By Jose Sulaiman Chagnon
The existence of boxing organizations that control boxing, which has been a matter of much discussion, is as old as boxing itself. Evidence has been found which suggests that boxing started around the year 5,000 B.C. in Africa, in the area known today as Ethiopia.
If we go to the 16th Century, when boxing reappeared in England, it was under the control of the elite sporting clubs, which ruled full evening dress at ringside; afterwards boxing matches moved out to the fields, barns, ships, etc. when it was prohibited by the government. These were the days when promoters made their own rules and controlling bodies were non-existent.
The English government, concerned for the numerous accidents, legalized boxing and instituted boxing commissions, which accepted the first uniform rules in 1743 by Jack Broughton, to be substituted later on, in 1867, by the more known Marquis of Queensberry Rules, who lent his name to give credit to the rules originally drafted by John Graham Chambers.
During the end of the 20th Century, when boxing practically started in the USA with John L. Sullivan as the first heavyweight champion, at the time of bare-fisted fights, the Marquis of Queensberry Rules were used to be substituted later by the New York Walker Law that was extended to other states in the USA.
This first half of he century, boxing was controlled by promoters, managers, the infamous IBC led by Jim Norris at the MSG, as well as controlled by the mafia, until the time that Frankie Carbo was incarcerated.
During all those years, championships were controlled by the champions themselves, controlling their own rules, selecting their own challengers, with no mandatory defenses, mostly selecting their judges and referees, and no medical care but simple medical check ups at weigh-ins the day of the fights, in complete anarchy, with boxing commissions accepting the bouts as they came.
By the end of the first half and beginning of the second half of the 20th Century, boxing turned to be controlled by different organizations in regards to championships recognition, like the New York Boxing Commission, the NBA (National Boxing Association), formed of affiliated USA boxing commissions; the EBU (European Boxing Union), the BBB of C (British Boxing Board of Control), as well as occasionally, the California State Athletic Commission, all of which were highly influenced by promoters.
Those were the days when rated boxers, losing or winning, remained in the first 10 places for years; No. 1 rated boxers had to wait for years as such with no opportunities to fight for the title, like Sonny Liston, Archie Moore, Jose Napoles, to mention only three; the boxing rules of commissions were different among each other and so were those used in the different nations, with absolute autonomy and almost no reciprocity.
On February 14, 1963, boxing organizations from 11 countries, met in Mexico City in the First World Professional Boxing Convention, having been sponsored by the Mexican Federal Government, with the attendants being; the USA, represented by the NBA, as well as the boxing commissions of New York, Nevada and California, plus Great Britain, France, Philippines, Argentina, Panama, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Chile and Italy, all of which founded the World Boxing Council.
This brief history of administration of boxing shows the centurian efforts to establish international administration, supervision and control; in this era of internet and the jet that has placed the world within reach in hours and seconds, no site or national boxing commission could any longer assume a credible world status, as boxing is no longer a nation but the whole world and so it should be seen; also, boxing has been a sport of champions since the very beginning, as there is no single boxer in the world that does not dream and fight for an Olympic gold medal or a professional boxing world championship.
A world championship is their dream and goal, and no state, nation, TV corporation or whoever can convince them or the public otherwise, as the image and history of a world champion is as important as any material gain.
Consequently, to have a state or a nation to assume the institution, recognition and sanction of their own world championships and all what it carries, would only be a violation of their own jurisdictional laws or a threat to the rest of the world, and it would create even more chaos and anarchy than it seems to be today, as no nation would accept submission and dependency of another nation or state in world sport matters and specially in boxing, where there are so many, various and powerful financial interests.
Therefore, due to history and the considerations expressed above, consensus in the world is that international boxing organizations are necessary for the recognition of world championships that are credible and authentically sanctioned, as there are many today, which are nothing but private profit organizations that are practically belt merchants rater than true boxing world organizations.
Boxing needs world boxing institutions for reciprocity, unity, organization and coordination, not only for, but specially for world championships, but this should only be accepted through international organizations that are truly world infrastructured, and above all, non-profit, with officers democratically elected and, obviously based on fairness and integrity.
The phenomenon of television, which took boxing fans from the thousands at the arenas, to the millions of fans at home; the demand of TV stations, small or huge, to offer “WORLD” title bouts, mostly regardless of the name of the sanctioning body probably even if a moon championship is announced; the greed of some promoters to move around boxing bodies to find support for what they want, whatever that might be and even creating new organizations; the promotional need of TV money for financial success; the constitutional impediment to decline the promotion of any bout based on title names, etc., has been with a significant indifference to ethics, as well as to trying to prevent boxing from falling into low levels of credibility.
