Boxing

 
            === Froch's IBF decision a trigger for larger issues ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Editor
 
 Cape Coral, FL (Sports Network) - It's as predictable as political gridlock.
 
 When  a boxing fan -- casual or otherwise -- is asked to name the sport's most
 prominent  problem, chances  are  exceedingly good  that he  or  she will  say
 something along the lines of "It's just gotten too complicated."
 
 And  just  as predictable  is a subsequent  scurry by the  questioner -- be it
 respected journalist, smart-aleck blogger or omnipotent Twitter-jockey -- back
 to  the  soapbox, where  he or she  will indignantly peck  away at the greedy,
 corrupt sanctioning bodies to the delight of a rapt, sheep-like audience.
 
 The mouths roar. The masses cheer.
 
 And the problems persist unabated.
 
 Additional evidence of the latter point could come within a week's time, which
 is  the limit  IBF super  middleweight champ  Carl Froch  has imposed  on past
 conqueror  Mikkel Kessler  to  accept or  reject his  proposal  for a  English
 rematch of their initial 2010 encounter in Denmark.
 
 Kessler  won nine, eight and seven rounds on the three scorecards in the first
 go-round  and claimed  afterward he'd be agreeable to the idea of giving Froch
 another crack on his own home turf.
 
 The intervening years have featured divergent paths for the two belt-holders.
 
 Froch has won four of five in 33 months -- losing just to No. 1 Andre Ward and
 coming  back with  Nottingham  stoppages  of unbeaten  Lucian  Bute and  road-
 tripping American Yusaf Mack.
 
 The  latter  pair gave  him honorable  mentions on many  legit "Fighter of the
 Year" lists for 2012.
 
 Kessler,  meanwhile, was on the shelf for more than a year after the Froch win
 and  another 11  months after  defeating Frenchman  Mehdi Bouadla.  He finally
 regained  top-end  momentum in the weight  class with a vicious one-shot KO of
 Allan Green last May.
 
 One  fight since  ended  in a  three-round  TKO of  Brian  Magee in  December,
 establishing  him as  the WBA's dubious "regular" champion and making a return
 with Froch a viable attraction.
 
 But that still might not be good enough for some.
 
 If  Kessler accepts terms for the rematch, chances are probably at least 50/50
 that  the  IBF will  balk and  proceed with  stripping Froch  for not making a
 mandatory defense against Adonis Stevenson.
 
 According  to IBF  rules, champions  in each  division below  heavyweight must
 defend against a leading available contender within nine months of acquiring a
 title.  Stevenson is  the No. 1 challenger in the IBF's latest rankings. Mack,
 at  the time of  Froch's initial defense, was not in the organization's top 15
 at 168.
 
 In other words, it's all right there in black and white.
 
 But  if  the boys in  East Orange  follow their own  specs, the outcry will be
 loud.
 
 Much will come from the legions locked into belief that sanctioning bodies are
 the  root  of all evil,  and that any effort  toward anything other than their
 complete dissolution is an effort wasted.
 
 And  rather than reassembling the morass with designs on a better end product,
 they  say,  the boards and  nails should be tossed  aside to allow the sport's
 most recognized top-shelf performers -- like Froch -- more freedom to legislate
 themselves.
 
 Problem  is, while it makes sense and reads well, in the end it simply doesn't
 work.
 
 Though  the top 10  or 15 in the world are indeed able to call their shots and
 pick  titles most  worthy  of their  wardrobes, the  vast  majority of  active
 professionals -- and active amateurs aspiring to be active professionals -- are
 still driven by the lure of championship status.
 
 "Any  belt is  good," said Kassim Ouma,  a former one-defense IBF champ at 154
 pounds  who was  beaten in  subsequent  tries for  middleweight belts  against
 Jermain Taylor and Gennady Golovkin.
 
 And  while scrapping  the system  taps into  the "off  with their  heads" vibe
 shared  by fans, to do so would eliminate the prizes guys like Stevenson, Ouma
 and others still anonymous pursue in the shadows.
 
