How To Fix Boxing Part 1: Fewer Divisions
As the rubble from Mayweather-Pacquiao gets sifted through, lawsuits get settled, and all the he-said, she-said finger pointing subsides, the boxing community should take one big exhale—and move on.
Instead of focusing on what happened, who was responsible, and why it occurred, let’s take a look at ways to improve the sport, and hopefully avoid some of the negative situations that boxing finds itself mired in today.
As Mark McGwire said to congress, “I’m not here to talk about the past”.
Indeed. Let’s talk about the future of the sport.
So, welcome to Part 1 of my series, How to Fix Boxing .
Too Many Divisions!
I think most would agree that the number of divisions has gone awry and this has led to a softening of the divisions.
I know I’m not the first, but I would like to propose fewer divisions.
Currently, there are 18 recognized divisions. 18!
How can the average fan keep up with that number? How can a boxing analyst keep up with that number?
I’d be willing to bet that Max Kellerman couldn’t name a belt holder in all 18 divisions.
I’m sure he’d yell his answers, right or wrong, but I don’t think he could.
The Olympics recognizes 11 divisions.
MMA recognizes nine divisions. The UFC even fewer—five divisions.
I propose 10. And here they are (numbers are in pounds):
Super Heavyweight 225+
Heavyweight 201 – 224
Light Heavyweight 185 – 200
Super Middleweight 170 – 184
Middleweight 160 – 169
Super Welterweight 150 – 159
Welterweight 140 – 149
Lightweight 130 - 139
Featherweight 120 – 129
Flyweight up to 120
See a pattern?
From Flyweight through Middleweight, the class would encompass a 10 pound range. After Middleweight, it jumps to 15 pounds, and then upwards at Heavyweight and Super Heavy.
This is a drastic change from where we stand now, where 3-4 pounds separates some divisions.
Shoot, my weight fluctuates three to four pounds each day depending on how big my lunch was.
The weight classes at the top and bottom of the list were severely affected and will surely draw a lot of criticism.
Flyweight went from the traditionally recognized 112 lb (50.8 kg) max up to 120, while Super Heavyweight, which is recognized in Olympic competition but not in the alphabet rankings went from a 200 lb (91 kg) minumum to 225 lbs.
This is no mistake. People are generally getting bigger, not smaller, and this new format recognizes the trend.
Just take a look at some of the heavys coming out of Europe.
The Klitchkos. Valuev.
These guys are monsters and nobody expects fighters to get any smaller.
Sure, there was something satisfying about watching David Haye defeat Valuev, who was nearly a foot taller and 100 lbs heavier. But anyone who watched that fight knew it was a boring fight that never materialized past the freak show that it was billed as and we never saw two fighters that truly competed on the same level.
With all due respect to the Strawweight guys and Light Flyweights, I can’t remember the last time HBO or Showtime featured a main event for someone in your division. Fans love to watch, but they don’t pay money to see people under 120 lbs get it on.
The most adversely affected weight class and toughest test would be the Super Middleweight division.
Fighters in that division would see the largest discrepancy in minimum and maximum weight at 14 lbs, or approximately 8% of body weight difference between a boxer on the lower end of the scale versus a boxer on the higher end.
No doubt, a guy coming in at 171 pounds going against a guy tipping the scales at 184 has a distinct disadvantage.
But surprisingly, this is the about the same weight classifications for Middleweights in the UFC, so we know it can be done.
Luckily, this division is gaining a lot of fans in recent months with the Super Six World Boxing Classic bringing this forgotten weight class all the attention it deserves.
Ward, Bute, Kessler. These guys are badasses and could no doubt handle the weight discrepancy.
Imagine the warriors that would be fighting and winning in this brutal division!
Two whole weight classes completely dropped off the list: Bantam and Cruiser.
This will infuriate some, but tough choices need to made and these are generally the least recognized weight classes by the average fan.
Don’t believe me?
Quick, name the weight limit on Bantams?
Better yet, see if you can name three current or former Cruiserweight champions, not named Holyfield.
While changes like this would be dramatic, and put a few bubble fighters in a tough predicament, it would force most fighters to stay true to one division and reward the few that could fight in multiple divisions with great recognition and status.
There would be no more calls of “paper titles”, or watered down divisions.
Guys like Pacquiao would not be able to walk through seven divisions with eyes on a possible eighth. It would be too difficult and too risky.
A fighter that captured three belts in three weight classes would be truly appreciated.
Fans would be able to keep track of champions and belt holders much more easily which would increase fan interest. Fans stimulate pay per view, fighters get more money and recognition and the overall popularity of the sport goes up.
Tune in to my next installment, How to Fix Boxing Part II: Alphabet Soup—The Mess Known as Too Many Belts.
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