It is my opinion that boxing sanctioning bodies are much needed in the world of professional boxing, but that only boxing organizations with proven WORLD INFRASTRUCTURE, should be allowed to use the term “world” in their titles, while all others should only use the name of their organization in the titles without using the word “world”, based on the investigation and certification of each national or state boxing commission.
As things look today, only three or even four international sanctioning bodies are somehow accepted at least in different areas in the world of boxing, as I only have knowledge regarding the World Boxing Council, following is a list of some of the factors that the WBC works on or is based on, that represent the importance of a world professional boxing institution:
1. An authentic world boxing infrastructure, with 161 affiliated nations that is the basis for a worldwide implementation of all our actions and objectives, specially in safety, unity, reciprocity and careful selection of boxers’ merits to fight for world championships.
2. Only official boxing acting commissioners in the world can be members of its Board of Governors, excepting, unfortunately, the USA, all who vote on all matters for absolutely democratic decisions.
3. The decisions and position of the WBC in its boxing world are taken only by boxing commissioners from all the countries, which constitutes authenticity, validity and credibility regarding its world status.
4. Issue of ratings of boxers, based on a committee formed with experts from all the 10 continental federations affiliated, to approve only those boxers that have merits to fight for the WBC world titles. The percentage of our WBC title bouts are in the last five years:
Last five years: Very good 39.30; Good 45.66; Fair 8.09; One-sided 6.93;
Year 2001: Very good 37.83; Good 45.94; Fair 5.40; One-sided 10.81
5. Use of a computer system to record all bouts in the world, which have been reported to help in the determination of the rating of boxers, since their first steps in professional boxing to show merits and move up in accordance to their performances.
6. Election of the annual mandatory official challengers to all WBC champions to eliminate champions “ducking” the top challengers, as it was done in the past, rule implemented in 1975, for the need of a world control as title bouts sites, end their responsibility, precisely at the end of bouts.
It was the WBC, the first and only international boxing organization, which brought in the annual mandatory championship defenses. History is full of monopolistic championship bouts and injustice, like being rated number one without receiving the title opportunity for years, as it was the case of Sonny Liston, Archie Moore and Jose Napoles, to mention only three of the so many in the past.
7. Implementation and supervision of safety rules and measures in the world, which have brought down, from 15-20 fatal accidents per year, to the three or four occurred in the last years, in the world, as they keep being adopted by all the commissions of the world and, thus, have medical uniform rules for safety.
8. Continue our medical research program for the prevention and treatment of injuries in boxing, like the 15-year brain injury research program at UCLA in Los Angeles, to which the WBC has donated about one million dollars.
9. To keep the 25-year substantial financial support given to many indigent ex-boxers in the world, including food and medicine pensions, surgeries, hospitalization, etc.
10. To continue the annual world boxing medical congresses, as well as the ring official congresses, which have been attended by doctors and officials of more than 80 countries on different years.
11. To do the best efforts for amicable and constructive agreements with all boxing commission of the world, to attain unity, reciprocity, mutual co-operation and the sense of commitment for the betterment of boxing.
12. To communicate reported suspensions to all the affiliated commissions for their reciprocity.
13. To continue the antidoping control and world awareness against drugs, alcohol and Aids by having posters in all gyms, as well as pocket pamphlets for each individual and not limit it to only one place.
14. To persistently study the sport of boxing with the participation of boxing commissioners and doctors, from the entire world, from which rules like the 4-ring rope, the thumb-attached glove, the 12-round rule, the weigh-in the day before for rehydration and relaxation, and so many more that rule our sport today.
15. To struggle for world unity so that objectives and missions can be accomplished for human equality, against racial discrimination, to care and act for the underprivileged, to clean the image of boxing and place it strongly in the society of the world and any action for the betterment of the sport and the safety and welfare of all boxers without distinction of race, religion or nation.
16. And so many more actions and responsibilities that could be described to prove the reasons of the importance of international sanctioning bodies, being the most important, the good relations for the sake of rule, order, safety, fairness and credibility, with boxing commissions, many of which are formed with distinguished citizens and boxing lovers in the world.
Jose Sulaiman started as a youth boxer and lasted five years until he suffered a broken jaw in training, after which he was appointed the Secretary of the small county commission in Cd. Valles, in Mexico in 1947, from which he was ascending step-by-step in the ladder in the local, state, national and North American federation, to be elected Secretary General of the WBC in 1971 and President on December 5, 1975 in Tunisia, North Africa, a position that he still holds after seven re-elections.
His career is Business Administration and Mercantile Law and he has received three “Honoris Causa” doctorates in Humane Letters, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and in Physical Culture.
The champions of the WBC during his administration have been Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Carlos Monzon, Azumah Nelson, Oscar de la Hoya, Ricardo Lopez, Tommy Hearns, to mention only a few.