Imagine that baseball agent Scott Boras has control over the Yankees, Dodgers, Tigers, Rockies, and Braves and determines when, where, and who these teams play, and on what terms. And imagine that the remaining 25 teams are divided among, and similarly controlled by, half a dozen or so other Boras-types.
Also imagine that Terrell Owens has the power to cancel the Super Bowl if he doesn’t agree with the rules.
This is the current state of professional boxing. The promoters arrange its events, and now apparently, even the fighters have a say in its regulation.
The issue casting an Independence Day alien mothership shadow over the sport of boxing is, and has always been, that there is no benevolent overseer. Unlike MLB, the NBA or the NFL, there is no one who cares solely about the well-being of the sport in a position that allows them to organize and manage it.
Control of the sport is splintered among various people and organizations whose only interest in it is the small chunk they’ve got their greedy little fingers wrapped around.
Boxing is governed by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC). The ABC is responsible for things such as creating and enforcing rules and regulations, the health and safety of fighters, and keeping records of fights.
The ABC has no power beyond the actual boxing events. They are essentially the framework of rules and regulations that promoters, after they have arranged a fight card, plug the event into.
The sanctioning bodies—the WBC, WBA, IBF, etc.—don’t have any power beyond creating meaningless championship titles and have no interest whatsoever in anything not bearing the face of an expired U.S. President.
Unfortunately, these meaningless titles are still sought after by fighters, managers, and promoters who are quite willing to allow themselves to be charged sanctioning fees to fight for them.
The sanctioning bodies, through their biased and illogical ranking systems, can and do mandate fights, but rarely do the two best fighters in a division get matched up this way. And if the mandatory fight isn’t one that a fighter’s team is interested in, they’ll just forfeit the belt and walk away.
Outside of the sport, the only parties who wield any influence over it are the television networks. HBO and Showtime are to boxing what MTV was to pop music in the '80s. It’s nearly impossible to become a star without them.
These networks tend to have a lot of pull with managers and promoters looking to get mass exposure—and money—for their fighters. But they can also have a difficult time convincing star fighters and their teams to do anything they’re not inclined to do. The networks can televise a fight, but they can’t force one to happen.
They can also be as much of a hindrance to the sport as any other party, since they each have fighters signed exclusively with them. Getting a Showtime fighter in the ring with an HBO fighter can be about as easy as convincing Nancy Pelosi to sit in one of the comfortable chairs just off to the right.
Boxing needs to be reformed, and I’m not counting on that happening anytime soon. John McCain literally shut down the Senate once, trying to create a federal agency to regulate the sport—and failed. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to gripe and moan and hope for the best.
Maybe Manny Pacquiao is being unreasonable and should just agree to the damn testing, or maybe Floyd Mayweather’s camp is out of line for demanding it. I don’t really know. What I do know is that neither one of them should be in a position where they can make something like this possible.
So if the fight never happens, I’m not going to blame the boxers. I’m going to blame boxing.
It’s just business as usual in the crooked offices surrounding the squared circle.