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The current boxing system gets ridiculous
Mismatch won, mismatch lost
by Eric Jackson
Four global boxing organizations is three too many. Can we call this the present professional system, or is it a form of anarchy? However one cares to characterize it, one of the great shames of our time is that what passes for world championship fights usually don't feature the two best boxers in their classifications in the ring at the same time. It's so absurd that the world champion of one organization is quite frequently unlisted among the top 10 of the other three.
And so it was that the International Boxing Federation (IBF), the outfit of Butterbean notoriety, whose founder was charged with racketeering and bribery but only convicted on the lesser counts of tax evasion and money laundering, recognized this Canadian, Steve Molitor, as the super-bantamweight (or junior featherweight, if you will) champion of the world. Molitor, who's a serious athlete and seems to be a nice enough guy, boasted a perfect 28-0 professional record.
However, things had been carefully managed so that he didn't fight anyone of distinction on the way to the IBF championship.
Then along came a tall, skinny man from Colon, one Celestino "Pelenchín" Caballero, possessed of a seven-times defended WBA belt in the same classification, on a mission to unify the title.
Smash, crunch! From the opening bell of the first round of the November 21 unification bout Caballero ripped into Molitor and it was never a contest. Again and again the Panamanian boxed the Canadian into a corner, letting loose with devastating combinations. Such punches that Molitor landed had no apparent effect on Caballero.
And so it went until 52 seconds into the fourth round, when Molitor's trainer was about to throw in the towel but the referee saved him the trouble and stopped the fight shortly after Caballero knocked the IBF champ down with a stunning uppercut, then knocked him down again with a four-punch combination.
So the next phase is to get one of the two remaining boxing organization's titles, and then the other. At the WBO the champ is one Juan Manuel López, generally regarded as a notch or two inferior to Caballero. Number three in that outfit is Rafael Marquez, who's rated higher than Caballero by The Ring and Fight News. Over at the WBC, Marquez is, as with The Ring and Fight News, rated second and the champ is Israel Vázquez.
Caballero's clamoring for a fight with either Vázquez or Marquez, and it's only right that his next bout is with one of these Mexicans. It's not just right as a matter of justice for Caballero, but the right thing for boxing. That doesn't mean that it's about to happen.
A week later at ATLAPA, Venezuelan Jorge Linares grabbed the vacant WBA super featherweight (or junior lightweight) title by pounding Panama's Whyber García into submission for a fifth round TKO. Linares ran his undefeated streak up to 26-0, while García (20-6) was knocked out for the third time in his last six fights.
Maybe a case could be made that García had at least a reasonable outside chance of getting lucky before the hometown crowd. But he went into that title fight ranked tenth-best in the WBA and unmentioned in the rankings of any of the other sanctioning organizations or of the major boxing publications.
Maybe the Cuban argument about professional boxing, or at least part of it, could be invoked. They're against professional sports in general, of course --- and that's why so many of their great athletes leave and get so hideously maligned as "defectors" --- but they also advocate something closer to Olympic rules, wherein boxers fight shorter bouts, more often. Under that kind of a system it might make sense to give someone like Whyber García a title shot.
But professional boxing being the sport that it is, there really wasn't any excuse for García to be in the ring with Linares, and to say that is no disrespect for the former but just a sober comparison of the two pugilists' relative standing in their profession.
So where does this leave Panamanian boxing?
With a bunch of good fighters who are not the champ, including one Whyber García and one Ricardo "Maestrito" Córdoba, whom the WBA ranks second to Caballero but everyone else puts in a substantially lower notch; and with Celestino Caballero holding the WBA and IBF belts in the 122-pound category; Guillermo Jones as the WBA cruiserweight champion and nothing close to a consensus about who's the real champ; and Anselmo "Chemito" Moreno holding the WBA bantamweight crown and probably destined for a rematch with former champ Wladimir Sidorenko. This is, based on all the evidence, one of those great times for Panamanian boxing.
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