Two Points Against The Alphabet Belt Gang, Post-Mayweather Vs Pacquiao

We’ve talked before about the real championship that was at stake in Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao this weekend, the true welterweight crown that restarted the lineage at 147 lbs. Here are two points against the sanctioning organizations (the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF) that we haven’t made before.

1. Allan Lalisan last year wrote a thesis as part of his master’s degree in economics at the University of the Philippines entitled, “Pricing a Prizefight: Do Fighters’ Statistics Influence Viewer Interest in Pay-Per-View Boxing?” It tackles when belts were on the line or not. The question is important because belts are sometimes used in advertisements for boxing shows, and in so far as the belts might have one of several hypothetical positive impact on the sport, it potentially would be if it lured viewers who weren’t otherwise interested in boxing.

I say “potentially” because I’ve always suspected that the proliferation of belts might lure in the occasional new fan, but once they realize there are tons of belts in every weight class, the jig will be up and they’ll feel fooled. It’s just a guess, though.

Anyway, Lalisan measured it. Here’s the abstract on his paper, which covered the 1990s through 2012.

This paper tests to see if putting championship belts at stake in pay-per-view boxing title fights has any impact on consumer interest as measured by the revenues earned by the event, and if revenues are similarly affected by fighter records, previous success in championship fights, and other tangible measures of fighter quality. A multivariate ordinary least squares regression shows that championship fights do not have any statistically significant advantage over non-title bouts in attracting viewers. Better winning records, as measured by the average percentage of previous fights won by both fighters, also have no statistically significant impacts on revenues. However, fights featuring fighters who have more previous championship fight wins and who have faced opponents with a higher winning percentage tend to be more attractive to pay-per-view fight buyers.

In other words — basically, no, according to an economic analysis, the various title belts have no impact on how well a PPV fight sells when a belt is on the line. (I only learned of Lalisan’s completed thesis recently, or would have discussed it much sooner.)

2. The New York Times tackled how confusing the title belt picture was for Mayweather-Pacquiao here.

The best part of the story was this:

This is all so annoying and complicated that HBO, for one, simply does not discuss it on the air. HBO and Showtime are sharing the telecast Saturday night.

“We decided many years ago that identifying or referring to boxing’s sanctioning bodies in our telecasts would not service our viewers,” said Rick Bernstein, executive producer of HBO Sports. “Fans identify with the fighters, and discussing sanctioning bodies and their policies is like going down a rabbit hole and not knowing when you’ll come out the other side.”

While this is largely true, we do see HBO sometimes advertise a title fight as a title fight. But until this story, I wasn’t aware there was a policy against talking about them on the telecasts. Such a policy is a good idea.

And it’s an important part of the equation to start sucking the power away from these organizations. The more fans and authorities recognize their harmful quantities and shun them, the less important they will become to fighters and others who place value on them, in theory. Then, ideally, we can return to a time where there’s one champion per division and the sport will attract more fans who, as the Times story demonstrated, currently find all these belts too confusing, and, again, ideally, everyone gets paid more because more fans are watching the sport.

(We’ve also seen the PBC boxing series abandon sanctioning organizations mentions, and while there’s one stray report that they might mint their own, it hasn’t yet been confirmed by any other outlets.)

This Vox story also gave a nod to lineal championships in its breakdown of the confusing belt picture, even if it didn’t mention the organization that works on that with which I’m affiliated, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. Still, for those who care about such things — and some don’t — it was nice, amid all the pictures of Mayweather and Pacquiao standing around with various belts, to see a news outlet cut through the clutter and explain what’s wrong with the alphabets, then bring up an alternative.

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.