A sanctioning body’s promise to clean up its titular mess has been met by the call to altogether clean up its act.
The World Boxing Association (WBA) has come under fire in recent days, largely in part to the controversial verdict that took place on August 7 with its “interim” welterweight title at stake. Venezuela’s Gabriel Maestre (4-0, 3KOs)—a two-time Olympian who has been fast-tracked to title contention escaped with a highly questionable split decision draw over Mykal Fox in the chief support of a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox-televised tripleheader from The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Nearly everyone who witnessed the bout had Fox winning with room to spare, only for judges Gloria Martinez-Rizzo (117-110), John Mariano (115-112) and David Singh (114-113) to bear witness to a completely different fight. The event—coupled with the sanctioning body’s sordid history of creating multiple “champions” per weight division—has drawn the ire of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC), who has demanded clarity and resolution to an ongoing practice that has clearly caused more harm than good to the health of the sport.
“It has come to our attention that the World Boxing Association has engaged in practices that are not in the best interest of professional boxing,” Michael Mazzulli, president of ABC addressed to WBA president Gilbert Jesus Mendoza in an official letter, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Please find enclosed some points I would like you to address:
“First, the ABC is concerned that promoting multiple "world" (For example, Gold Championship, Super Championship, World Championship and numerous Interim Championship) championships in each weight class, is misleading to the public and the boxers.
“Secondly, in light of the event this past weekend in Minnesota (Maestre vs Fox), the WBA should use more conscientiousness in making recommendations to local United States Commissions. Your own comments in the media, you emphasized that the Minnesota Commission approved the selections the WBA recommended officials.”
The bout between Maestre and Fox created a fifth WBA title claimant in the welterweight division alone.
Maestre holds the interim belt, while unbeaten Vergil Ortiz (17-0, 17KOs) is the recognized WBA “Gold” welterweight titlist and who fights this weekend. Jamal James was elevated earlier this year from “interim” to WBA “World” titlist and is in discussion for a mandatory title defense with Radzhab Butaev. On August 21, Yordenis Ugas will defend his recently upgraded WBA “Super” welterweight title versus the belt’s former claimant, Manny Pacquiao who was named WBA “Champion in Recess.”
Sadly, this mess is not limited to the welterweight division. In fact, there are only two weight classes where the WBA doesn’t have at least three recognized titlists.
The light heavyweight division pared down its list only because Jean Pascal was stripped of his WBA “World” title after testing positive for multiple banned substances surrounding his canceled rematch with Badou Jack this past June. Dmitry Bivol remains the “Super” champion while Robin Krasniqi holds the “interim” title at the weight.
The bantamweight division also claims two titlists, though clearly one too many as it relates to a scheduled bout this weekend. Guillermo Rigondeaux holds the WBA “World” bantamweight titiist, a secondary version of the “Super” title held by Naoya Inoue who is also the IBF champ.
Rigondeaux’s title status has sparked a debate between sanctioning bodies heading into his August 14 showdown with WBO bantamweight titlist John Riel Casimero. Efforts to bill the Showtime main event as a title unification bout were immediately met with resistance by the WBO, who—like the WBC and IBF—disallows unification bouts with secondary title holders. There have been exceptions, such as Inoue entering the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament with the WBA “World” title, before collecting the IBF belt and eventually wresting the WBA “Super” champ from Nonito Donaire in the tournament final.
As it relates to this weekend, the WBO would not move forward with a title unification bout with a secondary titleholder while the WBA also went on record in noting it had not yet sanctioned the bout.
A third matter addressed in the letter sought clarification in the status of Marcelino Castillo, a named member of Maestre’s team who is also alleged to be “closely affiliated (employed) by the WBA and worked the corner of Boxer Maestre, which is a firewall violation within the title 15 chapter 89 of the US Code, if he was compensated in any manner for his services.” That matter was since refuted by Mendoza vis-a-vis Castillo’s place with the organization. It was also addressed in a Yahoo! Sports report quoting Rudy Hernandez, Maestre’s head trainer who confirmed that Castillo did not work the corner that evening. His role was limited, however, only due to his inability to secure a license according to Mark Ortega, who handles TV production for various outlets and was on site that weekend.
Mendoza has once again vowed to work on reducing the number of WBA-recognized titlists, informing ESPN Deportes’ Salvador ‘Chava’ Rodriguez that the matter has caused a financial strain on the organization.
Not helping matters, however, is the fact that a rematch between Maestre and Fox has already been ordered by the WBA with its interim title to remain at stake. The belt was declared vacant following James’ upgrade to “World” titlist, which should have been the solution all along.
Refusing to take the longtime WBA president at his word, the ABC is now doing its part to help clear up the clutter—if not run them out of town altogether.
“[I] f you fail to take any action, the ABC Board of Directors may make recommendation to the body which include the following:
1. Do not honor the WBA belt as sanctioned within a USA jurisdiction.
2. Do not accept WBA official’s recommendations.
3. Do not allow your Supervisor in controlled technical zone during a WBA fight.”
Should that action be taken by the ABC, it would have to be recognized by all commissions under its jurisdiction—which is almost every commission in the United States and Canada.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox