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The ABCs of the Welterweight Division

Clottey543355_medium The alphabet soup has really outdone themselves this time.  Yesterday, Joshua Clottey vacated his IBF belt, meaning that there won't be any unification in the welterweight division once Clottey and Miguel Cotto meet up in Madison Square Garden on June 13.  Evidently, the IBF said that Clottey needed to fight his mandatory, or he would need to give up the belt.  Under normal circumstances, that might just be business as usual, and while it's annoying, it's not necessarily a travesty.  However, do you know who Joshua Clottey's mandatory is?  Delvin Rodriguez.  The same Delvin Rodriguez who became the mandatory less than a month ago, and who will be recovering from injuries from that fight for at least a couple more months. 

Since Rodriguez is the mandatory, it makes perfect sense that the title fight for the now-vacant belt will be between - get this - Isaac Hlatshwayo and Rafal Jackiewicz.  Yes, the IBF enforced a mandatory for Clottey against someone who was injured and unable to fight, and then decided to pass over the mandatory because he was injured, which is one of the most  hypocritical, ass-backwards things I've seen a sanctioning body do.  Sure, the WBO ranked a dead guy, but at least that was an honest (but stupid) mistake.  Here, they're actually acknowledging that they put Clottey in an impossible situation by putting themselves in that same impossible situation, and then making up their own new rules as they go along to fix it.

This also sets a horrible precedent generally.  Rodriguez and Hlatshwayo met in South Africa in November.  The result was a draw, although most contemporaneous reports say that Rodriguez pretty clearly won the fight.  So the IBF mandated a rematch to determine the mandatory.  Hlatshwayo then pulled out of the rematch, leaving Rodriguez to fight Shamone Alvarez in the eliminator.  Rodriguez wins, and he's rewarded by getting passed over completely, while Hlatshwayo is rewarded for pulling out of a fight late by getting a title shot. 

This isn't the only belt with a completely ridiculous situation in the welterweight division.  This past weekend, Vyacheslav Senchenko won the "WBA title" by beating Yuriy Nuzhnenko in a fight that nobody outside of the Ukraine so much as noticed.  Now you're probably thinking, Shane Mosley has the WBA title, and before that it was Antonio Margarito, and before that it was Miguel Cotto.  How does some random Eastern European who's never fought a top 20 contender end up with the belt?  Well, despite the fact that Miguel Cotto was active and fighting, the WBA decided to give out an interim belt.  Then, despite the fact that it wasn't a unification match, the WBA decided to elevate the Margarito-Cotto winner to "super" status, making the interim beltholder a regular beltholder.  And why wasn't it a unification match?  Because Margarito wouldn't defend the belt against his mandatory, Josh Clottey.  You can't make this stuff up.

I realize I may be in the minority here, but I do think that the ABCs serve a few legitimate purposes, and while there are too many of them, boxing actually needs them.  Without them, you'd never have dangerous but unknown fighters like Clottey (or Rodriguez or Jackiewicz for that matter) getting their shot.  But what boxing needs the most is for them to act consistently and not corruptly.  Between this, the nonsense making Oleg Maskaev the phantom mandatory for Vitali Klitschko, the WBC forcing Timothy Bradley to choose which belt he wants to keep, and a million other inconsistencies, I'm really starting to think that they are all more trouble than it's worth.

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