Navigating Boxing's Alphabet Titles Part 2: The WBC

Look at the happy little man surrounded by happy little flags. via wbcme.co.uk

Part 1: The WBA

World Boxing Council (WBC)

The WBC split off from the WBA back in 1963.  Because of the way the WBA was structured, U.S. interests dominated the organization despite it supposedly having become a world organization.  Boxing leaders from 11 countries, including the British Boxing Board of Control and the predecessors of the EBU, decided to start a boxing organization that would have a more even distribution of its rankings and champions.  Because of this history, the WBC remains comprised by a number of smaller federations, some of which have been created as the organization rolls along, including the EBU, the BBBoC, the Central American Boxing Federation (FECARBOX), the NABF and about a half dozen other organizations. 

The WBC has been synonymous with its president, Jose Sulaiman, for over 30 years now, which can be both a good and bad thing.  If you've ever watched the WBC's absurd convention slideshow on Suljos, you'll know that the WBC prides itself on being the innovators of the alphabet organizations.  This means that they have been among the first to institute such positive changes as standardizing the 10-point must scoring system, instituting certain medical and anti-doping protections and eliminating the saved by the bell rule.  They've also been the first organization to fully embrace the power of the internet, with both a snazzy website and a deal where they play quite a few title fights for free via live legal streaming.  On the other hand, it also means they were the first body to take a number of negative or ambiguous actions (although if you ask Sulaiman, they're great things) such as adding open scoring to title fights and the institution of about a dozen smaller titles than the world championship belt, outside of even the championships of its constituent federations.

Like the WBA, the WBC can have a number of champs at the same time:

  • "Regular" champion - This is the man in the weight class for the body.  
  • "Silver" champion - This is the WBC's new name for its interim title.  Officially, the WBC is only supposed to grant interim titles when the regular champion can't fight for six months because of injury or other causes he reasonably control, but in reality, the WBC grants silver titles much more frequently than that.
  • "Diamond" champion - In reality, this 'champion' doesn't mean anything other than that there's a fight the WBC wants to get their grubby little paws on.  Officially, it's a pimped out belt for catchweight fights between two top ranked contenders.  Really, it was just invented for the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, because the WBC wanted to get some fees and a higher profile.  
  • Champion emeritus - The WBC rules don't actually create a champion emeritus status, but they seem to have it anyway.  If a fighter stops fighting but never loses his title in the ring, then he can come back and fight for a title there without being ranked.  Currently, Bernard Hopkins (at 175), Floyd Mayweather Jr. (at 154) and Edgar Sosa (at 108) are listed as champions emeritus.  This created some confusion when Vitali Klitschko came out of retirement.  Oleg Maskaev was the champ and Sam Peter was his mandatory.  With Klitschko getting a first crack at whoever he wanted, both fighters squabbled for the better part of a year, since they both wanted to fight Klitschko, a bigger money fight for either of them.  Eventually, Peter got to fight Maskaev first and then Klitschko faced Peter, but for his trouble, the WBC installed Maskaev as an undeserving mandatory.  Fortunately, he was knocked out by Nagy Aguilera before we were forced to watch Maskaev get destroyed by Vitali. 
  • "Super" champions - For a couple years, they had super champions.  With the institution of the silver title, they seem to have very quietly eliminated super champions, which is a good thing.
  • Mandatory challengers - The WBC sets title eliminators to become the mandatory challenger.  Winner of the eliminator becomes the challenger.  But these days, they're generally just having guys fight for the silver title, so they can get more sanctioning fees.  

The WBC ratings committee is comprised of 10 people, all of whom need to come from different countries.  This can be both good and bad.  On the positive side, it means that guys from lesser known locations are more likely to climb the rankings and get well-deserved title shots.  On the negative side, it means a lot of well-known and deserving fighters don't get ranked highly, because each person on the committee is jockeying to get fighters from his own country ranked in the top 10.  The committee ranks 40 fighters in each weight class, and champs and challengers for the other organizations cannot be ranked.  

Title bouts are required to have judges and referees that don't come from the home country of either fighter, and the judges and referees are selected by the WBC except in places where the local laws require certain referees and judges be used, such as in Las Vegas or California.  One unique but little-known rule of the WBC is that, if requested by a champion's promoter, the challenger is grant an option to the champ's promoter if the challenger wins, unless it's prohibited by local law.  This means that the champ can usually force a rematch or a title fight against someone else in the old champ's stable, as long as the fight takes place within six months of the original title fight. However, the WBC also will not sanction a fight that has an immediate rematch clause.  

Champs are required to defend their titles at least twice a year, and those defenses must come against someone ranked in the WBC's top 10, unless otherwise approved by the WBC.  This also differs slightly from other organizations, which generally allow defenses against anyone in the top 15.  One of the two annual defenses must come against the mandatory challenger, which can either be the official mandatory or the silver titlist.  

There has been at least one example of outright fraud on the part of the WBC.  In the late '90's, the WBC stripped light heavyweight titlist Graciano Rocchigiani of his title and pretty much gifted it to Roy Jones Jr., who was in the process of collecting titles.  They did this in direct contravention of their actual rules.  Rocchigiani took the WBC to court, and won a large judgment against them which sent the WBC into bankruptcy.  The only reason the WBC still exists today is because Rocky agreed to settle with the WBC for a fraction of the judgment.  Considering how they almost folded for violating their own rules, one would think that they would have changed their leadership or would be more careful about following their own rules, but Sulaiman is still around, and they're still as lax at ever about following what it says in their rulebook. 

Just to give you an idea of how in-depth the WBC rulebook is, the following are a few of their sillier rules:

  • A champ is required to carry his belt into the ring in a title fight.
  • A champ who defends for five years or 12 fights gets a special plaque, but the fighter has to pay for it to get it.
  • A champ still needs to pay half of his sanctioning fees if he wants to take a non-title bout or fight in another weight class.
  • All registered promoters need to buy tickets for the WBC convention, even if they don't attend (effectively raising the cost of being a promoter who can promote WBC title fights).
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