SNIPS AND SNIPES 3 February 2023: IBF Rating Shenanigans, Kell Brook Comeback Fight vs Conor Benn, Etc.
By Eric Armit
Sat, 04 Feb 2023
I spent many years working on boxing ratings. I did World, European and Commonwealth ratings for Boxing News for many years and was also on the World Boxing Council Ratings Committee. When working with Boxing News I did a weekly World Scene column for over thirty years.
Due to my interest in Ratings I was able to draw attention to some chicanery going at the IBF. I hit a nerve because the late Bobby Lee, then the President of the IBF, sent a letter to the late Harry Mullan the Editor of Boxing News, complaining about the scurrilous lies I was telling. Harry printed the letter complete with the ending in which Lee wrote “we are watching you”.
It was stupid for by writing that letter as all it did was to make others wonder if there was any truth behind my accusations. In fact, I was not the one Lee should have been watching as the Chairman of his Ratings Committee, to save his own skin, wore a wire for the FBI as he and Lee discussed who they were shaking down and for how much. Lee resigned and was eventually found guilty on a number of charges. The IBF was then put under court supervision/administration with some criteria put in place on how fighters should be rated. For a long time the IBF complied with that criteria but memories fade and I can’t help but feel that there has been some back-sliding by the IBF. A classic case was Ronald Chacon who was rated No 7 by the IBF prior to fighting Masamichi Yabuki last weekend in what was reported to be an IBF light flyweight eliminator, Chacon was rated No 7 and Masamichi No 8.
One of the changes brought in during the court supervision was:
“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.”
As a result of this criteria the No 1 and No 2 positions were vacant as no one in the rankings met this criterion and so the winner of Chacon vs. Masamichi could jump to one of the top positions and effectively Chacon was rated the fifth best light flyweight in the world by the IBF. Venezuelan Chacon had a 28-1-1 record before fighting Masamichi. He had lost his first pro fight so was unbeaten in his last 29 fights. You might feel that even I would find it hard to question Chacon’s right to be in that eliminator but as ever the devil is in the detail and the detail regarding Chacon’s record is that 30 opponents Chacon faced had a total of 42 wins between them, 26 of those 42 wins were scored by Freddy Beleno but by the time he fought Chacon in August 2019 Beleno had lost his last 20 fights. Effectively Chacon’s 29 other opponents had only 16 wins between the 29 of them 16 of those victims had either never previously had a fight or never won a fight.
Since first appearing at No 15 in the IBF light flyweight ratings posted 2 December 2019, Chacon had climbed to be No 7 (effectively the fifth highest ranked fighter) by beating-over a two year span-just six fighters with combined records of 6-53-2.
Does it matter? Well, it should to fighters who have earned their rating the hard way only to find a fighter with Chacon’s abysmal record jumping over them. It should do to the managers and promoters of those “cheated” fighters. It should do to those Boxing Boards and Commissions who see their fighters treated this way. It should do to the members and officials of the IBF that those they entrust with running the organisation honestly and fairly should besmirch its reputation with this disgraceful conduct. It should be a plea for justice-but nothing will happen and nothing will change-but at least I will have gotten this off my chest even if I am a voice crying in the wilderness (Oh don’t be such a drama Queen Eric).
The rumour is that Eddie Hearn is trying to line up Kell Brook as an opponent for Conor Benn when Benn returns to the ring. Brook announced his retirement after beating Amir Khan in February last year but retirement rarely means that in boxing. Brook admitted he was finding retirement hard. He was shown on a video snorting “white powder”. He has apologised to his family, gym friends and fans and said that he is actively seeking help to get him on the right path but it has to be a problem regarding his return to the ring.
April is looking to be an interesting month for British heavyweights. Anthny Joshua will return to the ring on 1 April against Jermaine Franklin. He will be looking to better the performance of Dillian Whyte who beat Franklin on a majority decision in November. On 15 April in London Joe Joyce will take on Chinese heavyweight Zhilei Zhang. Just as there will be a chance for a comparison over how Joshua and Whyte perform against Franklin how Joyce does against Zhang will give a comparison against the close decision Filip Hrgovic pulled out against Zhang.
New year brings the urge to dust off the gloves with Billy Joe Saunders still young at 33 talking about a return to the ring nineteen months after his loss to Saul Alvarez. Tomasz Adamek has said he is coming back for one last fight. The 46-year-old former WBC light heavyweight and IBF cruiserweight champion, now a grandfather, has been touring Poland giving seminars on fighting addiction. In his last fight in 2018 he fought the 90lbs heavier Jarrell Miller and lost on a second round kayo so will want to bring the curtain down with a win.
