There was a time when the Ring Magazine Rankings were the rankings by which boxing fans and the mainstream media followed championship movement in the sport. The sanctioning bodies– The WBA and upstart, WBC– were relatively minor background players. Then, Ring Magazine began selling placement in their rankings to Don King in the events leading to the infamous Ring Magazine Scandal of 1977.
After their Bible of Boxing auction was discovered, Ring Magazine fell from grace and the networks, looking for some sort of structure, turned to the alphabet organizations for rankings and some logic behind the mayhem. The WBA and WBC grew in power and that growth brought two more organizations into the mix– The IBF and WBO. From that point on, boxing rankings became a confusing mish-mosh of odd fighter placements, numerous titles, and sleazy backroom machinations.
So, how ironic is it that Ring Magazine would come back decades later and sell themselves as the cure for boxing’s chaotic rankings structure?
Today, perhaps noticing the folly of claiming to have boxing’s “real” world champs yet showing vacancies in 11 of 17 divisions, Ring Magazine changed their “championship” policy:
NEW CHAMPIONSHIP POLICY
Championship vacancies can be filled in the following two ways:
1. THE RING’s Nos. 1 and 2 contenders fight one another.
2. If the Nos. 1 and 2 contenders choose not to fight one another and either of them fights No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5, the winner may be awarded THE RING belt.
THE RING also wants to encourage its champions to face worthy opponents. With that in mind, here are the six situations in which a champion may lose his belt:
1. The Champion loses a fight in the weight class in which he is champion.
2. The Champion moves to another weight class.
3. The Champion does not schedule a fight in any weight class for 18 months.
4. The Champion does not schedule a fight at his championship weight for 18 months (even if he fights at another weight).
5. The Champion does not schedule a fight with a Top-5 contender from any weight class for two years.
6. The Champion retires.
So now, at the very least, a “champion” can actually lose his title, albeit after two years of wasting everyone’s time. But a #2 fighting a #5 for the championship is about as mathematically logical as the answers I put on my 12th grade Trig final exam.
No matter what they do, though, Ring Magazine’s rankings will always be a failure. Regardless of how many press releases they issue or how many naive website owners list them as the ONLY rankings worth reading, the Ring Rankings are still just an opinion poll slapped together by an editorial staff in the employ of a promotional company (Golden Boy).
But Ring Magazine’s failed attempt at creating coherent rankings speaks to a larger issue in the sport.
For the most part, the best aren’t fighting the best and the reason for this lies in the existence of organizations willing to give fighters safe harbor in exchange for a 3% sanctioning fee. Adding one more de facto sanctioning body to the mix, brimming with its own prejudices and conflicts, isn’t exactly making the waters any less murky.
Ring Magazine may not be charging a sanctioning fee to its “champions,” but they are exacting their 3% of flesh by pimping out the fighters and the rankings as a promotional tool for their dying magazine and gaudy, Golden Boy-informercial website.
* Friend of The Boxing Tribune and part-time contributor, Alphonso Costello, also has a few words to say about Ring Magazine’s updated “championship” policy. Read his irreverent take on the issue HERE.
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About the Author: Paul has been in and around the sport of boxing for more than thirty years. You can read his work on Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, or on his own website, The Boxing Tribune. In the past, he has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. Paul currently resides in Michoacan, Mexico, where he has worked as a licensed boxing official as well as co-trainer at Ruben Olivares' gym.