We asked 32 noted boxing buffs this question: If you could do one thing to make boxing better, what would it be? The answers were surprisingly varied and interesting – and in some cases, downright incriminating.
Respondents are listed alphabetically. Because of the length of this article, it is running in two parts.
JIM AMATO, author, writer, historian and collector: I would like to see world championship contests universally go back to the 15-round distance. I doubt if this will ever happen due to safety concerns. Still I feel if a fighter is in top condition, he should be able to go 15 rounds if needed. Great fights were won and lost in the “championship rounds.” For example, Leonard-Hearns I. Tommy wins after twelve rounds but Ray storms back to win down the stretch. It’s hard to compare today’s boxers to past greats because they are never pushed to the brink like Ali, Monzon, Napoles, etc.
RUSS ANBER, trainer, cornerman, and owner of Rival Boxing Equipment: After 40 years in this business, I simply cannot find the ONE thing to mention as THE thing that would make boxing betterm especially when I have been asked to limit my response to one brief paragraph. In fact, it would be easier to make a list of everything that ails us in one paragraph than to find the one thing that could make it better. I’m dying to see what others have to say.
MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI, TSS writer: A consistent weekly televised card, something like we used to have in USA’s Tuesday Night Fights where fans can count on a fight card that runs the same day and time each week. The network would work with various promoters and plenty of fighters would get badly needed exposure. In addition, the revenue stream that such a series would provide to promoters would allow more to stay involved in the sport and as such allow them to do more events (though not necessarily televised) to keep fighters active.
JOE BRUNO, former New York City sportswriter, prolific author: Make it illegal for promoters to have more than a 2-fight agreement with any fighter. Men like Don King and Bob Arum have tied up fighters for decades, as I’m sure the new generation of promoters are presently doing. We’d get more competitive fights and the fighters can shake off their shackles and make better deals for themselves.
TRACY CALLIS, noted boxing historian: Conduct weigh-ins on the morning of the fight (not fighting a day or two afterwards as weights often zoom up 5-10 pounds above the weight limit). Have official committees grade the handling of a fight by a referee and the scoring of a fight by judges – and only allow the highest graded officials participate in championship fights.
STEVE CANTON, face of boxing in South Florida: One change alone will not make it any better. I’d decrease the current 17 weight classes to 12 – the original 8 plus cruiserweight, super middle, junior middle, junior welter. I’d have same day morning weigh-ins to eliminate the huge differences between “weigh-in weight” and “in-ring weight”. I would not recognize WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF as world championships but rather as “regional” championships, thus forcing them to unify. We should then be going back to having one world champion in each weight class. Title fights would be 12 rounds for junior titles and 15 rounds for “regional” and world titles. PEDs need to be eliminated totally before a tragedy happens. A positive test should be a permanent ban. The problem would disappear immediately.
JOE DeGUARDIA, promoter; president of Star Boxing: If I could only pick one, it would be to have a unified body that could work for the betterment of the sport. This body, or league, would focus on fostering business practices and development on behalf of the owners (promoters), boxers, managers, and other integral parties. While this entity would also regulate, it would operate nationwide with professionally experienced members and not the government (such as the NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR and other sports). This would form the basis of creating a strong business framework and foundation of consistency and strength that will eventually benefit everyone in the sport.
JILL DIAMOND, International Secretary, WBC: If I could do only one thing, it would be to create computerized, global medicals and hopefully, standardized medical requirements. Actually, that’s two things, but one stems from the other. This way, when a fighter is denied in one state, or country, he/she couldn’t fight in another. It might also prevent some fighters from fighting under assumed names.
BERNARD FERNANDEZ, TSS mainstay and lifetime member of the BWAA: FDR, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, as different as all of those men were, could meet at Yalta to discuss the possibility of attaining common goals in World War II and its aftermath, why not the leaders of the four allegedly major world sanctioning bodies for boxing? Scrap the alphabet organizations, form a coalition comprised of the best, brightest and, most importantly, least biased of officials from all those groups, and end the sham of having multiple “world” champions when only one in each weight class can be the best of the best. It’s a pipe dream, of course, but why not hope to find some order and impartiality amid the chaos?
SUE FOX, former world class female boxer, founder/president of WBAN and IWBH: I would put the most competitive matches on the major television networks. Having this exposure would help promote the sport.
JEFFREY FREEMAN, aka KO Digest; TSS boxing writer: I’d break down all the frustrating ties that boxers have to these greedy promoters and advisors and I’d make it possible for the imaginations of boxing fans to again reflect the actual matchmaking in the ring. When the consumers of a sport have absolutely no control over their own paid product, you have conditions ripe for reformation.
CLARENCE GEORGE, boxing writer and historian: We should do away with gloves, which are designed not to protect the head but the hands. There’d be a lot more broken noses and the like, but a lot less brain injury and far fewer ring deaths.
DR. MARGARET GOODMAN, neurologist, author, president of VADA: Uniformity through a national commission–so all commissions adhered to the same rules, and subpoena power that could be enforced to protect the athletes.
LEE GROVES, author, writer and the wizard of CompuBox: It is something I brought up in a recent article: The creation of a new centralized authority in which unified rules and medical protocols, one championship per division and a head commissioner supported by a panel of regional administrators could decide and control disputes. Boxing has long been an unstructured and arbitrary mess compared to other sports and a big step toward improving the sport would be corralling and resolving the numerous and conflicting interests among all the various fiefdoms as well as enacting — and consistently enforcing — sensible reforms.
HENRY HASCUP, boxing historian, president of the NJ Boxing Hall of Fame: Unification of all the so-called World titles. When you’re a WORLD CHAMPION, you should be the best in the WORLD PERIOD! They should set up a tournament where the four major title holders in each division fight each other. Example the IBF Champion vs. the WBO Champion, the WBA Champion vs. the WBC Champions, and the winners fight each other for the real-world CHAMPION!
JEFF JOWETT, noted boxing scribe: Easiest question in the world!!!! Bring back CHAMPIONS!! These guys, no matter how good, are NOT champions. They are split title holders, that’s all. The organizations should unite on a champion and then their individual title holders could compete underneath. It would infinitely improve boxing as a SPORT!
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