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The WBC’s ‘Franchise’ Sticker and More Judges Add to Boxing’s Numbers Glut

Bernard Fernandez

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The WBC’s ‘Franchise’ Sticker and More Judges Add to Boxing’s Numbers Glut

My late Cuban mother-in-law said a lot of things in her thick accent that might have been somewhat lost in translation, one of her more memorable observations being that “too much of a good thing can turn you crooked.”

The lady whose five children and those who wed their way into the family all knew as Mimi wasn’t referring to boxing in that instance, but she might as well have been. If the sweet science were a calculator, the “addition” key would be nearly worn out and there would be no corresponding “subtraction” key. Just when fight fans think they have a handle on what passes for normal nowadays, new concepts – additions, of course – are tossed out like beads from a Mardi Gras float.

Which is not to say that two more innovations (one already implemented, the other likely to be) from the WBC and its tinkering president, Mauricio Sulaiman, are unnecessary or extraneous. In fact, Mauricio, during a Zoom teleconference with a select few members of the U.S. media on Monday, insisted that in his heart of hearts he is basically a traditionalist as are many hidebound fans of the sport. It’s just that, well, the curmudgeons among us who cling to the hope that someday the fight game will whittle itself back down into eight standard weight classes, from its currently bloated 17, with a universally recognized champion in each are as likely to get that as an international dictum requiring everyone to trade in their automobiles for horse-drawn buggies.

“There is resistance to change. That’s human nature,” Sulaiman said, although the past few decades in which the business and structure of boxing have been radically altered would seem to suggest otherwise. “We like to do things customarily. In boxing, there is a big, big love for the classic, for the past, for the legendary. To implement change is very complicated.”

In an effort to un-complicate matters, the Mexico City-based WBC has designated two of its most worthy champions, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Canelo Alvarez, as “franchise” titlists, with Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) defending his “new and improved” lightweight status from that sanctioning body, as well as his WBA “super” and WBO straps, against IBF 135-pound ruler Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) Saturday night in the MGM “Bubble” in Las Vegas. Despite being arguably the most-anticipated fight of 2020, the action will be carried via regular ESPN, a happy fact to be appreciated by fight fans of all persuasions.

Lomachenko-Lopez will be judged, if in fact the outcome goes to the scorecards, by three judges, as usual. But the days of three-person panels deciding who or who doesn’t win fights on points might also soon become a relic from the past, if Sulaiman’s vision of the future gains traction.

“From what I have seen through the remote scoring (judges not at ringside) during this pandemic, I am so convinced that the more judges that score a fight, the possibility of a bad decision goes to the minimum,” said Sulaiman, who envisions a day when five or even seven judges – some at ringside, others seeing the same thing on TV and not from different angles – will eliminate or at least greatly reduce the sort of scoring controversies that have always made what seemed obvious to many not so much to the chosen few with pencils.

“We are in the process of having five judges for a few fights in the jurisdictions where we allow this to happen,” Sulaiman said. “We have done fights with judges on site, combined with remote judges. That has been a tremendous success. I don’t know how easy or how fast this can be implemented, but I know there are jurisdictions (certain state boxing commissions) that simply won’t allow it.”

Judges also will experiment with scoring 10-9 rounds as “close,” “moderate,” “decisive” or “extreme,” the last likely resulting in a 10-8 tally even without a knockdown.

“If you have a judge going all over the place in (scoring) a fight, then you talk to him and you train him,” Sulaiman continued.

If the future scoring of fights sounds more complicated, it probably will be. But like the man said, change can be difficult to implement and accept. New stuff takes getting used to.

Back to the franchise designation, which Sulaiman insisted will be conferred only upon special fighters who reveal themselves to be a cut or two above mere alphabet place-holders. Although Devin Haney (24-0, 15 KOs) is also a WBC lightweight champ, the difference between he and Lomachenko might be akin to levels of royalty, with the Ukrainian southpaw being the king of the division and the Las Vegas resident by way of his native San Francisco more like a prince.

“I understand that there is resistance and uncertainty, but I feel very good about the franchise designation because it will be a concept that applies to only a very few,” Sulaiman explained.

“The winner of this fight will be recognized as the franchise champion of the WBC. I understand that any new thing, any new rule or program, always creates confusion. But Lomachenko is in fact a champion with special attributes. He does not have to face the mandatories that a new champion has to face when he wins a vacant title.”

