Chastise All We Want, To the Fighters a Title Means Everything

I used to be one of them.  I used to be one of those fight fans who looked down on the sanctioning bodies, chiding them and harping atop my soap box about how they should be abolished.  In my eyes, the sanctioning bodies were the physical manifestation of all that was evil.  I mentioned their names through clinched teeth, seethed with anger upon every bonehead decision that was issues from their headquarters, and dismissingly referred to them as the “alphabet soup group” similar to the way Bert Sugar and every staffer at Ring Magazine does.  Then it happened, like a sudden bolt of complete understanding, I recognized the truth.  Sure, it’s easy for us, fans and media, to “poo poo” the merits of the sanctioning bodies bevy of titles.  We can scoff all we want at the fringe organizations like the IBO and NABO, but the simple truth is, they are not here for us, they are here for the fighters.  Say what you will, but to a fighter wining their first title, regardless of its standing within the minds of boxing aficionados, nothing fully legitimizes the pain and sacrifice an individual puts into their craft like these leather straps.  Within the past couple of weeks I have witnessed first hand the emotion and joy a fighter displays in winning their first title.  When super featherweight Rocky Juarez rallied back to stop Jorge Barrios earlier this month in Houston many dismissed the fact that the fight was for the vacant WBO Latino title. Photobucket Sure in the grand scheme of things the fact that the WBO sanctioned this fight was monetarily motivated.  The WBO gets a slice of the purses for sanctioning the fight, and HBO gets to trumpet out a title fight.  But despite the shady circumstances surrounding the designation of the fight, the fact is when Juarez walked up to the podium at the post fight press conference, newly captured belt clinched tightly around his waist, he wore the look of a man that was on top of the world.  In a heartfelt speech in which he thanked his late grandfather for showing him the joys of boxing, it was clear that this belt meant something.  To say it was a moving experience would be an understatement, but it highlights what these titles mean to fighters. In an example that hits even closer to home, Fort Worth, Texas based super featherweight Jose Hernandez achieved the victory of his career earlier this month when he upset highly touted prospect Juan Garcia to win the vacant WBC World Youth title.  The knockout victory came as a surprise to all but those here in the DFW area that has had the pleasure of watching Hernandez rise from a respected amateur to that of a champion.  Well few gave Hernandez a shot at beating Garcia in his own backyard but according to George Galvan, Hernandez’ trainer/manager/promoter there was little doubt in their mind as to who would win.  To be honest, it couldn’t have happened to a more amiable guy.  I have had the pleasure of covering Hernandez and you will be hard pressed to meet a more humble and reserved guy.  Jose HernandezOutside the ring, Hernandez is respectful and quite, the loving father of an adorable little girl, inside the ring he fights like a man possessed.   Winning the WBC Youth title meant the world for Hernandez who took two weeks off of his day job to train for the fight.  Upon wining the title, all the hard work and pain paid off in beautiful fashion.  As I spoke with his manager George Galvan, an old school vato from the Bay Area, you could hear the jubilation in his voice as he went into detail about the fight, he was down right giddy.  You tell them that their title means nothing.  Personally, I am a man converted.  I now fully understand what a title means to a fighter, no matter how insignificant it may seem to long time fight scribes. Do I absolve the sanctioning bodies for some of the atrocities they have participated in?  Of course not, there are many aspects of these governing bodies that I find deplorable.  But the fact of that matter is that they are here to stay.  And in light of what many may think, to a young fighter winning his first leather belt, nothing in the world is greater.  Photo of Juarez vs. Barrios courtesy of Edward Garza Photo of Jose Hernandez courtesy of George Galvan (taken by John Escobar III)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.