The idea: Replace boxing’s four sanctioning bodies with a single international governing body for the sport (similar to the UFC). The body – which could be known as the International World Boxing Commission – would issue one world title per division.
Why it makes sense: The existence of four disconnected international governing bodies has rendered the sport of boxing not only confusing, but also wide-open to criticism and accusations of corruption. With the sport now flooded with titles and belts, it’s become almost impossible for the casual fan to work which fighter is the true world champion – if there is one at all. Even Floyd Mayweather – perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time – recently suggested that the sport was “tainted” due to the presence of “too many belts…too many champions”.
The absence of a single governing body has placed the sport firmly in the hands of a small group of promoters motivated more by money than by what makes sense for the long-term future of the sport. Combine the monopoly enjoyed by the handful of promoters with the existence of four governing bodies and the ongoing rivalry between HBO and Showtime and what you’re left with is a mess that consistently gets in the way of the fights the public wants to see.
Boxing’s credibility crisis could be alleviated through the creation of a single governing body – similar to FIFA, the UFC, or the NCAA – charged with sanctioning championships, organising fights, managing rules, and looking after the long-term interests of fighters and the sport in general. The upstart UFC has provided a model that works. Through being under the control of Dana White, the sport’s sole commissioner, the UFC consistently provides for undisputed champions and highly anticipated match-ups. In stark contrast to boxing, the UCF’s rules are standardised, and the paths to world championships are clear and navigable, offering fans the chance to follow the sport with ease.
Could it happen? The only way it happens is if the sport of boxing collapses into obscurity and financial ruin. At present, there’s simply too much at stake for the big promoters to cede their control to a Dana White-like commissioner.
That said, boxing may have an unlikely saviour in the UFC. Mixed Martial Arts is fast becoming the chosen combat sport among millennials, and White’s ability to consistently organise marquee fights is a source of embarrassment to the boxing world. If the ascendant UFC continues to attract fans away from the sweet science, there may come a time where the sport of boxing has to reform itself in order to survive. The creation of a single governing body responsible for organising fights would be a great place to start.
Likelihood of happening: As things stand: 5% (Break Glass in Case of Emergency). In ten years time: 35% (Stranger Things Have Happened).
Listen to Pete Berg and Bill Simmons discuss the “absolutely horrific state of boxing today” (start at 52:54).