Where things get more complicated, not simpler, will be when the WBC assumes a loftier-than-thou stance for its franchise stalwarts in unification bouts with champions from the other three world sanctioning bodies. If fairly recent boxing history has taught us anything, it is that the alphabet groups will strip unified champions, as if he were a scantily clad dancer in a gentleman’s cabaret, if they don’t fulfill a particular outfit’s mandatory within a specified time frame.

“The mandatory contender was introduced by the WBC many, many years ago, when (Jose) Napoles and a few other fighters had to wait five or six years to get a title opportunity,” Sulaiman noted. “There was no rule mandating a champion to fight any boxer. (The establishment) of mandatories is a great rule, and very fair. But the rule sometimes has worked contrary to its creation. It has been abused.

“The fact is that, having so many championships, the level of quality of mandatory challengers in certain divisions is very much diluted. Sometimes you have mandatory contenders that you really could doubt that they are the best challengers in the division.

“This situation of fighters belonging to different promoters or networks has always existed. It does complicate matters. For (Mike) Tyson to wait so long to fight Lennox Lewis took many years. For Manny to fight Floyd took many years.”

The establishment of franchise fighters in certain divisions, Sulaiman said, is not designed for that person to run away from a mandatory, but to run to a big fight that people want to see.

Now, getting the other organizations to go along with Sulaiman’s plot to remake boxing is the sticking point. That, too, has been a problem that never seems to go away. Every alphabet president wants his group to lead the parade, not just tagging along.

“I don’t want to talk about other organizations. We’re talking about the WBC,” said Sulaiman, who indicated he had been in contact with the IBF’s Daryl Peoples and the WBO’s Paco Valcarcel (no mention of the WBA’s Gilberto Mendoza) regarding a standardization of ratings. “We have had ideas and we have put them forth. There have been intentions to put in a system where the organizations work together. But in the end, each organization has its own agenda, its own rules, its own ideas.”

And the pile of those rules and ideas just keeps getting larger and larger.

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Tyson and Jones Box to an Unofficial Draw in a Predictable Stinker

Arne K. Lang

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an American institution, went belly-up in 2017, but a different kind of circus played to an empty house at the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight. The main attraction wasn’t Jumbo the elephant but Iron Mike Tyson in his first ring appearance in 15 years. In the opposite corner was Roy Jones Jr, who at age 51 was the younger man by three years.

Tyson vs. Jones was the main piece of a 4-hour boxing and music festival live-streamed in the U.S. on the TysononTriller.com app at a list price of $49.95. This was the first live event on “Triller” which allows people to create their own music videos and was designed as a rival to China-owned TikTok, one of the biggest recent success stories in the internet world.

The California State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the match, insisted that Tyson vs. Jones would be an exhibition. They would fight 8 two-minute rounds with 12-ounce gloves and if there were a knockdown, the referee would not give a count and the bout would or would not continue at his discretion. The rounds would not be scored and no winner would be named.

Of course, the promoter chafed at these restraints and did his best to create the impression that this was a legitimate prizefight. Retired boxers Vinny Pazienza, Chad Dawson, and Christy Martin were lassoed to serve as judges, scoring the fight from a remote location, and the WBC commissioned an honorary belt to present to the winner.

The advance hype was enormous. A clickbait-obsessed media lapped it up including photoshop-enhanced images of Mike Tyson’s physique.

In the second round, Tyson landed a double left hook and that was the only indelible moment in the match. By the third round, both looked and sounded tired and by the sixth round Jones was thoroughly gassed out and took to clinching to make it to the final bell.

For the record, the scores were 79-73 for Tyson (Martin), 80-76 for Jones (Pazienza), and 76-76 (Dawson). On the internet, the clear consensus was that Tyson had the best of it.

Mike Tyson, 50-6, 2 NC (44 KOs) last fought in June of 2005 when he was stopped by third-rater Kevin McBride. Roy Jones (66-9, 47 KOs) was active as recently as 2018 and won his last four, but against hand-picked opponents including a boxer making his pro debut. His last fight of significance came in 2011 when he was brutally KOed by Dennis Lebedev in Moscow.

