Would it be too much to ask of a beat writer to know their specific beat well?
Because it seems that boxing writers Greg Beacham of the Associated Press, and neither does Kal Sajad of BBC Sport. “Then on a history-making night in Las Vegas… [Canelo] Alvarez became the first undisputed world super-middleweight champion of all time,” Sajad wrote in his column dated November 9, 2021. Beacham added, “Alvarez became the first four-belt world champion at 168 pounds in boxing history Saturday night.”
This is a common problem in the sport of boxing. The writers don’t know the history of the sport. And as a result, the coverage is biased. As opposed to the coverage in other mainstream sports like baseball, basketball or horse racing, the boxing media is mostly composed of “fan-boys.” www.bbc.com/sport/boxing/59169284 and buffalonews.com/sports/lvarez-stops-plant-to-become-undisputed-168-pound-champ/article_b50706b0-91a7-5924-b195-724a8d9a92b1.html
Google defines a “fan-boy” as a male fan behaving in an obsessive or overexcited way.
In order to cover the sport both fairly and accurately, writers must first understand that boxing is a business. Meaning, the alphabet organizations run boxing. If sanctioning fees aren’t being paid to the specific sanctioning body, the fighter will be stripped. Lastly, if a mandatory defense isn’t made within a certain amount of time, the fighter can also be stripped. In the case of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez being an undisputed champion, he would be required to make a mandatory defense for each one of his four titles. With respect to time, this is unrealistic. Therefore, it is a foregone conclusion that he’s going to get stripped.
Canelo Alvarez becoming the first Mexican undisputed super-middleweight champion doesn’t mean anything at all.
Using this milestone as a benchmark to spotlight Canelo’s greatness is asinine. It diminishes his other accomplishments, such as when he won the middleweight championship after defeating Gennadiy Golovkin three years ago. Beacham and Sajad’s lack of knowledge about the sport of boxing is a disservice to their readers. The boxing media isn’t comprised of legitimate journalists with ample schooling. Boxing is one of the easier sports to get credentialed for. Press row at most boxing events, consists of Youtubers and writers from much smaller publications such as www.expertboxing.com. [An example of a small publication]. This isn’t exactly professional coverage because most of the working members of the boxing media aren’t getting paid for their labor. It’s sort of a hobby for them.
In both of their respective columns, Beacham and Sajad failed to mention that the super middleweight division is still relatively new when considering that the sport of boxing has had a run of almost 400-years. The 168-pound weight class was first introduced in the sport 54-years-ago. As opposed to the heavyweight division, which started in 1738 and then modified in 1920. Other examples include the light heavyweight division which was birthed in 1909 and the middleweight division which commenced in the 1840’s.
The super-middleweight division is contested between the middleweight  and light-heavyweight  weight classes. Fighters competing in this class are able to weigh anywhere between 161 and 168 pounds. However, becoming an undisputed champion at 168 pounds wasn’t a realistic possibility between the years of 1967 until recently. Middleweight boxers that moved up in weight would bypass the super middleweight division and go straight to the light heavyweight division. Which is what Bernard Hopkins did sixteen years ago. Roy Jones, Jr. and James Toney are regarded as two of the greatest super middleweights of all time. Does Canelo’s recent achievement in the division, give him the nod over Jones, Jr. or Toney? The answer is no.
Canelo being the undisputed champion was the result of circumstances that went in his favor. Back then it was a matter of either the division not existing or there weren’t sufficient world titles to win in order to be considered an undisputed champion.
In the present time, an undisputed champion is any boxer in possession of world titles from all four major sanctioning bodies simultaneously. These four sanctioning bodies are the WBA [World Boxing Association], WBC [World Boxing Council], IBF [International Boxing Federation] and the WBO [World Boxing Organization].
It’s difficult to try to figure out who the world champions are in boxing are now. The number of belts in each division is confusing, all the more reason why the sport should be covered correctly.
Prior to the 1960’s, most of the champions in boxing were recognized as being the “undisputed” champion. There was only one champion in each weight class. Now there are four champions in 17 divisions. As boxing grew in popularity during the 1960’s and 1970’s, so did the number of boxing organizations that crowned their own champion.
When Beacham and Sajad wrote that Canelo was the first one to accomplish this achievement in the history of the sport, they should have used a disclaimer, suggesting that Canelo was the first one to attain this accomplishment under a different set of circumstances.
Over the course of 102 years the criteria for being recognized as an undisputed champion kept changing. The sanctioning bodies as well as the timeline were different.
Boxing associations/sanctioning bodies
The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), founded in 1920.
The World Boxing Association (WBA), founded in 1921 originally known as the National Boxing Association (NBA).
The World Boxing Council (WBC), founded in 1963.
The International Boxing Federation (IBF), founded in 1983.
The World Boxing Organization (WBO), founded in 1988.
During the specific period [listed], here is what any fighter had to achieve in order to be recognized as an undisputed champion:
1920-1963, a boxer who held both the NYSAC and NBA (which is now known as the WBA) titles simultaneously was considered to be an undisputed champion.
1963–1983, a boxer who held both the WBA and WBC titles simultaneously was deemed to be the undisputed champion.
1983–2007, a boxer who held the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles simultaneously was also considered to be an undisputed champion.
2007–Present, a boxer who holds the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles simultaneously is now considered to be an undisputed champion.
At this rate fighters will soon be fighting in a five-belt era. Ten years from now, who’s to say that there won’t be a fifth recognized sanctioning body.
However, as ESPN boxing writer Nigel Collins alluded in his column, www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/20354699/boxing-not-sweet-science-unification-bouts-boxing, unification bouts in the sport are messier than spectators would like them to be.
Canelo could very easily lose his status as undisputed champion much sooner than later.
All it would take for Canelo to be stripped is for a non-payment to one of the alphabet organizations by him or his failing to fight one of the mandatory contenders in one of the organizations at 168 pounds. Most of the time mandatory contenders are fighters that no one has ever heard of. In other words, fights against them wouldn’t generate sufficient revenue.
It was imperative for Sajad and Beacham bring up the reality that boxing follows a business first model. The more titleholders in the sport, the more lucrative it is for the sanctioning bodies. It is vital for these things to be highlighted, because it would result in better coverage of the sport.
We’re a month removed from Canelo capturing undisputed glory at 168 pounds, however, it should be easier to see this feat as being less significant. And we will be able to with time.
Source: Jason Gonzalez