Welcome to The Panel, where we speak to a group of star names from across the fight game about the big issues in boxing. In this edition, we take a look at the reality of championships in the “four-belt era”.
The question we posed to our experts, spanning world champions, trainers and promoters, was this: would boxing be better off with one champion per division? Here’s what our panel told The Sportsman, drawing on their collective decades of experience in the sport.
Chantelle Cameron (Undisputed Super Lightweight Champion)
I think it’s very good for UFC, they have just one world champion in the division. I think with boxing that's why you want to become undisputed. Because you are the champion of the division, there's no one else that's got the belts. I think the four sanctioning bodies are great, because it gives you those undisputed fights, those history making fights. But I do like UFC images where there’s just one world champion in the division.
Dmitry Bivol (WBA Light Heavyweight Champion)
It's something interesting maybe that we have four belts. But in the light heavyweight division, I want only one man who has four belts and I would like to be this man.
Eddie Hearn (Matchroom Sport Chairman)
I think you should always look to have one champion per division. I think that's again, one thing about female boxing. That's, you know, so refreshing at the moment is you have so many undisputed champions across the division because the champions are willing to fight the champions. So we should always look to unify one division at a time, and we should have one champion per division rather than four champions. But ultimately, it doesn't always happen like that. But yes, I think we always need to find out who the best is in every division.
Anthony Crolla (Former WBA Lightweight Champion)
From the purist point of view it’s easier to follow one belt, of course. But it's never ever going to work like that. There'll be one genuine World Champion and that's the dream. But we've also got to be realistic. It's not going to work like that.
There's going to be lawsuits going on “My fighter deserves this and that”. Also, there’s going to be so many fighters who wouldn't get the opportunity. People go, “Oh, go back to the 50s, the 40s, do one world champion.” But there's so many fighters who were robbed of a chance to be a world champion or to fight for a world title. They didn't have the opportunity as a fighter can only fight so many times a year.
Joe Gallagher (The Ring Magazine Trainer of the Year 2015)
We'd all love to turn back time and have one single champion. I think that's where The Ring belt (comes in). I think people realise whoever The Ring champion is, that’s the real champion. They're recognised as the number one in the world.
But promoters will say, there's more world title fights, more opportunities, more opportunities for pay days, more opportunities for TV. Production, wages and sponsorship and everything else. So there's an argument for and against. But everyone sees The Ring magazine belt as the number one in the world.
Natasha Jonas (Unified Super Welterweight Champion)
I think the idea of four belts is great, that you can go and get different belts in different divisions. Having four belts is nice when you've won them all. But I do think a model such as the UFC can stop the dilution of champions. You can have a WBC champion who's ranked number eight in the WBA or the WBO.
I think the UFC has got a good model that the fans like. The number one fights the number two then if they win, one fights three (then) one fights four. I think that's the way that it should be. It makes the superfights easier to make, if it was like that. But, it is also nice to have three belts, four belts.
The Verdict: The word “opportunity” was brought up a lot, with many of our group feeling more world title shots for fighters is a positive. Surprisingly, promoter Hearn leant towards a single champion, despite the fact it would limit the amount of world title fights he could promote. Crolla perhaps raised the most interesting point. While it would be ideal to have one champion, boxing has gone too far down the road of having four to turn back now. If our experts are to be believed, it looks like the four-belt era is here to stay.
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