I thought that it had been established long ago that boxing can’t be trusted to govern itself and that boxing people, even the most pious of soul-searching, trivia-knowing boxing scribes, shouldn’t be trusted with any more power than they currently have.
Apparently, I was wrong.
Apparently, the folly of a rankings system based solely on opinion had nothing to do with the fact that it’s an opinion poll. Rather, they just needed to have the right people choosing.
So, bring in The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a group of honor-bound reformers who intend on fixing boxing with the same methodology and principles that have helped ruin it.
The board consists of twenty-five voting members from boxing websites of varying sizes, shapes, and odors and three mega-ultra grand poobah “chairs” who will oversee the entire process and ,presumably, paddle the asses of new recruits during pledge week.
I guess there were some people that actually took the Ring Magazine rankings seriously and, after Ring changed their championship policy, these guys went ape shit and suddenly stopped “recognizing” the magazine’s fake rankings.
So, some of these upset boxing-types set up this new super duper board of control and regulation.
Essentially, they’re just copying the Ring rankings methodology of “so, what do you think?” but adding a different roster of guys, many of whom are self-regarded experts because, I guess, they’ve watched boxing for a long time and have watched it very, very hard.
Frankly, it’s an addiction for some. The compulsive need to be on advisory panels and sit pensively in the dark, pondering whether Paulus Moses deserves a lightweight ranking.
Some of us have been screaming for reform for years while some of these guys sat on their hands and looked down their noses at bomb-throwing reformers like me and my crew here at The Boxing Tribune. Now, though, the mild and timid have become the high and mighty– not only drawing their own charter, but crowning themselves Kings of the Rankings.
And how do they plan on revitalizing and reforming the sport? By treading familiar, muddy ground and expecting it to come out differently because, well, they’re just much wiser and way more awesome than those other folks.
Most of the members are probably well-intentioned, but the minds that created this silliness could’ve created a self-sustaining system based on actual objective criteria with as little human opinion as possible. But then nobody would be able to force their fingerprint on history as part of a secret society and nobody would be able to tell their friends and family that they’re voting on something of such incredible importance each month.
So, rather than a fact-based, merit-based 100% impartial system, they’ve opted for an opinion poll.
And therein lies the problem.
Opinions are subjective, often inaccurate, and subject to all kinds of manipulation and prejudice. I assumed that we learned long ago that anything in boxing that can be corrupted, will be corrupted. So, the new rankings are essentially a group of opinions, slapped together and passed through one final inspection by the grand poobahs of the organization, who are also subject to the flaws inherent in an opinion-based system. On their website’s opening page they say they base their rankings on “strict reasoning and common sense–” Talk about a loaded statement dangerously open to interpretation and abuse.
But why are opinion-based rankings bad?
Because they are subject to being influenced by a fighter’s visibility and by the prevailing “conventional wisdom” of the Twitter-verse. Fighters with TV deals and US exposure get more consideration. Foreign fighters and those without TV deals get less consideration. This happened often with Ring Magazine, it’s already happening with this new group.
Here are just a few of many cases in point from the new organization’s own rankings:
Abner Mares, at junior featherweight, is a great fighter, a big name, and WBC world champion. But he is also a fighter with one win in the division, against an unranked Eric Morel, who was also new to the division. Yet, Mares is ranked #4 by the Trans group. This is a prime example of the big name/big bias problem inherent in opinion polls. Again, rankings are supposed to be about actual achievement, not a list of guys ranked in order of how “bad ass” the panel thinks they are. In football, the Bears are placed above the Packers because of their actual record, not because a few bloggers think the Bears are a better team.
In the same division, Vic Darchinyan earned a #10 spot in the trans group’s rankings despite having one victory in the division– against a guy in Luis Orlando Del Valle who was unranked and only competing in his second bout in the weight class. Again…big name/big bias. I wonder how Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Takalani Ndlovu, two former world champs still active and successful in the division, would feel about the fairness of the rankings panel?
Rafael Marquez, in the “Transnational” world has earned a lofty #8 ranking in the featherweight division. However, Marquez has fought exactly two bouts at the featherweight limit, one win over a faded Israel Vazquez and one loss against Juan Manuel Lopez– both about two years ago. Why was Marquez ranked ahead of some guys who have been active and have been winning? Because of the name value. Fighters with big names and/or added visibility, especially in the lower weight classes and those divisions populated by more foreign fighters, will often get a higher ranking than they actually deserve in opinion-based polls. Frankly, calling them “opinion-based polls” is generous. More often than not, they eventually degenerate into popularity polls.
Then we have the case at junior middleweight where Miguel Cotto is ranked #2 despite having only three wins in the division with two being against unranked opposition (Margarito, Mayorga). Maybe Cotto could beat everyone from #3 to #10, but that’s not why rankings exist. They are not an “I can beat your ass list” of who we think can whup the next guy. They are supposed to rank achievement.
