“Fighting Words” – IBO Debate: Pundit and The President
(by David P. Greisman)
January 18th, 2010
Change is easy. Acceptance is the hard part.
Boxing has gone from having one major sanctioning body to having two, from having two major sanctioning bodies to having three, and from having three major sanctioning bodies to having four.
Having four sanctioning bodies – the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation, and World Boxing Organization – has been the status quo for more than a decade now.
On the outside looking in is the International Boxing Organization, or IBO, which pitches itself as an agent of change.
Change is easy.
The IBO refers to itself as a “champion of integrity,” with its main selling point being what it calls its “unbiased, computerized rankings.” The goal, in a sport where most observers are disillusioned with sanctioning bodies that are never described as having integrity, is for the IBO to be seen not merely as the fifth major sanctioning body, but as the one major sanctioning body different than the other four.
Acceptance is the hard part.
I’ve been critical of the IBO. In late 2007, I noted that while it had “yet to reach the depths of infamy discovered by its more-recognized counterparts,” its belts did not yet have “the legitimacy that has been bestowed, rightly or otherwise, upon the big four.”
I had concerns, what I felt was valid criticism, and went into these occasionally in the past couple years.
Changing your mind isn’t easy.
An experienced newspaper columnist once told me he shook off criticism of his opinions because, he said, “I know I’m right.”
I realize, now, I could be wrong.
I realized I’d been holding the IBO to higher standards than I do the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO, that I’d been using those double standards to write the IBO off.
I still had the same concerns. I still had what I felt was legitimate criticism. But instead of just raising questions, I sought answers.
Those answers came via a series of e-mails with IBO President Ed Levine. The discussion follows, with the e-mail text somewhat rearranged so that each of my questions is followed by one of Levine’s answers.
My reassessment of the IBO will follow.
First, an introduction to the IBO from Levine – bear with me, this introduction does run a bit long, but it includes what Levine described as a few basic premises that needed to be understood.
ED LEVINE: “1. The IBO computerized rankings are based upon a point system. We used to publish the points as well as the rankings up until a few years ago when we had concerns that someone else was trying to use them as a baseline for their own system. Additional concerns were that the points were being used by betting sites to help their customers and to establish betting odds.
“Additionally, as part of the computer program, fighters lose points when they move up in weight from one division to another. There is nothing arbitrary or subjective in the ratings other than the likely division that the fighters should be rated at. Sometimes this is based upon their last fight or a series of fights, and sometimes it’s based upon the declared intent of the fighter.
“2. The IBO Title is most valuable to the marquee champions; it allows them to determine their own destiny as measured by the commercial viability of the fights they choose to engage in.
“The IBO rules do permit mandatories, but we do not impose mandatories if a champion is fighting quality opposition. We have imposed mandatories, and our goal as we grow is to have real mandatories at reasonably spaced intervals (probably 18 months) to enable a deserving and accurately rated No. 1 ranked fighter the opportunity to challenge the champion.
“Isn't that the way it should be? We are not strong enough at this juncture to ensure that these principles become the reality.
“3. The other sanctioning bodies are our competitors. We do not compete on a level playing field. We cannot offer top ratings by winning any of the myriad of “junior” titles. We cannot create mandatory positions, many of which we believe are undeserved. Keep in mind that many fighters’ contracts have extension provisions, under which if their manager or promoter gets them a top 15 ranking, the contracts are extended for additional years.
“The systems employed by the other sanctioning bodies are well entrenched and create a very difficult environment within which the IBO is trying to create something different. We believe that more of the same would do nothing productive for the sport.”
DAVID P. GREISMAN: “Ed, why should the IBO be considered on par with the four other "major" sanctioning bodies (the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO)?”
ED LEVINE: “If ‘par’ measures the standard by which a sanctioning body should be measured, then we do not want to be on ‘par’ with the other sanctioning bodies. Our mandate from the beginning has been to bring something different to the table. If we do not change the landscape in how a sanctioning body operates and is viewed by the public, then there is no need for the IBO.
