You may have noticed that the WBA can sometimes have more than one champion in a certain weight class (if you haven’t, welcome to 2021 from whatever cave you’ve just emerged from, well done – you’ve avoided Covid). It’s no doubt made you think “why?”
Why do we have a Super Champion and a Regular Champion?
I’ll use the Super-Lightweights while trying to explain: Josh “Mother-Fucking” Taylor (which is his full name, I’ll have you know) is the WBA Super World Champion and Gervonta Davis is the Regular World Champion after his thrilling 11th round TKO of Mario Barrios last weekend. Simple enough? No, it’s stupid isn’t it. I’ll explain more.
“The SUPER WORLD CHAMPION CATEGORY OR UNDISPUTED WORLD CHAMPION was created for those World Champions who hold the title of two or more organizations recognized by the WBA, like the World Boxing Council (WBC), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO).” – From the WBA website.
Going by their rules, Josh “MFing” Taylor is the Super World Champion as he holds the WBC, IBF and WBO titles – but he became the WBA Super World Champion when he beat Regis Prograis to add the WBA title to his already held IBF World title. But why is he the Super Champion? Why is he not just the unified WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO Champion of the World?
Well, I had a look into this:
The Super Champion’s time for making a mandatory defence of his WBA title is pushed to 18 months, rather than 9 months (12 for Heavyweights), which gives the champion time to fight his other titles mandatories or to make voluntary defences before he has to fight the WBA’s mandatory challenger, meaning there is less chance of said champion being stripped of any of his titles.
Good idea right? When you see that they have a longer window to have to make a mandatory defence it sounds fair, and allows there to be fewer champions strutting about… until you realise that once the Champion is a “Super Champion” the WBA will then put the “Regular Championship” up for grabs, and in steps Gervonta Davis.
So we can end up with two WBA champions… and then we can also have Interim Champions, just for shits ‘n’ giggles.
So Super Champion and Regular Champion… But what about Interim Champion?
Interim Champions are put in place when the reigning belt holder cannot for some reason defend their title, or hasn’t done so for a reasonable time. We might as well stick with the Super-Lightweights, to try and keep this simple
At 140lbs, we have Josh “MFing” Taylor who became the Super Champion when he beat Regis Prograis, and now Gervonta Davis as the Regular Champ too. Taylor is an active fighter and so was Prograis before him as WBA Champion, and so has Mario Barrios been since he picked up the vacant WBA World title, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet we have Alberto Puello as the WBA intrim World Champion, a title he picked up BEFORE Barrios won the vacant WBA Regular title… going off on a tangent here – but why wasn’t Puello just promoted to full (regular) world champion status rather than Barrios getting a fight for the vacant title? Bloody hell WBA…
What about the Gold Title?
There is still nothing on the WBA’s website about the Gold title, apart from them listing when a fighter is their reigning Gold Champion. The talk on the internet is that the Gold title apparently shows who the mandatory is for the Regular Title.
At Super-Lightweight the WBA have a Super Champion, Regular Champion, Interim Champion and Gold Champion. The Gold Champion is supposedly the mandatory to the Regular Champion, but the interim Champion is surely in line to get a shot at the Regular title as well at some point. All very confusing.
Why so many champions? It’s all down to money… and boxers’ egos
Josh Taylor is an active fighter, Regis Prograis was an active champion before him and since he picked up the WBA Regular title (AFTER the interim belt holder had won his trinket) Mario Barrios has been active, so there was no need for an interim championship bout to take place. So why was one put in place? The simple answer is money.
The more people with a WBA Title, the more the WBA get in sanctioning money. Josh Taylor said exactly this in his recent piece in Boxing News, openly criticising them for this ridiculous state of affairs. Boxing News themselves have said they will no longer recognise WBA belts as legitimate “world” titles (though in practice that may be harder than they think).
It’s a tit for tat situation as most fighters will take a paper belt off the organisation to be able to get themselves into a position to one day challenge the champion (George Groves when he was the WBC Silver champion for example). But why can’t they just be the mandatory challenger? Get their position as number 1 contender and then take a pop at the champion? Do they really need a belt around their waist to signify something, anything special?
In an era with 4 major governing bodies and a whole heap of alphabet titles, the last thing the WBA should be doing is complicating matters with two (or three, or four!) WBA world champions. It’s making it even harder to say who the best fighter in each division is if there is more than one from the WBA. It also de-values the WBA title. If you’re the Regular Champion and there is a Super Champion, you’re not even the top dog within the WBA, let alone being able to try and lay claim as the main man in the division. We’ve all heard Frampton tell Quigg that he’s not a real world champion during their verbal sparring because he didn’t hold the top belt.
We won’t mention their new found love for making people “Champion in Recess” like they have done to Mahmoud Charr and Manny Pacquiao in recent times (or how they advertised Charr’s comeback fight against Lovejoy as a WBA title fight, or how they’re working on reinstating Pacquiao as their Super Champion even though their website states Yordenis Ugas as the holder of that title).
This situation is slowly killing the credibility of boxing, and I know that it’s not only happening in the WBA. The WBC has World Champions, Interim World Champions, Silver World Champions, Diamond World Champions and Champion Emeritus. The WBO now has “Global” Champions… but the WBA are by far the worst at it. So much so that WBN and Boxing News no longer recognise them as a legitimate sanctioning body. More concerning for the WBA must be that the WBC have stopped listing the WBA champion away from their rankings on their website, whether this is the first step in them no longer recognising the WBA at all remains to be seen.
The people who run boxing governing bodies need to realise that they were once fans like you and me, and that as fans they didn’t want to be messed around and lied to. They need to stop trying to make money by cheating the fans with “Paper Titles” but by having one sole champion in each division represent them, and make money through him having big box-office clashes with some great contenders or other champions. Keep the extended time for having to make a mandatory for a unified champion (it’s actually a very good idea) but stop allowing more than one champ, and have the sole champion prove to the world he is the best.