By Tris Dixon
It used to be winning a world title that was the hardest thing to achieve.
Now it is hanging on to them.
Of course, case in point is Terence Crawford, the world's premier junior-welterweight who recently, somehow, managed to join all the dots to become a unified champion – an all too rare occurrence.
How long did it last? Not even a month.
Crawford did not lose his IBF title in the ring. He did not even come close to defending it. It is unlikely he will fight at the weight again, but that will be his decision. It is his career and, as a unified champion, he should be able to pick and choose high calibre opponents to continue the growth of his reputation and the Crawford brand.
In days past, he would have been permitted a fight to at least test the waters at 147lbs, if he was so inclined.
But the sanctioning bodies, who are supposedly in place to govern the sport, began to circle as they always do. They insist champions fight who they want, and when they want to fight them. And they are empowered, or at least enabled, by promoters and TV networks who need title fights to sell their products.
Rather than share the rest of the boxing world's pleasure that a division has a main man, an indisputable figurehead, they kick into overdrive and do what they can as soon as they can go splinter the titles. It's selfish. It's ridiculous. It's never-ending. The IBF will now match Sergei Lipinets, 12-0, with Akihiro Kondo, 29-6-1, for Crawford’s old title.
They fail to see how the sport, so confusing to outsiders, would benefit from a little clarity and how the fighters, too, could benefit from a little time on top of a unified throne.
Yet they install rules and make decisions that fail to allow a fighter or a weight division let alone an entire sport to flourish.
They have, over the years, become a necessary evil, but how necessary are they, really. Respective commissions could and should work more closely together rather than allow the governing bodies to have too much power. Even when they have no purpose, they try to make themselves important and impactful. Quite how the WBC felt The Money Belt was anything but a toy for last week's Money Fight parade one will not ever know.
Yes, it's all about money and sanctioning fees. There's a dollar bill to be had for regular, silver, international, intercontinental, regional and area belts.
Their often-bizarre rankings also force fans to watch fights they have little or no interest in. Case in point is Anthony Joshua. The world wants to see him fight Deontay Wilder. The IBF mandates he faces Kubrat Pulev while the WBA want him to fight Luis Ortiz. He needs to negotiate those ho-hum contests – perhaps that is harsh on Pulev as the No. 3 heavyweight in the world – if he is to keep his titles. Affectively, he will have to tread water for a year of his prime to keep those greedy suits in, well, suits. Yet he will have to play the game if he is interested not just in staying a champion, but collecting the other titles out there, too.
Of course, this is not an overnight change. Tyson Fury was also unfairly and unjustly stripped for not facing his mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov as he was intending to rematch Wladimir Klitschko. How can you promote a sport where you are awarded for fighting Glazkov but not Klitschko, where you will be decorated for beating Ortiz but not Wilder and where, if you prove you are number one, you are not allowed to build any kind of championship legacy?
Their insistence on breaking up unified champions and enforcing less-than worthy mandatories or fights for vacant titles contribute to make it nigh on impossible to keep track of it all but more importantly the very best, who have strived their entire lives and fought the fights to be recognized as such, don't get their due credit.
There are so many titles today that winning one is not the hardest part. Far from it. The likelihood of anyone becoming a dominant and unified champion is ridiculously slim. In a world where commercial companies want superstars and role models, the governing bodies are doing their part to keep boxing at the back of the queue.