If there is one thing in boxing that we all agree on it's that the politics of the sport is a giant issue and something that only seems to be getting worse the longer we follow the sport. The political situation has seen world rankings being seriously influenced by promoters and popularity of fighters as opposed to their skills and achievements.
From where I am sat I want to see a fighter ranked on merit. If you beat someone then, generally, you deserve to be ranked above that person and if you keep beating better opponents you deserve a better ranking. Of course some times things aren't that simple, for example where "triangle logic" applies or where a series of fights is split, though on the whole it really should be as simply as you can make it.
Sadly though the rankings aren't as transparent or as simple as they need to be. In fact all too often the rankings are unexplainable, odd and down right wrong. They don't just look like favouritsm but they look like cases of fully blown corruption or greed.
One such example was seen in the recent WBA rankings released this past Thursday as China's former amateur stand out Zou Shiming had been slipped into the rankings at a lofty #3 position in the Light Flyweight division despite having beaten no one of note and done next to nothing to deserve such a high ranking.
This past month has been an interesting one at 108lbs, especially for the WBA. Firstly they saw their previous #3 ranked fighter, Naoya Inoue, sign to fight for the WBC title against Adrian Hernandez and then they saw their champion Kazuto Ioka vacate the title to campaign at Flyweight. Whilst neither of these were massive moves in terms of really shaking up the rankings, at least on paper, they did work together to both open up an opening in the rankings and help move fighters towards a world title fight.
In theory Inoue's removal from the rankings due to his scheduled world title fight should have seen fighters previously ranked behind him move up a place. Simple really fighters from 4-15 all move up and a new, deserving fighter, gets given the newly available #15 ranking.
Ioka's renouncing of the title shouldn't have directly effected the rankings though it was obvious that the likes of Randy Petalcorin, the #2 ranked fight, would be eyeing up the champion-less belt. Unfortunately what we've seen due to the title becoming vacant is the "hot potato" ranking of Shiming who has been placed at #3 in the hope that he will fight in an undeserved title shot and allow the WBA to crown their first ever Chinese champion whilst collecting a nice large sanctioning fee in return for the ranking.
The WBA claim up to 3% of a fighters purse for a world title fight with their belt on the line. Shiming's purses so far have been in the $300,000+ range and lets be honest 3% of 300,000 is a lot more money than the WBA would get from, say, 3% of a purse from #4 ranked fighter Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Of course 3% doesn't sound like a lot, but using the $300,000 figure Shiming earned on his debut as the base figure that alone is $9,000. Shiming has since been paid significantly more money and a world title fight could well net the WBA more than $20,000 for merely putting their title up for grabs.
Whilst I can't personally defend Shiming's ranking I can understand it. The WBA have seen an opportunity due to the situation of both Inoue and Ioka and their eyes have lit up with cartoon style $$$ signs in their eyes with the knowledge that Shiming can make them more in 1 fight than many other fighters can make them in a year. It really is an indefensible cash grab.
Don't be shocked if in the next few weeks if you read that Bob Arum is trying to tie up a fight between Shiming and Randy Petalcorin for the vacant WBA title in Macau. My guess is My guess is that WBA will be more than willing to oblige Arum because it's a fight that makes sense for all those involved even if it doesn't make sense for us, the fans of the sport.
(Picture courtesy of Top Rank Promotions)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.