Rejuvenated IBF receives praise for box-offs

August 11, 2001 – Paul Upham looks at the incredible change that has taken place in the IBF over the last year with the previously maligned sanctioning body now pushing toward new levels of credibility.

By Paul Upham: Nearly a year ago on August 17, 2000, International Boxing Federation founder Robert W. Lee was acquitted of racketeering charges, but convicted of tax evasion, conspiring to launder money and interstate travel in aid of racketeering in a US District Court.

A major issue during the IBF trial was the alleged payment of money for the generous ranking of fighters. During the high-profile trial, the credibility of the IBF was at an all-time low. One of the consequences of the trial was the appointment of a US Government monitor to oversee the activities of the IBF.

Fast-forward 12 months later and it would have been to hard to foresee that the IBF would now be leading the way in making mandatory opponents for its world champions the most credible in the sport.

The appointment of IBF ratings committee chairman Mr Joe Dwyer has seen a complete turnabout in the way boxers gain the IBF No.1 mandatory ranking.

Dwyer has set about vacating titles of inactive champions and instigating box-offs between the highest available contenders that has allowed clear understanding of how fighters have moved up to the top spots. A fighter can no longer find their way to the No.1 position through a series of easy fights and natural attrition.

The only way to the IBF No.1 position now is by earning it in the ring. This is a key point in the Muhammad Ali Act in the USA, where there is to be a clear means of determining a fighters claim to the No.1 position.

Next weekend in Las Vegas, IBF No.1 David Tua and No.2 Chris Byrd at heavyweight will face each over 12 rounds to determine the mandatory contender for champion Hasim Rahman.

To get to this stage, Tua had to defeat Danell Nicholson and Byrd had to get past Maurice Harris. These four men where the highest contenders available at the time to participate in a four way box-off.

In the main support bout under Tua-Byrd, IBF No.3 featherweight Augie Sanchez will face No.4 Robbie Peden for the right to become the new mandatory contender, after current No.1 Manuel Medina, to champion Frankie Toledo.

Dwyer is now proposing box-offs in the junior welterweight and junior middleweight divisions to determine mandatory contenders and at super middleweight No.3 Thomas Tate will face No.4 Omar Sheika for the IBF No.2 position on September 14.

In September last year, Australian Glenn Kelly was one of the first to benefit from the IBF’s new policy, defeating No.3 Billy Lewis when he was ranked No.4 to earn the mandatory No.1 position for light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr.

Fans looking through the current IBF ratings at the organisations official web site, will see many of the No.1 and No.2 positions vacant in many of the divisions. These will be filled after box-offs between the highest available contenders.

All of this is good news for boxers and fans. Boxers who are worthy of world title shots will receive the opportunity in the ring to prove it and the fans will see more entertaining fights and boxers who will prove that they are qualified to challenge for world titles.

“I’ve been the X factor in the equation for a long time. I’ve been a contender all this time,” said Chris Byrd, who has long complained of being ducked by other fighters.

“You can look at David Tua’s resumé and see he has fought everybody. At the same time, he was fighting all those guys, I wanted to fight all those guys too but never, had the opportunity to do it because they never wanted to fight me. Now they are making the top contenders fight each other, which is a very positive thing.

“It is a great thing for myself because now I am in this equation and don’t have to be in a position where politics control and keep me out of getting to the title. I have to fight my way there. They are giving me the opportunity to do it, so I am very happy with it.”

Tua’s promoter Dan Goossen agrees with the actions of the IBF, even if it does mean his own fighter has to take a tougher fight to get to the world title fight.

“The IBF made this fight happen for the mandatory position. It is best for everyone and it’s a fight that David would have taken, it just happened a little bit sooner than we were planning on. That’s fine,” said Goossen.

“I am glad Chris got the opportunity, because normally he has not been afforded these opportunities.”

Byrd’s legal adviser John Hornewer praised the stance of the IBF for making fighters earn their No.1 rankings.

“They (IBF) have been through so many problems in the past with the Bobby Lee trial. They have come out of this now forcing a tournament, putting four great heavyweights together to determine one mandatory contender for the title,” said Hornewer.

“Everyone’s hat should be off to Joe Dwyer and everybody at the IBF for making the best fighters fight each other, not only in the heavyweight division but now we are seeing it in other divisions. Respect to the IBF and all they are doing right now and I hope it continues in the future for everybody’s benefit.”

Such a simple decision by the IBF has created a new level of competitive fights below the mark of world title fights and allows everyone to see how a fighter achieved his No.1 position without any suspicion of underhand activities.

The IBF has led the way with box-offs and now for the continued good of the sport, it is up to the WBC, WBA and WBO and any of the other sanctioning bodies who wish to gain a new level of respect to follow.

Paul Upham
Contributing Editor
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