We’re often reminded why boxing isn’t as popular as other sports, how it struggles to reach and maintain a mainstream audience, some of the time. The main reason I have found is the difficulty to pin down who is a World champion and who is not. With a surge of titles introduced over the past few years such as Global and Gold, it’s confusing as to what these titles mean? Is a Global champion not a World champion? Throw in the Interim, Regular and God forbid, Franchise champions and you’re left with one giant muddle.
On Friday, a major sanctioning body was seen in many headlines, for all the wrong reasons. The World Boxing Association crowned two new champions, Yordenis Ugas and Trevor Bryan, the difference being, one is seen as a legitimate World champion and the other is just considered as a belt holder.
Trevor Bryan captured the WBA Regular belt with an eleventh round stoppage of Bermane Stiverne – who, it is worth noting, has not claimed a professional win since 2015. To cover this up quickly, Stiverne was wedged in the WBA official rankings at #11, after an initial fight between Bryan and Manuel Charr fell through. Charr was demoted to champion in recess and the title became the trophy on the line in the Bryan-Stiverne bout.
Yordenis Ugas captured the WBA Regular title in September last year. However, to be considered a true champion in this organisation, you have to own the Super belt – which was until yesterday, owned by Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino legend has been made champion in recess, despite being on track to fight later this year. The inactivity of Pacquiao is worth mentioning since his last fight was July 2019, but, with the pandemic, being a senator and one of the highest paid athletes in the last decade, it could be somewhat acceptable. See how difficult this is to explain to someone new to boxing?
Whilst we can expect a unification clash between Errol Spence Jr. and Yordenis Ugas to be made soon, the heavyweight title picture to those just tuning in is rather unclear. Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury are the legitimate World champions, who are expected to meet later this year in a terrific fight. Trevor Bryan is essentially irrelevant, I personally wouldn’t put him inside the top 10 heavyweights, so God knows why he holds some version of a “World title”. I feel some sympathy for Manuel Charr, after having some very bad luck in his career – I would like to see him conclude his career on a high note. There is also a case where Fres Oquendo was meant to fight for the ‘Regular’ title but to save some time, all you need to know is that essentially Oquendo had a better lawyer than the WBA, which is hilarious to me.
The Manny Pacquiao situation irks me, remembering that Leo Santa Cruz holds a WBA ‘Super’ World title at 126lbs, whilst his last two fights have been at 130lbs. So you can see that this problem has not just occurred, but in fact, it’s been happening for a long time. I do hope that the situation will be resolved soon, not just for my own ignorance to explain the situation to someone but also, so I don’t have to watch fights fall apart. On the other hand, some secondary titles have proven to become quite handy with Joe Joyce vs Oleksandr Usyk being ordered for the WBO Interim title. This ensures that the seismic heavyweight blockbuster between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury can go ahead.
So we are in some form of stalemate, unable to make changes to the common argument that there are too many belts. The confusion mounts up with champions in recess, are we supposed to expect Manny Pacquiao to want to fight for the WBA now? It’s unclear how boxing moves forward from this weekend, but as with most problems encountered in the sport, it’s likely to be brushed under the carpet.