“Boxing doesn’t need more sanctioning bodies, but in our view it needs a better one. It’s easy to be critical in boxing, but it’s extremely difficult to bring about constructive change, which is what we are trying to do. If we are unable to compete with the ‘major’ sanctioning bodies, it effectively gives them an undeserved and non-competitive franchise on the sport.
“We are the ‘major’ alternative sanctioning body. We do not want to be painted with the same brush as the ‘major’ sanctioning bodies. We are, in fact, very different.
“While our composite list of champions may not have reached the same level of recognition, it does include current elite champions Wladimir Klitschko and Chad Dawson and has included Manny Pacquiao, Lennox Lewis, Tomasz Adamek, Roy Jones Jr., Antonio Tarver, Sergio Martinez, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Ricky Hatton, Juan Diaz, Paulie Ayala, Rafael Marquez, Vic Darchinyan, Nonito Donaire and others.
“We employ the only completely independent, totally computerized and objective ranking system. Other than for an extended layoff caused by injuries we will not sanction interim titles, nor do we have multiple titles in each division (Super, Regular, In Recess, Special, Diamond, etc.) We do not mandate questionable and commercially unviable mandatories. We are based in the United States, pay U.S. taxes, have open financial statements, and we are completely transparent.”
DAVID P. GREISMAN: “What makes the IBO more qualified for such a designation than other organizations not among those four?”
ED LEVINE: “Other world sanctioning bodies, quite frankly just can’t be compared. For the most part they have little to no world recognition, nor recognizable champions, and will sanction world title fights with unknown or undeserving fighters. At this juncture the levels of recognition are clearly defined.”
DAVID P. GREISMAN: “You bring up a couple of topics among my concerns: your champions, both present and past, and your rankings.
“While some of the big names (Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Chad Dawson, Antonio Tarver, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton) you mentioned have held onto the IBO title and chosen to defend it as they do other world titles, many of the big names pick up the IBO title and then choose to vacate it quickly, dropping it either before making a single defense or after one defense.
“Manny Pacquiao, Tomasz Adamek and Juan Diaz never defended their IBO belt [Note: Diaz did, as Levine goes on to point out]. Floyd Mayweather and Rafael Marquez only made one defense.”
ED LEVINE: “Keeping in mind the earlier premises to these answers, you are correct.
“Regarding Tomasz Adamek, you will recall that he engaged in an eliminator after winning the IBO title. IBO champions have been a ready target for some of the other sanctioning bodies.
“There are many examples of IBO champions who have been offered eliminators in what we believe is an attempt to damage our continued growth, and we can only guess at what other agreements are made in conjunction with the IBO champions relinquishing their titles in order to engage in eliminators. Our current championship rules prohibit IBO champions from engaging in eliminators.
“Juan Diaz, in fact, did pay the IBO sanction fee and did defend his IBO belt when he fought Marquez, however Marquez did not pay a sanction fee and therefore the title became vacant when Diaz lost.”
DAVID P. GREISMAN: “IBO champions can defend against fighters in the top 35 of your rankings, and sometimes against fighters as low as the top 50. That’s a tremendous drop in quality of opposition.
“I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I’m guessing you’ll tell me that the seemingly arbitrary nature of the rankings for the other sanctioning bodies would mean that a fighter ranked No. 15 by, say, the WBC, might be someone who, by the IBO’s computerized, non-arbitrary model, might not even be in your top 50.”
ED LEVINE: “We statistically track the rankings of all challengers for all the other titles based upon the IBO computerized rankings. We do this in order to measure ourselves against the other sanctioning bodies.
“Based upon our computerized rankings, the November and December schedules showed that the average ranking of the challengers [in the IBO ratings] were as follows: WBA 61, IBF 31, WBC 22, WBO 22, IBO 19.
