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02 SEPTEMBER 2014

 




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Sky Sports snub sees three Brits get stripped of titles


Thompson's IBO title is gone (pic Mr Will)
Thompson's IBO title is gone (pic Mr Will)

By Ant Evans: Three British fighters with claims to 'world' champion status simultaneously lost their title belts last month. Carl Thompson, Jawaid Khaliq and Damaen Kelley all held International Boxing Organization belts but the US-based sanctioning body was forced to strip the British trio of their crowns after each failed to make a defense in 2005.

What is interesting is that these fighters were not prevented from defending their belts because of any illness or injury, but because their respective promoters could not get broadcast partner Sky Sports to agree to showcase (and bankroll) a fight involving an IBO title.

After years of trying to present WBU, WBF and various 'Intercontinental' and 'International' baubles as legitimate championships to their viewers, Sky decided to significantly up their quality control last summer and it appears the IBO - and the three Britons who held IBO titles - have become a causality of that new policy.

While Sky's tougher quality control was broadly welcomed by many in British boxing, multiple championships are a fact of life in modern sport. And 'traditional' titles in themselves are no guarantee of quality (see Carl Froch's recent Commonwealth super-middleweight defence against undersized Dale Westerman for details) and the IBO, while a comparatively new organisation, is one of the most respectable in boxing and should not be lumped in with the likes of the WBU or WBF.

The IBO's 'computerised' rankings, which are complied purely based on won/loss records and are beyond the influence of the kind of barmy favouritism which permeate certain other organisation's ratings, are the best in the business and the IBO is making significant strides for credibility with Antonio Tarver, Joe Calzaghe and the winner of Chris Byrd v Wladimir Klitschko all holding IBO belts.

IBO President Ed Levine believes his organization and British boxing has been done a great disservice by Sky, telling SecondsOut: "I saw this coming a year or two ago, when WBU and WBF fights started to appear on the same cards as IBO title fights in the UK. I knew we'd be painted by the same brush as them, despite us being very, very different from those organizations.

"We don't take stripping champions lightly but Sky had indicated to me they wanted to concentrate on British, Commonwealth and European Titles from now on. But, in my view, that is not correct where some British fighters are concerned.

"Carl Thompson, Damaen Kelly and Jawaid Khaliq are good champions and world class fighters. Our independent, computerised ratings place them very highly in their divisions and all of them are ranked very highly by independent publications like Ring magazine, ESPN, Boxing Monthly and so on.

"Carl Thompson, IBO champion or not, is ranked in the top 10 and by asking him to fight for the British Title (which Sky did in November) Sky are doing him a huge disservice."

That sentiment is echoed by Kelly and Khaliq's manager Tommy Gilmour, who told SecondsOut: "We can't promote IBO title fights in this country because Sky Sports won't have IBO fights and, without television money, you can't put on title fights

"I know all about the proliferation of all the world titles and I understand what Sky are trying to do but I've long believed the IBO is one of the very best organizations. The IBO are not only quality people to deal with who look after the fighters but their rankings are the best in boxing. The IBO's rankings are done automatically, by computer, and even though you may agree or disagree with certain fighters' position here and there at least the rankings are done impartially and purely on wins and losses."

Gilmour added: "Jav and Damaen's titles are gone but I sincerely hope (Sky) reconsider their position soon. The IBO is one of the top organisations in the world, in my opinion, and these fighters beat very good boxers to win and, as the case may be, defend these belts.

"Jav got an MBE last summer and has won the Asian Sportsman of the Year Award, and that happened because of his seven IBO title defences.

Levine added: "All this hurts UK boxing more than it hurts the IBO. There are many high-profile fighters now in the US and across the world like Antonio Tarver, who will be defending his IBO belt against Bernard Hopkins, and Chris Byrd and Wladimir Klitschko, who fight for the vacant IBO heavyweight title in Germany, who are coming to the IBO. I am not naïve, the IBO is not the No.1 sanctioning body in the world, but I believe what we have been doing in regards to transparency and having independent ratings is now getting noticed.

"All three British fighters have not defended since 2004 and we had to take this action. However, I hope Sky revisit this policy soon."

Sky Sports boss Vic Wakeling declined to comment directly for the purposes of this article but did email to say that Sky do not have a "strict" policy on which titles they will present to their viewers.

Click here for SecondsOut's interview with the Sky Sports head from last December:
http://www.secondsout.com/UK/news.cfm?ccs=228&cs=17903&highlight=Wakeling

****
Interestingly, Levine added he and British promoter Frank Warren, who no longer works with Sky, are discussing the possibility of IBO fights appearing on Warren's new TV partner, ITV.

Levine said: "I've spoken with Frank Warren and I intend to continue that dialogue."

Warren's super-middleweight kingpin, Joe Calzaghe, won the IBO's 12stone (168lbs) title from Jeff Lacy earlier this month.



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