It's the kind of thing that a comically over-the-top villain—like Cruella Deville, or William Hurt's character from "A History of Violence"—might come up with...the WBC has invented ANOTHER belt.
And it's not just any belt—the sanctioning organization encrusted it with diamonds, and declared it would be made available for catchweight fights between "elite" boxers.
Hmmm, wonder what bill that might fit? Oh, right, only the biggest fight on the sport's calender, between the very elite Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, Nov. 17.
This fight just so happens to be mired in a dispute over what kind of title belt might be available, because it's at a catchweight of 145 pounds.
What kind of schmuck would fall for such an obvious ploy to line the WBC's pockets with sanctioning fees? I mean, surely nobody would take seriously a belt that was invented apparently for just one fight, right? Won't the boxing public see through this?
Don't count on it. After the WBC announced the invention of the belt on Thursday, Pacquiao's team signaled its interest on Friday in fighting for said belt.
And I personally promise that there will be a major percentage of people who follow boxing that will hail Pacquiao's victory, should he get this "diamond belt", as a historic belt-winning accomplishment.
Never mind that Pacquiao has already won all the real championships that matter—no boxer in history has won four lineal championships in four weight classes the way Pacquiao has. Nope, he needs to win another belt in a made-up division from an organization that will keep watering itself down until people stop caring.
Too many boxing fans have a sickening addiction to belts, no matter how meaningless. Boxing's powers-that-be know it, too. It's why, on Fight Night Club, boxing prospects can fight for the "Quaker State Durability Belt."
You wouldn't think it could get any more like a Jonathan Swift essay, but then you wake up the next day and there it is—almost outdoing the master satirist himself. The WBC and its ilk believe you, the boxing fan, are a sucker.
The WBC is not the worst offender, but it is the funniest. Jose Sulaiman—a man who is referred to in his own organization's news releases as "Don Jose"—recently criticized the WBA for offering multiple belts in each division, from "champion in recess" to "interim champion."
Granted, the WBA is an organization that, by one recent count, would soon have 32 "champions" in 16 divisions.
And yet, Sulaiman once gave the recently deceased Vernon Forrest the title of "WBC Ambassador of Peace and Good Will in the World Through Sports," and when his favorites don't have titles, he finds a way to give them one. "Jorge Arce, WBC interim champion" sound familiar to anyone?
The shame of this all is that until everyone just decides to pay attention to one champion per division—after all, "champion" DOES mean "first place"—boxing is going to have a tough time attracting new fans, which in turn hurts the quality of new youngsters entering the sport.
My vote, for what it's worth, is for the Ring magazine belt policy, which most closely mirrors the "lineal" title that traces its history back to the man who beat the man who beat the man, and has both sane rankings and a sane method of filling vacancies.
The No. 1 complaint people give me when they talk about why they don't follow boxing is that they don't understand who the champion is. As of today, that just got a whole more confusing...even on the grandest stage—Pacquiao vs. Cotto—of them all.
(This article adapted from the Friday "Quick Jabs" column at queensberry-rules.com.)
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