“Some further stats: One of the sanctioning bodies allowed six of their challengers to fight for a world title without ever having beaten a fighter in the top fifty of the IBO computerized ranking. The computerized rankings are not perfect, but they are objective.”
Ed and I then went on to a lengthy discussion of “recognizable champions” and title bouts involving “unknown or undeserving fighters,” but there’s no need to reprint it all here.
I pointed out a handful of cases in which the IBO held title bouts involving fighters who I felt were “unknown” based on the fact that, well, they were relatively unknown, and “undeserving” based on them being relatively unknown and/or where they stood in the IBO rankings.
For example: Danny Green, the No. 6 cruiserweight, defeated No. 61 cruiserweight Julio Cesar Dominguez to pick up the vacant IBO title in that division. Lovemore N’dou, the No. 26 welterweight, defeated Phillip N’dou, tied for No. 50 at junior welterweight, for the vacant IBO 140-pound title.
There were several other title fights I questioned. Among them: Simpiwe Vetyeka (No. 26) against Eric Barcelona (No. 45) for the vacant bantamweight belt; Mlungisi Dlamini (No. 15) against Zolani Marali (No. 31) for the vacant lightweight belt; Jackson Asiku (No. 33 at junior lightweight) against Heriberto Ruiz (No. 19 at featherweight) for the vacant featherweight belt; and Cesar Seda Jr. (No. 18) against Omar Soto (No. 42) for the vacant flyweight belt.
Dominguez, according to Levine, had to apply for an exception to be allowed to fight for the title.
“He was the lowest ranked challenger in 2009 for the IBO,” Levine wrote. “Would you prefer that we had subjective rankings that put him in the top 15, or would you rather that we tell the truth?”
And that, along with what Levine had noted about where other sanctioning bodies’ title challengers stood in the IBO ratings, became the hole in my argument.
Here’s just one example: The WBC’s rankings for the 140-pound division have Ionut Dan Ion, also known as Jo Jo Dan, in the No. 1 spot. The IBO’s rankings for the 140-pound division have Ion at No. 42. The WBA’s heavyweight rankings have David Tua at No. 3. The IBO’s heavyweight rankings have Tua at No. 33.
Because we are used to the arbitrary nature by which undeserving fighters move up in the rankings of the “big four” sanctioning bodies – which only allow fighters in the top 15 to vie for titles – it looks worse on the surface when, say, a No. 18 fighter takes on a No. 42 fighter for an IBO title.
So is the IBO deserving of being considered a major sanctioning body?
I don’t know. But that’s different than in the past, when I would’ve quickly responded “no.”
There are fighters such as Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and Roy Jones Jr. who have treated the IBO title as an honor similar to having a belt from the WBA, WBC, IBF or WBO.
But then there are the fighters who don’t hold on to the titles. And there are the fights that take place between fighters with low rankings. Even though those fighters might be placed higher in the other sanctioning bodies’ arbitrary rankings, the preference should still be for the top-ranked fighters in the IBO to be the ones vying for the belts.
Unless the situation really is as Levine suspects: that the other sanctioning bodies offer IBO titlists shots at their belts to keep the IBO from gaining traction.
It’s possible that fighters in the upper tier of the IBO’s rankings might hold out for shots from sanctioning bodies already seen as being “world title” caliber, which then makes it all the harder for the IBO to be seen as having that same prestige.
The biggest thing working against the IBO is that there are people like me who will hold it to a higher standard because of what it represents – a fifth major sanctioning body, meaning there will be 16 more world titlists clouding the picture.
Acceptance is the hard part.
The change that must happen, then, is for boxing writers to begin to accept the IBO – and, as important, for boxing fans do the same.
I’m not quite there yet. But it shouldn’t be written off at all. After all, we went from having the WBA to having the WBA and WBC; from having the WBA and WBC to having the WBA, WBC and IBF; and from having the WBA, WBC and IBF to having the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO.
