By Dave McKee: (Full disclosure: This author has written for THE RING magazine. This article is intended to comment solely on THE RING’s new championship policy.)
THE RING has instituted a new championship policy. The publicly stated purpose of the new policy is to address the very real problem that “the Nos. 1- and 2-rated fighters rarely face one another in the modern boxing era.” THE RING editors have felt compelled to intervene in a substantive manner to force competition in the upper ranks of each division for the purpose of better determining a true champion in each. It is the belief of the editors that this will “create more championship fights while maintaining the high standards long associated with THE RING.”
The new standards for determining a champion are as follows:
NEW RING MAGAZINE CHAMPIONSHIP POLICY
(as published on RINGTV.com)
Championship vacancies can be filled in the following two ways:
1. THE RING’s Nos. 1 and 2 contenders fight one another.
2. If the Nos. 1 and 2 contenders choose not to fight one another and either of them fights No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5, the winner may be awarded THE RING belt.
THE RING also wants to encourage its champions to face worthy opponents. With that in mind, here are the six situations in which a champion may lose his belt:
1. The Champion loses a fight in the weight class in which he is champion.
2. The Champion moves to another weight class.
3. The Champion does not schedule a fight in any weight class for 18 months.
4. The Champion does not schedule a fight at his championship weight for 18 months (even if he fights at another weight).
5. The Champion does not schedule a fight with a Top-5 contender from any weight class for two years.
6. The Champion retires.
This replaces previous policy whereby there were only two avenues to becoming THE RING’s champion: by defeating the reigning champion or winning a box-off between the magazine’s number-one and number-two rated contenders (or, occasionally, number-one and number-three rated - in cases where THE RING determined that the number-two and number-three contenders were close in abilities and records).
The previous policy had the benefit of being clear, concise and generally non-subjective. This policy gained great respect among fighters and analysts, and it was taken as representing the official championship by respected authorities like ESPN. One drawback was that there were often vacancies, as would naturally occur when the top fighters did not face each other. However, this drawback added legitimacy to the championships that were filled.
Now the RING champion may be determined by a box-off between the number two and five contenders, to take the most extreme circumstance. The new champion then has eighteen months to defend the title.
Far from encouraging the best to fight one another, this policy encourages those ranked below to best to freeze out the top contender. A number one ranked fighter cannot force the number two to sign a contract. Presumably, if the number two can avoid the contest long enough and generate public sentiment that holds the number one contender to be at fault, then the number two contender can fight a lesser opponent and take the title. This is simply the most obvious of the many flaws in the new system.
One sympathizes with the stated reasons for creating a new policy. It is difficult, however, to understand how any part of this compels fighters to create the fights fans want to see. Frankly, though the above described scenario seems a logical byproduct of the new policy, the RING championship does not bring the one thing that we know motivates prizefighters: monetary prizes.
THE RING is struggling. It has staggered into the championship rounds, punch drunk and blinded by the dark lights. This new policy reads less like a valiant final stand and much more like a capitulation to the desires of the various sanctioning bodies on the part of THE RING’s new masters. The policy rewards bad behavior on the part of the sanctioning bodies, and it contributes to a system whereby Goldenboy no longer has to consider the interests of other promotional companies. Now, by the rules, the last remaining title of substance may be vacated by a boxing periodical partly owned by a promoter.
Minutes following the publishing of the new policy, thinking fans expressed outrage on social media websites. Sadly, it is much ado about nothing. THE RING is dead.
May 11, 2012