Move down further at 154 and you’ll see Erislandy Lara ranked #3, one spot ahead of Saul Alvarez. Lara is best known for a draw with Carlos Molina and a loss to Paul Williams, both controversial decisions, but not overturned by the new board’s experts that oversee such matters. Other than those two bouts, Lara’s only recent wins at the 154 lb. limit have been against Tim Connors and Willie Lee. Lara has scored some victories outside of the weight limit, but this trans group claims to rank only a fighter’s achievements within the actual division.
Meanwhile, Saul Alvarez has had ten junior middleweight wins in the time it took Lara to get two. Not all have been soft touches as Ryan Rhodes was a legitimately ranked top 10 fighter and Kermit Cintron was a former champ, close enough to his title reign to be considered an okay optional defense at the time.
Alvarez’s two biggest wins and Lara’s two biggest fails are comparable, and even if you give Lara the benefit of the doubt for the higher level of opposition, Alvarez’s other wins (Lopez, Mosley, Gomez, Hatton, Ndou, Baldomir, Cuello, and JM Cotto) far surpass Lara’s Connors and Lee wins.
So, then, why is Lara ranked above Alvarez?
Because Alvarez has run afoul of the boxing intelligentsia and is currently taking criticism for the level of his opposition while Lara just signed on to fight Vanes Martirosyan. Lara is looking good, Alvarez is looking bad. Opinion forms around these perceptions and overrides what actual logic dictates. The fact is that Alvarez deserves a higher ranking than Lara, even if he is a protected champion. Facts are facts.
These were just a few things that popped out while skimming through their rankings . There are a couple more that I won’t even bother mentioning. Maybe there’s not enough there to throw the whole new panel in the trash, but the fact that bias has already crept into their first month in existence sets the precedent for bigger and more awful things to come.
But here’s maybe the worst part.
This group will be throwing their respective websites’ strength and reach behind this idea before it has even proven its merits…Sink, swim, or float– this is it. They’re controlling the modes of communication and giving themselves the authority to validate it .”Trust us now, we’ll prove ourselves later”– except they will also be the guys assessing their own success.
It’s a smiley face bandage on a gaping neck wound. Something to make them feel better about their roles in the Universo Pugilistico. High-fives and ass-pats all around. In terms of boxing, however, they’re just treading old ground.
There was a time when I actually cared about joining forces with other writers and making some sort of stab at reform. I reached out to a couple of these people, practically begging them them to take off the gloves and take up the call for true reform. They sat on their hands. But, looking back, I guess there wasn’t enough glory in efforts to create a real, autonomous, self-sustaining rankings system—they wanted their fingerprint on history and something they could put on a business card.
As for the secret society of rankings gurus, itself, I see a lot of “establishment” names and would-be social climbers on their panel. A couple of decent people. A few absolute unknowns. And, overall, about a 90% rate of “this guy is an expert, setting the pace for a new tomorrow?” It’s heavily skewed towards the US and UK. Latin America, Africa, and Asia are almost completely unrepresented. In short, it’s an Anglo, upper middle class dining room cigar club in terms of membership. But we know that these types of clubs rarely produce injustices, right?
At the end of the day, this transnational rankings society is another panel, board, organization tossed into the path of true reform. Busy work, at best. Interference to real reform, at worst.
What’s disappointing is the utter inability of boxing people, even the biggest and best of the blogging brainiacs, to think outside the box. It all comes down to their compulsive need to fall back on the old boy network and tired old convention when faced with boxing’s problems. Nothing they’re doing will really work because it has never worked before. It’s just a chop clock to real reform– Ring Magazine 2.0, as The Boxing Tribune’s Tim Harrison calls it.
And before anyone thinks that this is an ego thing on my part or a claim that I can do a better job– It isn’t. I do have my own criteria for such matters and I update The Boxing Tribune’s rankings every week. But I would love to fully endorse a real, fair, impartial system that could alleviate my growing workload and actually help the sport at the same time. I don’t care about being an “expert” or a respected member of some panel of Super Ranking Friends. I’ve dedicated 30+ years to boxing and I only want what’s best for it.
I’m also not under the illusion that this Rant will change anything. Most likely, this soapbox soliloquy will be met with silence or derision. That’s what old boy networks do to dissenting voices– even those old boy networks of the brand new, upstart variety.
I just want to go on record. I want our loyal readers, friends and any newcomers to know why this new rankings panel is a misstep and a distraction from something better that could’ve come along. While we’re wasting time making old mistakes, the reform we so badly need is being kept at bay.
As The Who said, “Meet the new boss– same as the old boss.”
We won’t get fooled again.
Maybe so, but, apparently, some people just can’t stop fooling themselves.
You can email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or watch as he forms his own group of glory-loving, pen-pushing, transUNIVERSAL experts . Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.