For this scribe, the IBO can become the fifth – even as it wants to contrast itself from the other four – once more of its titlists begin to hold onto their belts longer without willingly vacating them, and once more of its titlists can be considered as truly among the top fighters in their division.
It will take a sea change in attitude. But I’ll no longer stand in the way as a naysayer.
The 10 Count – “Arrested Development” edition
1. Teddy Atlas did not do his due diligence before going on the air Jan. 8 with a hefty accusation toward Manny Pacquiao’s camp.
As a reminder, here’s what Atlas said on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights”:
“From sources that told me, they said that people in the Pacquiao camp sent a couple of e-mails to the Mayweather camp a few weeks ago, about two, three weeks ago. And the first e-mail was ‘What would the penalty be if our guy tested positive?’ The second e-mail was ‘If he did test positive, could we keep this a secret for the benefit of boxing?’ Again, I don’t know other than my source, who I trust, told me that he saw those e-mails. I also know that Tim Smith, the columnist from the Daily News, reported on the same thing I just said.”
The big problem? Atlas never saw any e-mails. ESPN’s Dan Rafael confirmed this in his weekly online chat.
One chatter asked this of Rafael: “Any kind of truth bout the e-mails teddy was talking about last week on FNF?”
Rafael’s reply: “I have no idea because I have not seen them, and, according to Teddy, neither did he. Unless I actually saw the e-mails I would not report something like that.”
Atlas never mentioned this last week on the Jan. 15 episode of “Friday Night Fights,” and has not issued an apology or retraction.
2. Somewhere, Dan Rather is filing another wrongful termination lawsuit against CBS, incorporating Teddy Atlas into his latest argument…
3. Boxing Trainers Behaving Badly update, part one: A justice of the peace has indicted Roger Mayweather on charges of battery causing substantial bodily harm, battery strangulation, and coercion, charges stemming from a 2009 incident with a female boxer who lived in a Las Vegas condominium Mayweather owns, according to the Associated Press.
An indictment is a determination that prosecutors have amassed enough evidence against a suspect to warrant a trial. It is not an indication of guilt.
Mayweather, 48, had told Melissa St. Vil – 26 years old, 1-1-1, formerly trained by Mayweather – to get out of the condominium. The disagreement got physical. Police officers said they saw Mayweather choking St. Vil when they arrived at the scene. She was taken to a local hospital, treated and released. Mayweather, who had a lamp broken over his head and had injuries to his head and face, was arrested.
Mayweather is due to be arraigned Jan. 26. He is expected to plead not guilty.
4. Boxing Trainers Behaving Badly update, part two: Freddie Roach has won a lawsuit filed against him by a member of Manny Pacquiao’s entourage, who accused Roach of assaulting him in 2008, according to the Los Angeles Wave (among other publications).
Gregorio Asunsion accused Roach of punching him twice as the trainer tried to get Asunsion to leave before Pacquiao was to begin a private sparring session in Roach’s gym. Roach said he merely put his hands on Asunsion’s shoulders, squeezing when Asunsion leaned back.
The jury ruled 10-2 in Roach’s favor.
5. Boxers Behaving Badly: New England prospect Matt Remillard, scheduled to get paid to fight Jan. 29, was arrested earlier this month after some free fisticuffs, according to the Hartford (Conn.) Courant.
Remillard, 23, was charged with second-degree assault, breach of peace/threatening, and criminal mischief. Remillard’s manager said his fighter was defending himself.
Remillard was injured during the Jan. 5 extracurricular fight, refused treatment that night but went to the hospital the following day, according to the manager. Remillard will still fight later this month, the manager said.
A court date set for Jan. 22 could be postponed.
Remillard, who fights at featherweight and junior lightweight, is 20-0 with 11 knockout victories.
6. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part one: Johnny Tapia, sentenced last September to a year in jail, will serve out the remaining six months under a form of house arrest, according to New Mexico television station KRQE.
