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The longest trip to nowhere: four guys went to Puerto Rico, had coffee and made promises

From left to right: Mauricio Sulaiman, Gilberto Mendoza Jr., Francisco Valcarel, Daryl Peoples - Photo by V. Planas/WBO
05
Nov

By now, you’ve seen the photo. The heads of the four most relevant boxing sanctioning bodies met recently to “work(…) in unison to grow and strengthen the positive image of boxing all around the world,” and you want to know more about this.

And of course you do. You are a dedicated boxing fan who logs on to our website daily looking for the most relevant boxing information worldwide, as soon as it happens. Well, we wouldn’t want to waste any more of your time and we’ll give you an abbreviated version of what happened in Puerto Rico: four men had a meeting, had coffee, and made promises.

That’s not the gist of it. That’s all of it.

Mauricio Sulaiman (World Boxing Council), Gilberto Mendoza Jr. (World Boxing Association), Daryl Peoples (International Boxing Federation) and Francisco Valcarcel (World Boxing Organization) met last Thursday at WBO headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They produced a one-paragraph statement as vague and unsubstantial as one could expect, with promises of “discussing a possible future agreement in search of a standardized title unification process,” with the caveat that “as independent sanctioning bodies, we will always have our autonomy.”

One full week after the meeting took place, that’s all there is to report, and that’s all there will always be.

If we take into account their collective penchant for unaccountability and their known inclination towards doing only what is best for them to maximize their multiple sources of income, we quickly realize that the real news is how things are going to continue playing out in the world of professional boxing under the reins of these four horsemen of the pugilistic apocalypse. News brief: we will continue riding into the darkness of a ridiculously unfair set of circumstances that negatively affects those that it should serve most: the fighters.

We could hypothesize, speculate, assume or even fantasize about what was the real intention behind this meeting, and I am sure they’d love to keep us guessing. Instead, let’s just do a quick rundown of the things that certainly will continue happening under the current status quo.

Until further notice, then, the following will continue to be true:

1 – The only unification that matters is the fusion of all major sanctioning bodies, and it will never happen

If four ambulances show up at a single-person accident, you don’t see them all elbowing each other trying to stitch the same wound and placing the same cast and then doing a relay trip switching the stretcher from one ambulance to the other to get to the hospital just so all four of them can bill the same health insurance provider four times for the same job. A case could be made about allowing only the one ambulance without any crashes, parking tickets or medical malpractice lawsuits to perform the procedure, but these four have been dented, papered and sentenced enough times to keep them off the street if they weren’t absolutely necessary. A caveat here: ambulances are necessary, multiple sanctioning bodies are not. Just do a four-way tic-tac-toe elimination tournament, winner takes all, everyone else goes out looking for a real job. Today. Please.

2 – Interim/Gold/Silver/Franchise belts are a scam

You are a smart investor who has made sacrifices to save some money and then used it to buy a nice chunk of stock from a blue-chip software company. You feel happy as the stock rises and your money grows. One day, you open your newspaper in the financial report section to find out that said company has issued “interim stock,” “Gold stock,” “Franchise stock” and maybe “stock in recess” too. The payouts are faster and more substantial for most of those other stocks, and the company’s obligation to assess a fair value on your portfolio is no longer there. Your stock is worth as much or as little as they feel like valuing it. You complain to the company, of course, expecting a fair treatment and a piece of the new action. They politely ask you to “unify” your stock with some of those other “investment opportunities,” obviously informing you that they will be the ones who will set the price of your old stock now. Take it or leave it.

Yep. That’s a good analogy. Let’s leave it there.

And then it gets really bad…

3 – Regional belts are a scandalous pay-to-play scheme

Right now, it is time to welcome our viewers from the industrialized nations, who only follow boxing when the combined purses of the card they’re watching on TV reaches the size and scope of a small nation’s GDP. Thanks for joining in!

Breaking news: the fighters you’re watching today have “climbed through the rankings” of the alphabet soup group du jour thanks to their talent, their dedication, and the payment of “union dues” or “toll fares” in the form of multiple sanctioning fees for ignominious, worthless, crappy and senseless “titles” that they collected along the way.

‘Diamond’ belts (as worn here by Canelo Alvarez) are only a part of vast offering of bogus title belts being offered by all major sanctioning bodies

You see, these organizations used to guarantee a spot in the top 10 to certain “beltholders”. It used to be the “Intercontinental” or continental varieties, but those are few and far in between, and we all know that fast nickels are better than slow dimes, right? Yeah, so in the interest of collecting a lot of small checks from all around the world, they turned their regional representatives into scalp hunters and asked them to create title belts for any and all possible regions, age brackets and even linguistic groups. And then, when you win one of those and only after paying the appropriate sanctioning fee, you are guaranteed to get a spot somewhere in their top 25 or so.

And here’s the good part: you don’t have to be in that region or be part of that demographic to win a belt! You can be an Ukranian living in Germany and hold the “Francophone” belt. You can be born in a Caribbean island and fight for the Continental Americas belt, anytime! And who is anyone to tell you that you cannot fight for a “Youth” title? Age is just a number! And so is the sanctioning fee that they’ll charge.

Of course, here’s the trick: fees are 3% of your purse, but they do have a minimum amount, which goes from roughly $250 to $700 US dollars for non-world titles. Which means that if you made $2500 in one of these “regional” title fights (a common occurrence in third-world countries) and you ponied up TEN percent of your purse for your shinny belt declaring you the new interim Silver Latino titlist, well, consider it an “investment” towards bigger and better things. And we’ll happily take your extra $500-$950 for the actual belt, if you really want to keep it.