Age does not seem a barrier to Felix Sturm. Now 44 Sturm will tackle Turk Sukru Altay (15-2) in Stuttgart on 18 February. This will be the first fight for the former IBF/WBA/WBO middleweight and WBA super middleweight champion since losing a very close decision to Istvan Szilli in March last year,. Sturm celebrated 22 years as a pro last month.
There are a couple of important fights coming up for Ghanaians Richard Commey and Isaac Dogboe. Commey will face WBO super lightweight title holder Jose Carlos Ramirez in a non-title fight in Fresno on 25 March and Dogboe will fight Cuban Robeisy Ramirez for the WBO interim featherweight title in Tulsa on 1 April.
Two British fighters have European title fights ahead. Dan Azeez (18-0) will face Frenchman Thomas Faure (21-4-1) at Wembley on 11 February for the vacant light heavyweight title. He is looking to add that title to the British and Commonwealth titles he already holds. On 29 April in Telford local star Liam Davies (13-0) will put his European and British super bantamweight titles up for grabs against experienced Jason Cunnigham (31-7) a former holder of both titles.
On heavyweights the vacant European title will finally find a home as former undefeated champion Agit Kabayel (22-0) faces Croatian Agron Smakici (19-1) in Bochum on 4 March. Bochum is Kabayel’s home town but his highest sanctioning ranking is No 8 and to raise his profile he will have to fight away from home and fight better opposition. One week later in Paris Tony Yoka (11-1) will tackle the dangerous and teak-tough Carlos Takam (39-7-1). They will both be looking to get back in the winner’s enclosure with Yoka losing to Martin Bakole and Takam to Arslanbek Makhmudov. It is a fight Yoka must win as back-to-back losses could hurt his standing beyond repair.
The undercard to the Rey Vargas vs. O’Shaquie Foster title fight in San Antonio on 11 February is looking good. Vargas is defending his WBC super featherweight belt and the main support will feature Mario Barrios (26-2) against Jovanie Santiago (14-2-1) at super lightweight. An intriguing heavyweight fight will see two unbeaten former amateur stand-outs in Viktor Vykhryst (11-0) against Cuban Lenier Pero (8-0). Vykhryst won gold medals at the European Championships and European Games. Pero twice won gold medals at the Pan American Games and was Cuban champion four times. They will both need to look over their shoulder as coming up fast is Dainier Pero the 23-year-old 6’5” brother of Lenier. He was World Junior and World Youth Champion and a Pan American Games gold medal winner. His two professional fights have both ended in the first round and in fact he has taken a total of only 1:40 seconds for the two wins and he faces Texan Daniel Zavala (2-1-2) so another quick win is on the cards.
It looks as though the WBC Bridgerweight division might actually come to life. The division has been totally ignored by the other sanctioning bodies and their affiliated organisations and Box Rec does not carry Bridgerweight ratings on their web site. The division was created by the WBC in November 2020. The first fight involving a version of the Bridgerweight title was held in April 2021 with Cuban Geovany Bruzon (5-0) beating German Garcia Montes (7-2) for the vacant Latin American belt. The first fight for the WBC main title was held on 24 October 2021 with Oscar Rivas Canadian against Ryan Rozicki with Rivas winning on points. Rivas never defended the title and relinquished it at the end of 2022 as he was forced to retire with a detached retina and it was declared vacant. So, a fourteen month blank with no title fights in the division. That will change on 18 March in a feast -to-famine (well almost) as Pole Lukasz Rozanski (14-0) and Alen Babic (11-0) will fight for the vacant title in Poland and on the same night in Johannesburg Kevin Lerena (28-2) and Riyad Merhy (31-1) will fight a final eliminator. Both are good matches irrespective of the title tag. Lerena came close to a shock win over Daniel Dubois in December but having previously held the IBO cruiserweight title (200lbs) he was giving away height and weighed 230 ¾ lbs to the 240lbs of Dubois so the 224lbs of the Bridgerweight division would seem to suit him better than against some of today’s behemoths at heavyweight. Merhy held the WBA secondary title at cruiserweight before relinquishing it in August last year after not defending it for thirteen months. Like Lerena he has done almost all of his fighting around 200lbs so Bridgerweight at 224 should suit them both.
To misquote Pete Seeger and others who contributed to the song “Where Have All the Young Girls Gone?”. Dear me some of the top female boxers are aging (beautify of course) Naoko Fujioka is 47, Marcela Acuna is 46, Layla McCarter is 43, Susie Ramadan is 43, Mariana Juarez 42, Cecilia Braekhus is 41, Heather Hardy is 40 and Jelena Mrdjenovich is 40. All active, all still star names so age is just a number for the ladies (I can only hope the last bit is enough to prevent me getting severely beaten for giving out those ages).
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.”
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eric Armit.
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