New Year, New Opportunities
Another year comes. Another year goes.
Another year's page is added to the history of the International Boxing Organization.
The Florida-based group remains a fresh-faced kid brother – at least in terms of age – when compared to its would-be brethren on the sanctioning body landscape. Among the well-known entities, the WBA was founded in 1921, the WBC began in 1963, the IBF was born in 1983 and the WBO made its entrance in 1988.
But it's hardly age alone that separates the youngest from the rest of the family.
Instead, as the upstart's president – Ed Levine – suggests, there's a bigger picture goal in mind to differentiate the IBO. And while it's perhaps taken more time than he'd expected, Levine steadfastly remembers that no one claimed boxing Valhalla could be built in a day.
"It's been much more difficult than I expected," he said. "I thought, perhaps naively, that if you brought to the table something that addressed the ills of the sport, you'd be embraced. But the reality is that boxing thrives at its highest levels. It works for the big players in the game, so it's hard to change things.
"It is frustrating and I do get angry sometimes, but I'm not near a point yet where I'd want to give it up. Our mission is to promote honesty, transparency and doing things the right way, and I'm going to continue doing that because it's still enjoyable to me."
Levine recently sat down with the IBOBoxing.com editorial staff to discuss the "State of the IBO."
IBOBoxing.com: In terms of the arc of relevance and your goals, where do you stand?
Levine: The IBO is in a stand-alone position. We are not as prominent as the four older sanctioning bodies but clearly in a unique position. Our continuing goal is to provide an alternative to the business practices of some of the other sanctioning bodies.
IBOBoxing.com: Given the anti-sanctioning body sentiment prevalent with so many fans/analysts, how does a group get traction with what it considers to be a new and better way of doing things?
Levine: The reason we decided to join the already crowded group of sanctioning bodies was to correct and address the abuses prevalent in the sport. TV networks, journalists, promoters and managers are all familiar with these. Our answer: transparency and honesty, incorporating untouchable computer ratings, open financial records, one world champion per division and no political mandatories. We can take the next step and change the landscape with the backing of a major player, be it a major promoter or TV network who understands that the IBO can be the vehicle to create substantive change. Without that backing boxing will continue with the same players dancing to the same music, with apparently no desire or ability to change the tune.
IBOBoxing.com: How challenging has that task been in the IBO's case?
Levine: Leading by example has not been easy. We are not competing on a level playing field. In their zeal to prevent a fifth sanctioning body, some in the media have unwittingly given a permanent franchise to these very same organizations they continue to criticize. Competition is good for any business. It brings change and improvement to existing businesses and drives out non-responsive ones. Without competition onerous activities of monopolistic businesses can and will continue unabated. There simply is no threat or alternative to their continued monopoly of the sport and no incentive to change. We don't aspire to be part of a big five. Our goal is to be recognized as the legitimate alternative.
IBOBoxing.com: Given the superstar status of fighters like Mayweather, Pacquiao, etc. and their apparent ability to pick and choose fights and weight classes as they see fit, are championships still relevant? How can they be made more important?
Levine: Championships are still very relevant. Fighters fight not only for the money but also for the recognition that a championship belt confirms. It may not be as important to a Mayweather or a Pacquiao but it is extremely important to the vast majority of fighters. Nevertheless, for a sanctioning body to have more than one world champion in a division is absurd and nothing more than a product of monetary greed.
IBOBoxing.com: If the general boxing public could hear one above-all-others reason why the IBO is different, what would it be?
Levine: Computer ratings and transparency.
IBOBoxing.com: Several IBO champions in the past several years have been relatively anonymous when holding the belt, then emerged as more well-known commodities later in their career – Sergio Martinez (IBO junior middleweight champion, 2003-04) jumps to mind right now. Is the IBO content to be a sort-of farm system in that manner, or is it more frustrating than rewarding to see that occur?
Levine: It is both frustrating and rewarding. There have been numerous fighters who won their first world championship with the IBO. This has brought them monetary rewards and recognition. In many cases they have kept the IBO belt while unifying with other sanctioning bodies, but in some instances they have moved on, usually due to a promotional change or, as has happened on numerous occasions, another sanctioning body will give our champion an opportunity to fight for their title as a method of diminishing the recognition of the IBO. More importantly, every universally recognized major heavyweight and light heavyweight champion in the past decade has held, defended and challenged for the IBO world title. So as you can see, the IBO continues to be strong with both marquee champions and emerging young champions.