The former three-division titlist had a rollercoaster of a 2009. He was arrested in MARCH after relapsing on cocaine. After some time behind bars he was released, but he was arrested again in July for violating probation by not getting permission before traveling. In September, he was sentenced to a year in jail.
Last week, a judge modified Tapia’s sentence, which will let the 42-year-old get ready for a proposed bout in March (Tapia will be 43 by then).
“He will be at home, be allowed to train under very strict conditions,” Tapia’s lawyer was quoted as saying. “It’s still considered custody, but at least now he has the opportunity to get prepared for this fight.”
Tapia no longer comes close to resembling the fighter who captured titles at junior bantamweight, bantamweight and featherweight, but perhaps continuing his career will give him the discipline to stay away from drugs (particularly cocaine) and out of trouble. “Perhaps,” because that has been the train of thought prior to previous stumbles.
Tapia is 56-5-2 with 28 knockouts. His last fight was in MARCH 2007, a 10-round majority decision over Evaristo Primero.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part two: Tony Tubbs, another former fighter battling with cocaine use, will spend six months in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of cocaine possession, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Tubbs, a 51-year-old former heavyweight titlist, could have chosen to go into rehab, which would have meant four to six months in a locked-down rehab facility, “followed by a year or more of aftercare in a residential facility,” the newspaper reported.
Instead, Tubbs was quoted as telling the judge, “I’ll take my six months.”
Tubbs, according to the article, has “been to prison twice before for cocaine possession and not paying child support for some of the 16 children.”
Tubbs captured the World Boxing Association heavyweight title in April 1985, winning a 15-round unanimous decision over Greg Page. Tubbs lost the belt in his next defense, a majority decision loss in January 1986 to Tim Witherspoon.
Tubbs is listed as 47-10 with 2 no contests. His last fight was in 2006, a six-round decision over Adam Smith.
8. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part three: Alex de Jesus, a junior welterweight prospect out of Puerto Rico, was sentenced to prison until July 2014 for domestic violence, according to El Nuevo Dia.
De Jesus, 26, was arrested in late 2008 and charged with domestic violence and a weapons violation. He was accused of assaulting his girlfriend, with whom he has young children, and of threatening her while brandishing a knife.
He will be in a minimum-security prison. A Puerto Rican promoter told BoxingScene’s own Rick Reeno that the law could allow for de Jesus to leave prison to fight and then return to prison.
De Jesus turned pro in early 2005 and won his first 19 of his fights (13 by way of knockout) before dropping a 12-round decision in March 2009 to Cesar Rene Cuenca.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly update, part four: Light heavyweight titlist Jurgen Brahmer was found guilty last week of assaulting a woman in September 2008 in a bar in the German city of Schwerin, according to Agence France-Press and BoxingScene’s own Per Ake Persson.
Brahmer, 31, has been sentenced to 16 months in prison. He also had scrapes with the law in 1998 and 2002, which left him on probation into last decade. He was acquitted in late 2007 on charges of assaulting a man.
His last legal fight was in December, a 12-round decision over Dmitry Sukhotsky. His record is 35-2 (28 knockouts). Brahmer picked up the interim WBO light heavyweight belt in August. After Zsolt Erdei dropped the “full” WBO 175-pound title and went up to cruiserweight, Brahmer picked up that designation.
10. Erdei, who went on to win the WBC cruiserweight title in November, has since dropped that belt, according to the aforementioned Per Ake Persson.
Which leads to the question…
What was the more disappointing reign:
The five years after Erdei picked up the lineal light heavyweight crown, a time in which he made 11 title defenses, most against opponents of such quality that my colleague Jake Donovan termed Erdei’s time as champ an embarrassment?
The 53 days after Erdei picked up a cruiserweight world title, a time in which he made zero title defenses?
The answer isn’t as easy as you’d think…