BT Sport’s Nick Peet has ridiculed the current multi-belt, multi-promotional system in boxing.
Whereas the UFC was often regarded as the ‘noisy neighbour’ of boxing, the franchise has slowly closed the viewership gap on the ‘the sweet science’.
In 2020, as boxing stagnated, the UFC pressed on to produce shows throughout the pandemic, chalking up three of the top five pay-per-view buys that year.
But how did the sport once regarded as ‘human cock fighting’ surpass boxing – one of Britain’s greatest sporting pastimes?
Merseysportlive caught up with Liverpool’s self-proclaimed ‘Commissioner’ to find out where it all went wrong for boxing.
“The biggest issues at the moment are the fact that all the promoters and all the TV broadcasters are working against each other. It’s something we don’t see in the UFC,” said Peet.
“We (MMA fans) benefit from the fact there’s one clear leading promotion.
“Think of how American football works. There’s the NFL and then there’s other leagues but nobody gives a damn about the other leagues.
“The NFL is the one premier promotion. We don’t have that in boxing. It allows for so much fragmentation and segregation of fighters.
“Promoters take ownership of fighters and tie them into long contracts so they then can’t fight on somebody else’s tv network – that stops unification fights.
“Again, part of the success of the UFC is that it’s one singer, one song – one belt, one weight division.
“Yet in boxing, we have at least four world titles and each of those have their own governing bodies, have their own interim belts, silver belts, gold belts and all this other nonsense.
“That itself leaves the sport wide open for issues that are gonna affect the long-term growth of the sport.”
In boxing, each of the governing bodies charge sanctioning fees when a title bout is scheduled.
When Josh Taylor defended his unified super-lightweight titles against Jack Taylor back in February, it’s said he had to forfeit as much as 11% of his purse to sanctioning fees, as all four major titles were on the line (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO).
When you take into account tax, management and trainer fees – there’s no wonder why many unified champs choose to relinquish their belts as the sanctioning costs pile up.
But with title sanctioning fees proving a lucrative return for the governing bodies, the manufacturing of low tier, redundant belts has come back to hurt boxing.
“They’re all utter s****, to be honest with you,” claims Peet.
“The WBC bringing in a Bridgerweight division that nobody else has recognised is nonsense.
“That needs to be done, not by a governing body, it needs to be done by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions) – the people who set the rules of boxing.”
On the cards
Sanctioning fees are just the tip of the iceberg.
As each sanctioning body has its own set of rules for the scheduling of bouts, conflation can lead to major problems on the scorecards.
And depending on which state in America or what country in Europe, the rule set is subject to more change, depending on the governing body sanctioning the fight.
“Everyone thinks boxing is dead easy to score – ‘the guy who lands the most punches wins the fight, right?’ continued Peet.
“But when you look at the different governing bodies – the WBC 10-point system, the IBF, the WBA – you look at their website and the criteria of how to score a fight, they’re all different!
“Part of the scoring criteria with the WBA is ‘sportsmanship’.
“What does that even mean?! It’s just nonsense.”
Winds of change
To some extent, boxing’s downfall has been MMA’s gain.
As the UFC continues its voyage as the world’s fastest-growing sports franchise, boxing can only blame itself.
While fighter pay in mixed martial arts may not be as lucrative as its boxing counterpart, the UFC’s relentless capacity to make the big fights happen could be the deciding factor in future pay-per-view wars.
“It’s easy to use MMA as a comparison,” states Peet.
“MMA and the UFC were set up 25 years ago with the idea of ‘right, let’s take the razzmatazz of wrestling and the competitiveness of boxing but take away all the shit in boxing and do one clear unified ruleset that everybody adheres to.
“They’ve hit the nail on the head, it is the unified rules of MMA. Everyone adheres to it. It’s perfect.”
With an abundance of belts, confusing officiating and numerous questionable decisions, boxing has slowly alienated the casual fan.
Without due consideration to address its long-term problems, fight fans will continue to look elsewhere for their fix of the action.
(Featured image courtesy of Nick Peet [@Peety_Editor] – Twitter)