Floyd Mayweather: Call Me Champ… But I’m Not Paying For It

Floyd Mayweather must be awfully tired from all of the standing he’s doing of late. First of all, he took a stance against performance enhancing drugs within the sport, one which, to all intents and purposes, cost him his mega-fight with Manny Pacquiao. Now, he’s leaping into action against the alphabet bandits by refusing to pay the WBA a fee so that he can fight for their title. If he’s not careful, he’ll end up blowing his role as Vader to Shane Mosley’s Skywalker.

Whilst the truth behind both of Floyd’s stands can be questioned, the principles are to be applauded. The removal of drugs from the sport is a good thing, of that there’s little doubt. There are many also who would welcome random testing to eradicate alphabet organisations, who charge fighters fortunes each year in sanctioning fees yet offer little in the way of good influence over the sport.

So, in light of Mayweather’s rebuttal, what exactly does that little black belt, the one Shane Mosley pays thousands of dollars to sling over his shoulder for the briefest of spells at the end of each contest, actually represent? Join me now on an odyssey of discovery… (warning: this may cause drowsiness, nausea and mild confusion).

Picture a time when clarity reigned, when times were that little bit simpler… and the IBF hadn’t yet come into existence. It’s 1981. Prince Charles has just wed Lady Diana Spencer, MTV has been launched over the airwaves, Bob Marley has been laid to rest alongside his trusty guitar and two titans of boxing hold welterweight world titles simultaneously.

Maryland’s Sugar Ray Leonard sported the little green WBC number whilst his nemesis Tommy Hearns donned the charcoal WBA version. The two met up in the September (folk weren’t as averse to finding out who was best back in those days) and Leonard was crowned the undisputed king of the welters. Then, after defending against Bruce Finch in Reno, he retired.

With his titles scattered to the four winds, it was decided that the winner of Milt McCrory and Colin Jones could have one of them (WBC), whilst Don Curry and Jun-Suk Hwang would take the other (WBA). Curry and McCrory were victorious and the pair followed the trail their predecessors set by duelling to determine superiority (by which time a WBA splinter group calling themselves the IBF had thrown another trouser-holding device at Curry for beating Marlon Starling).

Curry blitzed McCrory in chilling fashion and lucidity triumphed… for all of nine months. When “The Lonestar Cobra” fell to Bermondsey’s unheralded Lloyd Honeyghan the following annum, the championship fractured after Honeyghan found himself in bit of a pickle. The WBA, in their wisdom, chose Harold Volbrecht as their mandatory challenger; however, Volbrecht was South African, which meant if Honeyghan were to face him, he would receive a two-year banning order by the WBC (who’d have thought the alphabets would interact so incoherently?). Honeyghan withdrew, citing a protest against apartheid, and the WBA title meandered off on its own little journey, which we’ll ignore for now and come back to later.

Honeyghan was then forced to defend his remaining titles separately (IBF title fights were 15 rounds, WBC over 12… sigh…) before he was eventually upset by Mexican Jorge Vaca in London. “Honey” revenged the loss pretty sharpish, yet the IBF belt, which had not been on the line against Vaca first time around, was stripped from him and, like the WBA title (which remember, has veered off course at this point), was passed onto new and willing fee donors.

I think it’s fair to stick with Honeyghan here and in a nice linear fashion, we’ll transport from 1988 to 1999 via Marlon Starling, Maurice Blocker, Simon Brown, Buddy McGirt, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya and finally, Felix Trinidad. At which point “Tito” breaks the chain again by moving up to 154 lbs. to ruin David Reid and Fernando Vargas.

Trinidad posted back the WBC bauble Honeyghan once carried, along with the IBF version which had somehow returned to the party via Simon Brown (the WBA title was still off doing its own thing).

As is usual, both organisations went their own merry way, with the IBF hosting a bout between Vernon Forrest and Raul Frank to find their champion, whilst the WBC plumped for the vanquished De La Hoya and former lightweight boss Shane Mosley as their contestants.

Mosley and Forrest would take the spoils and like Leonard & Hearns and Curry & McCrory, they met to consolidate matters. Forrest trumped Shane, twice, yet his IBF title would not survive the fracas (“The Viper” had to vacate to accommodate the showdown).

Yet again, a nice lineage ensues from 2002 to 2006 via Ricardo Mayorga, Cory Spinks, Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir and finally, Floyd Mayweather. “Money” then embarked upon an extended sabbatical the following year, leaving the alphabet boys to take flight, again, inevitably, on diverging courses.

Oh I almost forgot, the WBA title had returned to the fold once more by now, only it had now transmogrified into a “super title” just prior to Mayorga trouncing Forrest, so three had become four… spooky… before returning back to three when the WBA decided that describing Baldomir as a “super” anything could invite a visit from the trade descriptions people.

I digress… oh yes, Shane Mosley whupped Luis Collazo for one of the remaining three trinkets (WBC), Kermit Cintron stopped Mark Suarez for another (IBF), whilst Miguel Cotto starched Carlos Quintana for the third (WBA).

Cintron would eventually lose to Antonio Margarito, who would gobble up Cotto, who’d bested Mosley, yet he’d emerge with just the one title, the WBA edition, although crucially, neither IBF nor WBC honours would be lost from any of the four in the ring.

So tentatively, and despite not having gained Ring Magazine approval, we could take a punt at Margarito having been a deserving welter champ. And of course, Mosley tore him a new one last year, so it can be argued that this is a legit welterweight championship fight, despite the actual “title” being anything but. When Mosley fought Margarito, the WBA strap the Mexican took from Cotto, mutated into a “super” version once again with the “normal” version winding up in the Ukraine, around the waist of Vyacheslav Senchenko.

It can be debated as to whether belts really do just gather dust, but you can’t gripe over Floyd’s logic. Why would you pay a fee to fight for something which may or may not relate to something Ray Leonard once held back when the Jheri curl was in vogue?


About Tim Starks

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