yildirim did it and other fighters do it every month. The WBA have a very complex set of tables covering every rated position and how it is arrived at and perhaps one day will realise it is being used to level out the legs of the table around which the Ratings Committee meet and it will see the light of day again. The sanctioning bodies are driven by sanctioning fees and there will be many more “Yildirim vs. Alvarez” episodes-it’s the nature of the beast.
Quite a switch in the venue for the return fight between Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte with travel restrictions meaning it will now take place in Eddie Hearn’s back garden in August instead of Gibraltar. Not rock on but rock off.
Great to see that the business has been done to put together the Josh Taylor vs. Jose Ramirez fight for 22 May in Las Vegas. As it stands the winner will be the only fighter holding all four versions of a title in a division.
The log jam seems to be breaking on European title fights as restrictions are eased. Lee McGregor will challenge Kamil Guerfi for the bantamweight title in Bolton on 19 March and 26 March in Barcelona will see Andoni Gago defend the featherweight title against Gavin McDonnell and Sandro Martin defend the super lightweight title against Kay Prospere. Tonight (5 March) in Nantes Tony Yoka has a good test as he faces the strong Belgian Joan Tambwe Djeko for the vacant EU heavyweight title and in theory the parties for the mandatory defence of the European heavy title by Joe Joyce against Marco Huck are “in the negotiation period” but it is not certain it is a fight that will interests Joyce.
Gonzalo Basile is rated No 333 in the World’s heavyweight listing by Box Rec but at 46 he is still fighting and still winning-occasionally. He won a fight in Brazil last month collecting the UBO International and American Boxing Federation West belts. That was fight No 91 for the 46-year-old Argentinian so he might make it 100 fights and I can’t remember the last time a heavyweight had 100 fights.
Still on heavyweights it will be interesting to see how the new slimmer Andy Ruiz fares against Chris Arreola on 24 April. Ruiz was 268lbs when he beat Anthony Joshua and 283lbs when he lost to him so I guess we just wait and see.
It could be that Dubai will be painted green on 3 April as Michael Conlan and Tyrone McKenna are both aiming to appear on the undercard to the rescheduled Jamal Herring’s WBO super featherweight title defence against Carl Frampton.
They are doing a good job of guiding Tim Tszyu. Jeff Brubaker, Jeff Horn and Bowyn Morgan have all been reasonable test and now he will face former WBO title challenger Dennis Hogan who lost on a majority decision to Jamie Munguia in 2019. Tszyu is No 2 with the WBO so if he gets past Hogan he will get a shot at Brian Castano for the title.
Two shows planned this month as boxing gets back into its stride in South Africa. Rowan Campbell will put his South African super middleweight title on the line against experienced Ryno Liebenberg on Rodney Berman’s show on March 14 at Emperors Palace and Joyce Kungwane is targeting 20 March for a show featuring the return of Hekkie Budler and Xolisani Ndongeni.
Can’t say I am happy about talk of Chris Eubank Jr vs. Kell Brook as Kell has been in some tough battles and this may be a fight too far.
Not too keen either on Marcos Maidana threatening to return to the ring to fight Adrien Broner. Maidana is running a strong promotion team in Argentina so stick to the day job Marcos.
Return fights are nothing new for Felix Trinidad and he is in one again now. In his legal dispute with the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico a judge ruled that the Bank had to pay Trinidad $1,184,000 but they are appealing the decision in the Supreme Court. You are ahead on points Felix so hang in there.
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. Armit has been nominated to the International Boxing Hall of Fame the past two years (2019 and 2020) to which he said, “Being on the list is an unbelievably huge honour.”
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