Jones, who weighed 210 ½ tonight, weighed 157 when he made his pro debut in 1989. In his prime, he was pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, but that was back in the previous century.

Both fighters were reportedly guaranteed $1 million with Tyson’s take potentially reaching $10 million if certain financial targets were met.

Other Bouts

YouTube sensation Jake Paul, who we reluctantly concede has more than a modicum of talent in the fisticuffing department, knocked out Nate Robinson in the second round and it was a clean knockout with Robinson knocked out cold. The 36-year-old Robinson, the former NBA point guard who was a three-time slam dunk champion during his 11-year NBA career, is a well-rounded athlete, good enough to start as a cornerback in football during his freshman year at the University of Washington, but his athleticism didn’t translate to the squared circle as he looked like a common bar brawler.

Former two-division belt-holder Badou Jack (22-3-4), who said he appeared on the card as a favor to his friend Mike Tyson, was a clear-cut winner over hard-trying but out-classed Blake McKernan in an 8-round cruiserweight match.

At age 37, Jack’s career is winding down. He tipped the scales at 188 ¾, 14 pounds more than in his previous engagement vs. Jean Pascal. McKernan, a natural cruiserweight from Sacramento, was undefeated coming in (13-0), but was in over his head against Jack, a former Olympian and veteran of seven world title fights.

In a good action fight, Worcester, Massachusetts lightweight Jamaine Ortiz, a carpenter by trade, improved to 14-0 (8) with a seventh-round stoppage of Sulaiman Segawa (13-3-1), a Maryland-based Ugandan.

In the first bout on the program, Fort Worth featherweight Edward Vazquez improved to 9-0 (1) with an 8-round split decision over Jamaine Ortiz stablemate Irvin Gonzalez (14-3).

Heavyweight Juiseppe “Joe” Cusumano improved to 19-3 (17) with a sixth-round stoppage of late sub Gregory Corbin (15-4). It was the fourth straight loss for the 40-year-old Corbin who came in at a beefy 291 ¾ pounds.

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Fast Results from London: Joe Joyce Stops Daniel Dubois in the 10th

Arne K. Lang

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The historic Church House which sits in the shadow of Westminster Abbey was the site of tonight’s clash in London between unbeaten heavyweights Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce. The bout lacked the gloss of a world title fight, but didn’t need it. The oft-postponed match, originally slated for the 02 Arena in London on April 11 with promoter Frank Warren anticipating a sellout, was fairly hyped as the most anticipated fight since Fury-Wilder II which was the last big fight before the coronavirus clampdown.

Dubois, 15-0 with 14 KOs heading in, was a consensus 7/2 favorite in man-to-man betting, He was younger, faster and punched harder, but ultimately it would be his “O” that had to go. Joe Joyce, an inch taller at six-foot-six and 15 pounds heavier at 259, emerged victorious with a 10th-round stoppage in what was a good back-and-forth fight with a divided opinion as to who had the edge through the completed rounds.

Joyce really didn’t do much but throw a jab, but he landed that jab consistently and it was a hard, thudding jab that caused Dubois’s left eye to start swelling during the mid-rounds of the fight. The damaged eye eventually shut and when Joyce reached it with another hard jab in the 10th, Dubois surrendered by taking a knee. The presumption was that he had suffered a broken orbital bone.

The 35-year-old Joyce, nicknamed Juggernaut, is of Scotch-Irish and Nigerian descent. He lost by split decision to Tony Yoka in the semifinals of the 2016 Olympics and had to settle for a silver medal. Prior to turning pro, he was 12-1 in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing with his lone defeat coming at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk. With today’s career-defining win, he upped his pro ledger to 12-0 (11).

Other Bouts

Top-rated WBC super lightweight contender Jack Catterall (26-0) won a predictably one-sided 10-round triumph over 33-year-old Tunisian Abderrazak Houya (14-3). Catterall scored two knockdowns en route to winning by a 99-90 score. This was a stay-busy fight for the Lancashire man who was the mandatory challenger for title-holder Jose Carlos Ramirez and accepted step-aside money with the promise that he would meet the winner of the unification fight between Ramirez and Josh Taylor which is expected to come off in February.

