Mike "Lefty" Brooks advanced his record to 8-0 with two knockouts yesterday thanks to a unanimous decision victory over Joey Arroyo (3-3-1) at Plattduetsche Restaurant in Long Island, New York. Brooks used one-twos and landed the occasional solid body shot in order to carry the fight.
The taller Arroyo boxed; Brooks stalked and banged. Both fighters paced themselves because of the extreme humidity, which soaked the outdoor air. But Brooks was the more active puncher and the more aggressive pugilist. This was the first time Brooks has fought as many as eight rounds, a challenge he handled with ease despite the arduous weather conditions.
The scores were 80-72, 79-73, 78-74. Despite the scores, it was a competitive fight. Brooks managed to pull out the vast majority of the rounds, however slight, giving him a wide decision.
In capturing the win, Brooks earned something called the IBA youth lightweight title. A reader less versed in modern boxing parlance might wonder what that belt signifies. In today's boxing, belts with vendible labels have multiplied as if the sanctioning bodies were run by rabbits. They're a dime a dozen.
But don't blame the boxer. Who among us would turn down an Employee of the Month award or a promotion even if it was begotten by dysfunctional office politics? A belt is a mark of achievement. When a boxer's entourage proudly holds up a series of trinkets during the pre-fight introductions, it can be a source of intimidation to psych out a less decorated opponent. This aside about the prevalence of dubious titles in boxing is not to diminish Brooks's victory or Arroyo's valiant challenge in the least.
Today, there are four major sanctioning bodies. The IBA isn't one of them. They each have a world champion in the various weight divisions. Recently, they've added other terms such as champion emeritus, super champion, champion in recess, and interim champion. Then there are silver belts, diamond belts, Latino belts, North American belts, intercontinental belts, and youth belts.
It's a winning formula for a certain few in boxing. The sanctioning bodies and promoters conspire to dupe the public through the proliferation of phony titles. Whenever a fighter seeks to win a belt, he must pay a sanctioning fee. Imagine if, before the NBA Finals, LeBron James had to pay for the right to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.
So, the sanctioning bodies make money. The promoter gets to market the fight as a "title" contest, which should pull in a few more less-informed customers. The sanctioning organizations and the promoters make out like bandits. The fans and the integrity of the sport suffer.
In June, two capable fighters Gabriel Rosado and Sechew Powell fought a crossroads contest to see which might be challenging a top ten boxer in their weight class in the near future. NBC Sports announcer Kenny Rice repeatedly referred to the bout as for the junior middleweight championship. It was actually for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental light middleweight title. A few boxing writers in the know snickered, but the deception probably helped ratings.
So, how will things change? When Floyd Mayweather challenged WBA welterweight champion Shane Mosley in 2010, it wasn't for Mosley's belt. Mayweather didn't pay the sanctioning fee. But, because of his star status, Mayweather knew that he didn't need the WBA, the WBA needed him. Very few boxers are in the same position as Mayweather. Ultimately, it shouldn't come down to the boxer. Surely, it's the responsibility of the sanctioning bodies and promoters to curtail this madness. But we can't be satisfied with putting the fox in charge of the hen house. It must be the responsibility of the media to either ignore or explain the importance (or lack there of) of each so-called title.