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Ugas Is The Champion: Not By Choice

Photo: PBC Boxing

New York: Yordenis Ugas is a champion and not the way he would have preferred. The WBA designated the Cuban born Ugas their WBA welterweight champion because Manny Pacquiao has been inactive.

So Pacquiao is the WBA champion in “recess.” Ugas is the champion because of bylaws and that is a major issue with boxing. Ugas was title bound but this is another example of a championship determined out of the ring from one of the major sanctioning organizations that have a handle on the sport.

The organizations have done this for years. The Panama based WBA, Mexico based WBC, and the IBF continue to make decisions based on bylaws that leave many questions and no answers.

Basically, it’s wrong and fighters are trapped. Pacqiao, the eight-division Hall of Fame bound champion is in that situation

And once again, I refer to the line of the late NY sports scribe Dick Young. He was an old school journalist and covered classic championship fights at ringside when boxing was a sport and the WBA had a different criteria of crowning a champion and determining who gets a shot at the tile. He said to me many times that boxing needs to get it right.

Young was accustomed to writing about the promoters back then. Hall of Famers Don King and Bob Arum had a few boxing sanctioning organizations, the WBC and WBA in their pocket. He was a boxing writer and a fan of the sport with little tolerance for nonsense.

Ugas, who lost a previous title opportunity. and not short of skills, won this WBA championship title through default.

But this decision to strip Pacquiao of the title is not right. In fact the decision will not be challenged and it stinks from one end of the corner to the other. It stings from Panama, to Cuba, to the United States, and to the Philippines where Pacquiao has his eyes on the presidency of his homeland.

So here are the guidelines as stated by the WBA:

“ The recess can be invoked “when a champion is unable to defend the belt for medical, legal or other reasons beyond his control.”

Pacquiao has been idle but this was not in his control because of the politics and sanctioning organizations that rule the sport. He hasn’t been in the ring since July 2019, when he defeated Keith Thurman in a split decision to win one of the four major belts in the 147-pound division. He has been centered around fighting WBO champion Terence Crawford or lightweight contender Ryan Garcia.

Last week, I wrote about the Pacquiao-Garcia plan and how that would be bad for boxing for any number of reasons, and now that fight appears to be just talk. Pacquiao, needs a fight and in his defense it’s not his fault that acquiring a title defense does not come easy.

Pacquiao, since leaving Top Rank and aligning with the PBC, has discovered the fights have been difficult to make. The PBC has the champions and top fighters at 147 with Shawn Porter. Thurman, Danny Garcia, and now Ugas as their new champion .

Crawford, the Top Rank fighter, has a difficult time also in trying to fight Errol Spence Jr. or getting a shot at Pacquiao. The ongoing back and forth logistics, a war of words with the PBC and Top Rank promotional banners, have put Manny Pacquiao in the middle.

For Pacquiao, as Dick Young would say, circumstances were beyond his control. So the WBA, the oldest of these alphabet soup sanctioning bodies, and there are too many, says this is a recess of his title. Pacquiao, they say, needs to defend the title and by now it is known this is not a Manny Pacquiao decision.

And here again is the problem and why boxing continues to be their own problem. Respect never comes when a champion is stripped and put in recess. Respect does not come to a sport that declares a champion out of the ring as dictated with bylaws that fighters have out of their crafty hands.

I spoke with a few promoters this week, none associated with Pacquiao, Spence, Crawford, or Ugas. They said boxing will never get it right. And they agree all of these sanctioning organizations are in control of the promoters and they did not want to be identified with the obvious fear of speaking will lead to repercussions.

Yes, boxing can be a mean sport and speaking out at times can determine good or bad for promoters and fighters that come under their banners. The WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, or the other alphabets collect the sanctioning fee from promoters. You pay them and a fight is made. You pay them and your fighter propels in the rankings, and a title shot is on the horizon.

It’s wrong and difficult to make it right because fighters are the backbone of the sport and have no say in the matter.

They agree, the nonsense needs to conclude. But, as I have advocated, and more than once, the only way to get this right is for boxing to establish a national commission that would make the ultimate decisions of who and what when it pertains to the confusion of the alphabet soup titles.

And until there is a national boxing commission that would make some sense of this, boxing will never be right. The sport will never get it right and promoters are their worst enemy when they knock down the implementation of a national commission because they fear their control and moving a fighter up the ranks would go against their will.

But as I speak more and more to fighters, current and former, they also want to see a change. They say Pacquiao was never handed a silver spoon and earned his status as the first eight-division champion. Of course the fighters who speak would rather be anonymous and that is easy to understand.

Oppose one or more of the sanctioning organizations, you are not the good guy. You go against their standards and the repercussions are sure to come.
One current fighter said to me, “I never played the game. Why I self promote myself. I call my own shots but it hurts me because I am not a part of these sanctioning groups that rule the sport.”

He does not get a ranking and with talent a title shot goes out the window. That stinks because he does not play the game of boxing politics and agree with the bylaws of these lucrative sanctioning groups.

But you do hear the talk. Fighters, without a union like other sports, and with minimal authority, are looking for some unity. They want their sport to be fair and played the right way.

The Manny Pacquiao situation could be that wake up call. Let’s face it, we all know he is still the WBA welterweight champion and in recess. But for now Yordenis is a champion but not the way he would have preferred.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso “Sports With Rich” YouTube Like, Comment, Subscribe

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