Boxing Belt-Holders Who Have Yet to Face a Serious Challenge

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2014

Boxing Belt-Holders Who Have Yet to Face a Serious Challenge

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    Sandra Mu/Getty Images

    Most current boxing fans are not old enough to remember it, though we have all heard about it from our fathers or grandfathers or old men at the bar. Once upon a time in boxing, there was only one world champion per division. 

    If a man was called a world champion, it meant he had proved himself against the best men his size in the world. 

    In the 1960s, the WBA and WBC begun to recognize competing claims. But unification bouts were still often easy to arrange. And even when they didn't happen, being a WBA or WBC champion was still a pretty big deal. 

    The IBF emerged in the 1980s and the WBO in the decade after that. For as long as many current fans can remember, four competing organizations have recognized their own world champions. 

    But it hasn't stopped with that. Not only do the different alphabet-soup agencies recognize conflicting champions, too often they recognize more than one. 

    The WBA is the worst offender here, in some cases recognizing three or four different "world champions." 

    It makes for an absurd situation, wherein some cases we now have "world champions" who have fought nobody of note and aren't even well-known outside of their own region, if at all. 

Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar, WBA Interim Featherweight Champion

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    I was at the fight last August where Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar beat Claudio Marrero for the interim WBA featherweight title. It was a very good fight, and Cuellar looked impressive. 

    But I really couldn't understand how it qualified as a "world title" fight. The two contestants had a mere 38 fights between them.

    At the time, Chris John was the WBA world champion and had been for a decade. As is their custom, the WBA had named John the "super" champion, or "unified," or some other exalted adjective, and allowed Nicholas Walters to beat Daulis Prescott for their "vacated" world title in December 2012. 

    So what was the basis for recognizing an interim world champion in a fight between two fairly obscure prospects, when two other recognized world champions were still active? This is the kind of absurdity that confuses and turns off many would-be fans. 

    Cuellar is a promising fighter and recorded another nice win over Rico Ramos earlier this year. But to claim he has the resume of a world champion is pure hype. And for the WBA to recognize three world champions in one division is just plain stupid. 

Omar Figueroa, WBC Lightweight Champion

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    I do think undefeated WBC lightweight champion Omar Figueroa has the potential to be a future star. He's got a strong amateur background and excellent length for a lightweight fighter.

    But he doesn't have a resume worthy of a world champion at this point. His July 2013 title fight with Nihito Arakawa being designated a title fight by the WBC had a lot more to do with the opportunity to put Figueroa in a title bout in his hometown than it did with the actual merit of either man's resume.

    Figueroa's first defense, on Showtime against Jerry Belmontes, was a tough fight for Figueroa. Belmontes had a history of beating the champ when the two were amateurs, and Figueroa came away with just a split decision in an entertaining fight.

    Victories over fighters like Arakawa and Belmontes are quality wins for a rising star. But they are hardly world championship-quality triumphs.  

     

Johan Perez, WBA Interim Light Welterweight Champion

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    Last April, Jessie Vargas beat Khabib Allakhverdiev to win the WBA light welterweight title. This was somewhat confusing, because last time I checked, Danny Garcia was the WBA light welterweight champion, along with being the WBC and Ring champ.

    It was, of course, another case of the WBA designating their world champion a "super" world champion, in order to somehow justify recognizing a new world champion to hold the newly vacated "regular" title.

    This is standard operating procedure for the WBA by now, and Vargas and Allakhverdiev were both undefeated contenders with wins over ranked opponents. They put on a great fight, and Vargas deserves credit for his performance, even if I don't really consider him a world champion.

    But 140 pounds is another weight class where two champions simply isn't enough to satisfy the WBA. They also recognize an "interim" world champion in the form of Johan Perez. Perez captured this "world title" last November when he beat Paul Spadafora, holder of the most inflated undefeated record this side of heavyweight David Rodriguez.

    Amazingly, this is not Perez's first time holding the interim WBA light welterweight belt. He previously captured it in December 2011 when he beat obscure journeyman Fernando Castaneda. He lost it in his first defense to Pablo Cesar Cano in July 2012, but Cano vacated it to move up to welterweight to fight Paulie Malignaggi.

    In response, the WBA wasted no time getting this imaginary title back around Perez's waist.

Dmitry Chudinov, Interim WBA Middleweight Champion

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    Most boxing fans reading this undoubtedly know that Gennady Golovkin is the WBA middleweight champion. He's held the belt for four years and knocked out 10 straight challengers. He would seem to have been doing a pretty good job of flying the WBA's banner. 

    But the WBA is ever restless to proliferate. So last December, they recognized the winner of Dmitry Chudinov and Juan Camilo Novoa as the interim world champion. Chudinov won by Round 6 TKO.

    So Chudinov had beaten an obscure journeyman in his 12th professional fight. Novoa is experienced, so it was a decent win for a developing fighter.

    But in today's boxing universe, or the section of it governed by the WBA, it was good enough to make him a world champion. 

Stanyslav Kashtanov, Interim WBA Super Middleweight Champion

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    Here is a quick trivia question: Who is the WBA super middleweight world champion? If you answered "Andre Ward," you are correct.

    However, if you also answered "Carl Froch," you are also correct. Both Ward and Froch are WBA world champions at 168 pounds. Of course, even most casual fans will be aware that they have previously fought, with Ward winning decisively. 

    But to the WBA, that's irrelevant. Both men are world champions.

    Yet, two world champions at 168 simply isn't enough for the WBA. As near as I can figure out, they have had up to four at a single time.    

    In August 2011, Stanyslav Kashtanov lost in a bid to Karoly Balzsay for the vacant WBA super middleweight title. Balzsay has defended that "title" once since, in April 2012. I think he's been stripped for inactivity, but I'm not really sure.

    Kashtanov, meanwhile, got yet another title fight in April 2012, when he won the vacant interim WBA super middleweight title from Server Yemurlayev by split decision. He defended it once in 2013, against 18-7 journeyman Jaime Barboza.

    Kashtanov has had 32 professional fights, but just three have been outside of his native Ukraine. He's a "world champion," but even devoted fans can be forgiven for not having heard of him.