Boxing’s biggest star may also become one of its biggest problems.
Over the weekend the ever popular boxing middleweight division advanced.
Jermall “The Hitman” Charlo made a successful defense of his newly upgraded WBC title in his hometown of Houston, Texas. His victory over Brandon Adams was his first defense of his middleweight crown in his hometown and first fight in H-town since 2012.
Charlo went from interim WBC middleweight champ to full champ as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was bequeathed with a newly minted WBC franchise champion belt.
“Canelo has done a great job of being a champ, Golovkin also,” said Charlo. “Those guys are at the top but there’s always a young underdog and a lion ready to take over. That’s me.”
Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island, WBO Middleweight champion Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade also made a successful title defense homecoming. The Cape Verdean Olympian pitched a shut-out win over Maciej Sulecki on DAZN and immediately called out Alvarez.
“Forget the WBC shit,” said Andrade in the post-fight intrview. “Whatever that ‘Franchise’ belt is. Let’s go, Canelo. Let’s unify this division. Let’s have one champion. It’s right here. Let’s do it. No more running, no more games. Let’s put it all on the line and see who is the best. Mano y mano. Viva Mexico!
The Franchise Controversy
Last Wednesday, the WBC announced that Alvarez has been reclassified as the organization’s “franchise champion”. The organization recently created the designation, which elevated interim titleholder Jermall Charlo to the full middleweight world titleholder.
When Alvarez outpointed Daniel Jacobs on May 4, he claimed a third major 160-pound world belt. Now he is down to two, adding another layer of confusion to boxing’s coterie of confusing titles.
The WBC created the “franchise champion” tag during its recent midyear meetings in Honolulu. It was approved by the WBC board of governors in a vote and was detailed in their statement as follows:
“The franchise champion is a special designation and status which the WBC may bestow to a current WBC world champion, who is also an elite boxer and who has achieved and maintains the highest of statures in the sport.”
With Canelo leading the boxing revenue stat sheet with an 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN, the move appears to confirm fears of a paper champion.
According to the WBC:
“The WBC may, upon a two-thirds vote of the board of governors, designate in each weight category one WBC franchise champion. A franchise champion shall enjoy special status with respect to his or her mandatory obligations, holding multiple titles and competing for titles of other organizations, as the WBC board of governors rules on a case-by-case basis.
“The WBC is bestowing that honor upon champion Alvarez due to his many accomplishments, which have positioned him as major worldwide attraction in boxing, and in light of his unquestionable boxing career linked to our organization.”
The New “Money” Alvarez Era
When Floyd Mayweather fought Conor McGregor, the WBC issued the Money Belt, which was a special belt as it was a novelty. Mayweather’s actual WBC welterweight title, as well as his WBA (Super), The Ring and lineal titles, were not on the line.
For the recent Canelo Alvarez vs. Daniel Jacobs bout, the WBC issued the Mayan belt. Again it was a novelty to commemorate the Cinco de Mayo weekend the fight fell within.
The belts have always been looked at as a differentiator between the other sanctioning bodies and the WBC. Their green belt is the most coveted prize in boxing and, as such, there is a respect to uphold.
With the new “franchise champion” status of Canelo, for many, the WBC has taken the ultimate step towards eroding the very respect the organization garners.
The WBC said the designation was made via a mutual agreement between the WBC, Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions (Alvarez’s promoter). In fact, Golden Boy was not at all upset with the reclassification, even if Alvarez is no longer the WBC world titleholder.
Golden Boy owns The Ring Magazine and, subsequently, The Ring title. This public secret has always raised the eyebrows of fans.
Part of the designation requires any franchise champion to “participate in a minimum of two social responsibility events every year, organized and in conjunction with the WBC.”
However, boxing fans are confused as to why the same organization that formerly labeled Jermall Charlo the interim champion didn’t order a mandatory unification bout. Instead, Charlo fought Brandon Adams last weekend.
Currently, according to reports, Canelo is looking at fighting Sergey Kovalev at a higher weight class in his next bout in September. Talks with Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin have slowed and both Andrade and Charlo are still attempting to bait him through sound bytes.
For every major step boxing makes towards cleaning up its murky reputation, it takes a few steps back simultaneously. As the face of the sport, Canelo Alvarez has a responsibility, regardless of the WBC’s stance, to challenge the champions in his division.
Without clearing both Andrade and Charlo from his plate, he can never be considered one of the greatest middleweights and the WBC can continue to lose its reputation as the true champion’s belt.