Canelo Alvarez

The WBC Belt Is a Piece of $%*#

Miguel Cotto - Canelo Alvarez Ismael Gallardo RBRBoxing (1)
Photo by Ismael Gallardo/RBRBoxing

I mean, it’s about time, right? Miguel Cotto was stripped of the WBC Middleweight title because he “did not comply with the WBC rules and regulations.” So, what were these rules and regulations Cotto failed to adhere to? Did he wait too long to defend it? Did he try to fight a guy ranked lower than the WBC found acceptable? Was he secretly video recorded nude using the belt as a sexual device? Nope.

He just failed to pay up.

Specifically, he failed to fork over $300,000 dollars to the World Boxing Council to reserve the right to fight for the belt. The belt that he earned by beating the hell out of Sergio Martinez. If you’re still trying to wrap your head around this, put simply–a champion has to pay up to keep the belt. If this appears to fly in the face of all logic, you aren’t alone in your thinking.

I don’t recall hearing that the Patriots have to pay money to defend the Lombardi Trophy. But this isn’t exclusive to the WBC. There are a seemingly endless supply of sanctioning bodies who gladly throw out titles, as long as you pay to play. WBC, WBA, IBF, they’re basically all doing the same thing. One word for it is extortion.

That the WBC stripped Cotto for not paying up is no surprise. That Cotto, one of boxing’s biggest stars, turned his back on them, isn’t a surprise either. He doesn’t need the belt, and the fact that he won’t be fighting for it Saturday night doesn’t really matter to anyone paying to watch. Cotto, with or without this trinket belt, is the lineal Middleweight champion. He holds the only true belt that matters, one that can’t be paid for. One that can’t be bought. It can only be fought for, won or lost in the ring. This is how it’s supposed to be.

There are those who’ve criticized Cotto’s unwillingness to play ball. To some, it signifies a clear avoidance of Gennady Golovkin, the Middleweight division’s best fighter. Indeed, Cotto apparently paid a portion of $800,000 dollars to Golovkin as step-aside money. Basically, Golovkin agreed to move out of the way so that Cotto vs. Alvarez could happen.

Ostensibly, the winner of that fight would then fight Golovkin for the WBC title. But now, the WBC will make Golovkin the champion, should Cotto win his fight. Golovkin will presumably pay his sanctioning fees with a merry smile on his face, because he likes to gobble up belts like Pac Man. If Canelo Alvarez should win on Saturday night, then he will be the champion. Again, even if Cotto successfully defends the belt, it is no longer his. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

The thing is, even if Cotto had paid up, the chances that he would have immediately fought Gennady Golovkin were nonexistent. Golovkin is a killing machine, and Cotto, at 35, would want no part of him. Does it suck? Absolutely. The best fighter in the division isn’t the lineal champion, and the only reason he isn’t the champ is because the champ won’t fight him. But that’s another article. The WBC isn’t the victim here. The fact that they change their own rules at will while promoting champions, silver champions, diamond champions, and super-duper-ultra-awesome champions shouldn’t be lost on anybody.

Cotto did what he did because he doesn’t really care if the belt is gone. He’s still the only champion that matters, at least until he’s defeated. Hopefully, more fighters follow his lead. The cries for a unified boxing commission have fallen on deaf ears for years. The idea that a commision would oversee one champion per division, fighting for a belt that can only be lost in the ring, seems about as realistic as an episode of The Bachelor. Boxing fans put up with this fact because they love the fights. Fans suffer through controversies, wading through the slimy muck of corrupt organizations for the chance to see a fight of the year break out at any moment.

Fighters put up with it too, because for some, holding a belt, even a trinket that hardcore fans know means nothing, can be used to further their careers. Here’s an example–Deontay Wilder is considered the WBC champion in the heavyweight division, while Alexander Povetkin is their “silver” champion. Of course, neither is the actual Heavyweight champion. That honor goes to Wladimir Klitschko. They don’t give a shit. They want money, and they get it, because the promoters can use these belts as a promotional tool.

But this time around, the WBC didn’t get what it wanted. For whatever reason, Cotto refused to oblige. This happens so rarely that it brings a smile to many faces. Cotto didn’t pay, but he’s going to play anyway. Part of me is hoping Canelo Alvarez wins the fight and then promptly uses the belt as toilet paper while Max Kellerman tries to interview him and Dan Rafael emerges with the world’s weirdest erection.

What’s far more likely to happen is that everything returns to status quo. Somebody will pay, because somebody always pays. Let’s just savor this one for now.

Hopefully the fight is a fantastic battle, one that further pushes useless trinket belts away from the conversation. Maybe we’ll see a pattern emerge. Cotto isn’t the first fighter to have stuck it to a sanctioning body. Let’s just hope he’s simply next, in a long line…

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