The lead-in fight was a 10-round contest in the super welterweight division between 21-year-old Hamzah Sheeraz and 33-year-old Guido Nicolas Pitto. The fight was monotonous until Sheeraz (12-0, 8 KOs) kicked it into a higher career in the final stanza and brought about the stoppage. Pitto, from Spain by way of Argentina, declined to 26-8-2. The official time was 1:11 of round 10.

In an 8-round cruiserweight bout, Jack Massey improved to 17-1 (8) with a 79-74 referee’s decision over Mohammad Ali Farid (16-2-1). Massey was making his first start since losing a close 12-round decision to Richard Raikporhe in December of 2019 for the vacant BBBofC title. The well-traveled, one-dimensional Farid had scored 16 knockouts in his previous 18 fights while answering the bell for only 33 rounds.

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Daniel Jacobs Edges Past Gabe Rosado on a Matchroom card in Florida

David A. Avila

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Former world champion Daniel Jacobs needed the last round to win by split decision against upset-minded Gabe Rosado and keep his place in line on Friday for lucrative super middleweight matchups.

But when the ring announcer erroneously announced the winner was from Philadelphia, confusion reigned for a moment until Jacobs was correctly called the winner.

Brooklyn’s Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs) jumped out ahead against Philly fighter Rosado (25-13-1, 14 KOs) and held on for the win in front of no fans at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. For a second, many thought Rosado had won.

Both were careful during the first three rounds measuring each other’s distance and looking for openings to counter. There were very few.

It was the kind of fight expected by those who know boxing: two veterans with immense experience against top-flight world champions. Mistakes were few.

Jacobs, a former middleweight world champion, had fought Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in close but losing efforts.

Rosado had battled Golovkin too, six years ago in a bloody affair that ended in a loss. He had also lost to other champions like Peter Quillin and Jermell Charlo. But none were able to knock him out.

Both were aware of each other’s reputation. Bitter words had been exchanged for years and now they finally got their chance to prove their mettle and they did.

Though Jacobs was recognized as a knockout puncher, Rosado’s resilience was just as well known. Both neutralized each other for most of the fight with their feints and jabs to the body. Neither was willing to leave openings for each other.

Jacobs scored big with a left uppercut at the end of the seventh round. While Rosado wowed viewers with a sizzling right cross in the 11th round.

It was 1950s style, boxing with intelligence. Each found it difficult to land combinations, let alone find openings to score knockout blows. Instead, they had to be satisfied with scoring enough to convince three judges the actual winner.

Neither was able to pull out ahead with any conviction.

After 12 rounds one judge saw Rosado the winner 115-113 while two others saw Jacobs the winner 115-113 to give him the win by split decision.

“It felt just a little weird. It felt like a sparring match,” said Jacobs about fighting without fans in the audience. “This wasn’t a valiant effort.”

Rosado was certain he was the true winner.

“I thought I won the fight. I surprised him,” said Rosado who trained with Freddie Roach for this fight. “I’m a veteran, I know how to fight.”

Indeed, he does.

Jacobs now stands poised to fight one of many super middleweight champions in need of a marquee name.

“I live to see another day,” he said honestly.

Other Bouts

Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Yeleussinov (10-0, 6 KOs) proved he was not an easy touch and knocked out former world champion Julius Indongo (23-3, 12 KOs) to march forward in the welterweight division while grabbing the vacant IBF Inter-Continental title.

In a fight featuring southpaw versus southpaw Yeleussinov caught Indongo with a roundhouse left the first time they exchanged and down went the former super lightweight world champion. Indongo beat the count and survived the round.

Indongo wasn’t as lucky in the second round as Yeleussinov again connected with a left and down went the fighter from Namibia again. He would not get up at 1:24 of round two giving the knockout win for Yeleussinov.

A battle between undefeated heavyweights saw Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov (3-0, 3 KOs) use roundhouse rights to stagger the heavier Sahret Delgado (8-1) to win by knockout in the third round. Majidov actually helped Delgado get to his stool after knocking him out on his feet at 47 seconds of the third round.

Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1) defeated Mason Menard (36-5) by majority decision after a 10- round lightweight fight that saw a lot of clinching and leaning.

Nikita “White Chocolate” Ababiy (10-0) out-fought Detroit’s Brandon Maddox (7-4-1) to win by unanimous decision after six rounds in a middleweight clash. Ababiy hurt Maddox with body shots but found Maddox more resilient than expected.

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