Oh, and one more caveat: only men need apply. Because…

4 – We make women work for us

Classy, huh? I know. Please re-read the previous category and come back to this line. Ready?

Breaking news, opus II: female fighters make less money than their male counterparts. Shocking!

That means that their fees are considerably higher in comparison. And not just in those bogus regional title fights, but in every single fight involving a title belt.

Let’s say that the minimum average amount for a world title sanctioning fee is $600. That amount represents three percent of $20,000. Correct? Well, that means that if your purse was less than twenty grand, you paid more than three percent. If you got paid ten thousand dollars, you paid six percent of it to the sanctioning body. If your purse was $5000… you get the picture. And believe me, there are dozens of women’s title fights where purses are in the mid-four-digit region. Tons of them. Most of them, if you look below a certain weight class area.

Of course, we know that some unscrupulous promoters are telling you that you really, really need the belt that you will get after getting paid a portion of a purse that doesn’t even equal a monthly salary in the fast food industry. You do, because you’ll get sponsors and airtime on TV and followers on social media to whom you may sell them an autographed card or a product in your overpriced line of designer lingerie some day in the future. In the meantime, the grownups in the room who are so concerned about your physical safety will disregard your financial safety without even thinking twice, and they will gladly take a disproportionate chunk of your paycheck for their services.

So yeah, ladies: thanks for the money! We need it to get it from you, since taking it from the top earners is very hard. And that’s because…

5 – We work hard to make rich fighters even richer

There is a necessary flipside to every coin, and here it is: there is a self-imposed limit to sanctioning fees. And it only benefits the top 1% of all fighters.

Let’s wipe this chalkboard clean and start over, shall we? Let’s see: the maximum sanctioning fee for a world title fight is between $250,000 and $300,000 US dollars, but let’s say it’s the latter, just to make our numbers easier. Three hundred grand is 3% of 10 million dollars, right? If you make eleven million… the fee remains at three hundred thousand dollars. And so it goes. A fighter like Canelo Alvarez, who makes upwards of thirty million dollars per fight, can end up paying as little as one percent of his purse in a title fight. Of course, this amount is multiplied by two or more in the event of a unification, but if a top-earning fighter decides to drop a few extra belts and only keeps the one that matches the color of his trunks, he will end up paying the equivalent of a speeding ticket for it.

Are we done? Far from it!

Top-earning fighters such as Canelo Alvarez or Floyd Mayweather (pictured) pay proportionally less money than other champions in sanctioning fees

6 – We lie when we say TV execs are forcing us to produce more belts

We understand your concerns. You want less titles, dear fan, because it is all very confusing to you. You want us to clean up every division and crown one champion per weight class, and let every fighter in the world fight with that goal in mind.

But you see, the promoters and television executives of the world are bad, bad, really bad. They force us to create new belts, new titles all the time, all the time I said, because they want to have a title belt being lifted at the end of every fight, every week, all around the world! Our hands are tied!

Dude, please. Guey, no manches. Raitrú, broder. No jodas, mi pana.

I think I covered the regional lingo of “everyone involved” in this comment just to make it easier for them to understand. Not clear enough for ya? Here it is again: grow a pair, gentleman. You lead an organization that benefits from the sacrifice, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the pain and even the death of hundreds of individuals around the world. Promoters are the kind of people you need to rein in, not pander to.

There is no place in the boxing world (which is not a single geographical region, but rather the underprivileged community in every city and every country from which boxing draws its practitioners) in which your “fees” wouldn’t make a difference. A fighter who contributes five or six “minimum” sanctioning fees throughout his/her pre-world championship career could build a house with that accumulated amount in most third-world countries.

It would be bad enough if that money ended up in your pockets. But then, the photographs from your annual conventions start popping up on social media, and we see those same television executives and promoters and “journalists” drinking merrily and playing golf, enjoying trips to exotic destinations that cost three or four “minimum sanctioning fees” apiece – and with the certainty that none of them paid a penny for that trip. Two plus two has never been a difficult mathematical operation for us.

But hey, if they decide to become accomplices and accessories in this financial and ideological crime in progress of yours, and you decide that the aforementioned conventions are the return of investment for everyone involved, so be it. In fact, you can put together a boxing card and make it part of the event, and maybe put a title belt in play, for good measure. How ‘bout the “Fedebol” title, created for (get this) fighters who come from countries in which freedom fighter Simon Bolivar fought on? Yeah, that’s as good as any. What? The fight pits a Norwegian against an Australian? Who cares? A belt is a belt is a sanctioning fee! Ring that cash regist… I mean, that bell, and let’s get ready to fraud-le!

Time to wrap it up. Seriously, this is it. All of it. Mainly because…

7 – These and other issues will never be addressed in an open press conference

Posed photos, self-serving communiques, written statements and press releases. That’s all we do. Pre-digested, no-questions-allowed media hit jobs and operations. Can’t operate a phone while I am operating a toll booth, you know? Figure it all out by yourselves!

For those of us who have figured it all out, the toll fare you’re charging makes less and less sense every day. We may not see the day in which someone figures out an alternative road. But we have not traveled this far just to sit down, have coffee and make empty promises. We will stay on this, reading through the tea leaves, the ever-changing rules and the ever-senseless numbers.

That we can promise you.