 Championships, at least to fighters, are still necessary.
 
 If nothing else, as a backstage pass to where the headline acts hang out.
 
 According  to  Philadelphia heavyweight Eddie  Chambers, who was stopped in 12
 rounds  by Wlad  Klitschko in  his lone  title shot  three years  ago, there's
 nothing better than winning and holding a belt or two to gain admission to the
 club where such trinkets are no longer valued.
 
 "I  think for a fighter that is just coming up (winning a title) is important,
 but  for an established fighter not so much," he said. "Because he is now more
 of  a household  name and therefore, a  star, and (he) doesn't really need any
 belt to solidify him."
 
 Nonetheless,  it'd be best for everyone to reach a place where Chambers' logic
 falls flat.
 
 And,  while  the others might suggest  an alternate destination, here are five
 ways to get us there:
 
 -- If You Ignore it, Maybe They Won't Come
 
 Fans,  analysts,  countrymen...  don't  acknowledge anything  other  than  the
 basics.  Concurrent fights between contenders are just that. Not interim title
 fights or title eliminators. Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but they've
 got  no  place in  boxing.  As  for  the  media, anyone  caught  acknowledging
 imposters should be subject to permanent credential suspension.
 
 -- A Common Set of Rankings
 
 Rather  than a  half-dozen groups  with a  half-dozen Top  20s, how  about one
 unified  set compiled  either by a disinterested machine or a media consortium
 not  wholly  owned by a promotional  company? Let the sanctioning bodies pluck
 their  challengers from  a  common  list, at  least  moving toward  guaranteed
 legitimacy for all participants in title bouts.
 
 -- Mandatory, But With a Twist
 
 Require incumbents to defend twice per year, once against a common No. 1 -- or
 highest  available --  and once against a  Top 10 foe. If a champion elects to
 fight  more in  a year,  other  opponents should  be  chosen at  his whim.  An
 anonymous  hometown  kid, a  big-money  foil  25  pounds lighter...  makes  no
 difference.   And  anyone  who  can  win  multiple  titles  and  meet  defense
 requirements in multiple classes, go right ahead.
 
 -- Catch This
 
 Weight-class  boundaries  need to  be non-negotiable. If  a fighter chooses to
 defend  his  title two pounds lighter  than the limit,  so be it. But no title
 match  should  be sanctioned  "requiring" any  fighter to  come in at anything
 other  than established  weights. Erase  this silly  promotional loophole  and
 watch  how quickly the post-fight "Waaaah... this is why my favorite guy lost"
 threads dry up.
 
 -- Technological Superhighway
 
 If  the  NFL in  2012 showed  nothing else,  it's that  sports with a built-in
 feasibility  for instant  replay ought  to use  it. Replay  should be  used to
 determine  whether cuts are caused by punches, and, if protests are filed over
 controversial  scoring decisions, it should be employed to give three separate
 arbiters  a  chance to  uphold or  vacate the  verdict. If  it's the latter, a
 rematch should be immediate.
 
 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 WBC light flyweight title --Toluca, Mexico
 Adrian Hernandez (champion) vs. Dirceu Cabarca (unranked)
 Hernandez (25-2-1, 16 KO): First title defense; Held WBC belt in 2011 (one
 defense)
 Cabarca (13-6, 5 KO): First title fight; Winless in career at 108 pounds (0-2)
 Fitzbitz  says: "Panamanian taking  a big drop in weight, but a larger jump in
 class to meet one of world's premier 108-pounders. It's a rough mix that won't
 leave a pleasant taste." Hernandez in 8
 
 NOTE:  Fights  previewed are  only those involving  a sanctioning body's full-
 fledged  title-holder --  no interim,  diamond,  silver, etc.  Fights for  WBA
 "world  championships" are  only included if no "super champion" exists in the
 weight class.
 
 Last week's picks: None
 2013 picks record: 0-0
 Overall picks record: 462-152 (75.2 percent)
 
 Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally
 since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 
 
 01/10 20:38:29 ET

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