THE year 2019 produced plenty of quality, excitement and achievement. That much was clear when the Boxing News team sat down to discuss our Fights and Fighters of the Year. Positive signs aplenty, but the outlook is not all rosy as we head into 2020 with multiple titles and the issue of drugs muddying the forecast.

Last year there were six high profile cases of boxers failing tests or producing adverse findings (that we know of). A seventh, Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, declined to take a test when asked to. Only one, Jarrell Miller, was universally outed as a cheat (probably because numerous illegal substances were found in his body rather than the hard to investigate micro-trace). But none of them, not even Miller, received a universal worldwide ban.  

Two Mexican fighters, Rey Vargas and Julio Cesar Martinez, failed tests which resulted in the World Boxing Council (WBC) – on the advice of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) – rewriting the rules so those failures became passes. The case of Dillian Whyte was also troubling for different reasons. After an adverse test result he was permitted to fight on the morning of his July contest with Oscar Rivas by an independent panel, yet he had to wait four months before United Kingdom Anti-Doping confirmed his innocence. Irrespective of how that story broke, the fact remains it did break, and UKAD should have fixed it immediately. It is not the first time they’ve let something like this drag on and on and on. By doing so, those governing and promoting a fight involving a boxer who had been under investigation saw their integrity questioned and – far worse – a boxer’s reputation almost ruined in the process.

One testing agency, which rules all others with universal rules and punishments, is long overdue. Otherwise the war on drugs is nothing more than a merry-go-round of hoodwinkery.

Charlie Edwards
Julio Cesar Martinez is getting to fight for the WBC title again Action Images/Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

The need for one ruling body in the sport is a recurring theme. Sanctioning bodies outdid themselves in 2020. Just when you thought the WBA’s collection of regular and super and interim titles had an unassailable lead in the ‘what a load of rubbish’ charts, the WBC introduced their Franchise title and, within days, they had a smash hit on their hands.

The WBA, hoping to reclaim the top spot, then introduced the Gold belt. The WBO weighed in with some seriously spurious metal, too. Yet the industry continues to embrace these inane titles which only harm the sport.

I accept that one ruling organisation can lead to problems but surely one organisation creating problems is better than four creating substantially more. Those who fear such totalitarianism should look around and tell me how the alternative – the mess we’ve been covered in for decades – is any better. Right now, with all these titles to aim at and different rules to appease, the notion of an undisputed champion (that reigns for more than one or two fights) is pure fantasy. Furthermore, the length of time it takes to achieve ‘undisputed’ is plainly ridiculous. The whole process is akin to spending years solving a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and then taking just minutes to break it up and put it back in the box. 

The first step in the clean-up process must be making all the daft titles irrelevant. Promoters and broadcasters should stop using them as a marketing gimmick (after all, if a contest needs a bogus belt to enhance its appeal we should wonder if the fight needs to be made in the first place). Boxers should stop parading them after paying fees for the privilege and the boxing media – including BN – must stop referencing them and heightening their profile in the process. To be clear, the more titles there are the harder it is to make the best fights.

As fans, we have become conditioned to accept that some boxers will cheat and that sanctioning bodies will create more confusion than clarity. But just because we’re used to such crimes, it doesn’t mean we should put up with them. 

There’s no quick fix to these issues of course, but even if we can replace a few of the shrugs of shoulders with small steps – and the onus is on the leading fighters and the influencers to make the first ones – then why shouldn’t we dream of progress?