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A Loss of Faith in the “Bible”

By Matthew Paras


When then-Editor-in-Chief of The Ring Nigel Collins reestablished the magazine’s championship policy in 2002, he was looking to give back credibility to the sport by crowning a true champion in each weight division. Boxing had been plagued by meaningless title belts and it was Collin’s initiative to help provide clarity to the sport.
 
A decade later, The Ring belt is now another meaningless title.
 
On Thursday, May 3, 2012, The Ring announced major reforms to its championship policy in order to make it easier to fill 11 vacancies in the 17 weight classes (read full statement here: http://ringtv.craveonline.com/blog/172677-the-ring-updates-championship-policy). With the changes, vacancies are now filled by pitting the #1 ranked fighter against #2 or either facing anyone from #3 to a mindboggling #5.

Current Editor-in-Chief Michael Rosenthal explained the reasoning for the changes on The Ring’s website.
 
We didn’t want to sit back and continue to say, in effect, ‘Oh, well. We can’t force these guys to fight each other so there’s nothing we can do,” he said.
 
We believe we’ve come up with a new policy that will pump more life into the sport and hopefully motivate the best to fight the best, which is what fans deserve.”
 
While Rosenthal may be right about the fans deserving the best fighting each other, fans also deserve integrity. Since the magazine’s inception in 1922, The Ring has always strived for integrity but with the reformed changes, its integrity can now be seriously questioned.
 
Under the new system’s rules, Timothy Bradley could fight Zab Judah and possibly take home The Ring’s Junior Welterweight Championship. Would anyone consider Bradley the legitimate champion without beating the winner of Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan’s rematch (should it come to fruition in light of Peterson’s recent positive test for synthetic testosterone)?
 
Regarding the number two fighter challenging anyone from numbers three through five, in the case of the 140-pound weight class, the rematch between Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson will most likely be declared the champion due to Bradley’s upcoming fight with Pacquiao in a higher division. The new policies create a subjectivity that wasn’t established in Collins’ reign as editor.
 
Let’s create a hypothetical scenario. If the number one fighter were to fight the number four fighter and the number two fighter were to fight the number three fighter around the same time frame, which victor would be crowned?  The Ring Ratings Panel would most likely have to make that final call, essentially contradicting the original purpose of The Ring’s championship policy.
 
On the other hand, the purpose of The Ring’s policy often went unnoticed. ESPN recognized the magazine’s ratings and champions but promoters and premium networks ignored whenever The Ring belt was on the line- that is unless a Golden Boy-promoted champion was fighting on HBO’s airwaves.
 
To this day, sanctioning bodies are still more valuable. Ask Paulie Malignaggi, who is now being mentioned as a possible opponent for Devon Alexander in August due to his WBA welterweight title victory over Vyacheslav Senchenko. Promoters can still sell an alphabet title to the general public without having to worry about whether or not the fighter holding it was a true champion.
 
Still, The Ring’s former championship model provided integrity to the sport that was lacking in the midst of Morrade Hakkar-inspired mandatories. Was The Ring belt impacting the sport? Debatable. Was it noble? Absolutely.
 
With The Ring’s changes, the nobility and credibility are gone. Now it’s just another title belt.
 
In essence, The Ring got impatient.
 
Even before its decision to reform its policies, The Ring made its fair share of questionable decisions over the last six months. After firing Nigel Collins in September, The Ring made controversial decisions regarding two different championships.
 
The first head-scratching move was not awarding Chad Dawson the light heavyweight belt when his fight against Bernard Hopkins was initially ruled a TKO victory. This was a sharp contrast to Collin’s reign when the Joel Casamayor-Jose Santa Cruz robbery was upheld even when there was pressure for The Ring to recognize Cruz as the legitimate lightweight champion in November 2007.
 
While Hopkins-Dawson I was eventually overturned, The Ring continued its questionable decision making when it declared a fight between Steve Cunningham and Yoan Pablo Hernandez would fill the vacancy at cruiserweight. Since Marco Huck’s decision to fight Alexander Povetkin at heavyweight, The Ring decided to remove Huck from the ratings.
 
“Thus, we were faced with a decision to make. Do we keep Huck at No. 1 because he might return to the cruiserweight division depending on what happens on Feb. 25? Or do we follow his lead and allow Hernandez and Cunningham to fight for the vacant RING championship?” wrote Rosenthal on The Ring’s website.
 
“THE RING Editorial Board decided that the latter made more sense. Huck will be removed from the cruiserweight ratings, and Hernandez and Cunningham will be elevated to Nos. 1 and 2, which positions them to fight for the magazine’s title.”
 
Again, The Ring went against previous precedent. When Joe Calzaghe moved to light heavyweight, he was allowed to keep his super middleweight title if he wanted to drop down again and fight at that weight class. The decision was left up to Calzaghe, not The Ring.
 
For a magazine that has prided itself as “The Bible of Boxing,” The Ring’s latest decisions have caused people to question their faith.
 
When bought by Golden Boy Promotions in 2007, many were worried that The Ring’s ratings would be influenced and the magazine would have total control. After years of seemingly doing nothing to prove those people wrong, management gutted the magazine, coming up with a whole new writing staff.
 
From reading the articles and even the ratings themselves, to be fair, a pro-Golden Boy bias does not seem apparent.
 
What does seem to be there is a magazine that has disregarded the previous traditions that made it so historical.
 
If The Ring wants more fighters to own their belt, that’s their decision. Let’s just not pretend the titlists who fill their vacancies are actual champions.
 
Questions and comments can be sent to Matt at mparas1432@gmail.com. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/Mparas1432.



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