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The Return of Tournaments – a Potential Solution for Boxing

March 22nd, 2013 at 12:45 PM
By Sharon Scrima

'Boxing Gloves' photo (c) 2002, Kristin Wall - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

With the news earlier this week that HBO will no longer purchase fights from Golden Boy Promotions for the foreseeable future, comes the possibility of better match-ups within each promotional company's stable of fighters. Both Golden Boy and rival Top Rank have expressed interest in staging a tournament that would do exactly that while providing a solution for boxing.

Between the multitude of sanctioning organizations and title belts that currently exist within boxing, it is virtually impossible for anyone to stake an absolute claim to being the true champion of a weight division at any given time. The resulting confusion and lack of clarity has been a factor in driving many fans away from the sport.

Historically, tournaments have served boxing and its fans rather well.

Aimed to have one universally recognized world champion, Don King kicked off a tournament on January 17, 1986 that involved all of the top heavyweights during that era. The presence of the dominating and ferocious Mike Tyson, who emerged as the undisputed champion with his victory over Tony Tucker on August 1, 1987, undoubtedly played a massive role in the success of this tournament. Nevertheless, the structure and flow of the competition kept fans involved and interested throughout the entire 18 months.

It was a glorious time for boxing.

Showtime's Super Six super middleweight tournament that commenced on October 17, 2009 may have been structurally flawed and was beset by injuries, withdrawals and delays, finally concluding over two years later on December 17, 2011. However, it yielded one of boxing's best pound-for-pound fighters in undisputed champion Andre Ward who may not have otherwise been given such a platform to showcase his talents and catapult up the ranks.

The bantamweight tournament held on Showtime that started on December 11, 2010 also resulted in the emergence of a future star. Structured in a far simpler and cleaner approach than the Super Six, Abner Mares defeated Joseph Agbeko in the finals of a four-man tournament on August 13, 2011. He has since gone on to win a world title at super bantamweight and looks to capture a third-division championship when he challenges WBC featherweight belt holder Daniel Ponce De Leon on the pay-per-view undercard of Mayweather-Guerrero on May 4. At 27 years old and with a good deal of exposure on Showtime, Mares can potentially be a future pound-for-pound ranked fighter within the next three to five years.

With a very deep stable of talented fighters, Golden Boy intends to create a tournament between their top fighters at 140 pounds with the winner of WBA/WBC titleholder Danny Garcia v. Zab Judah on April 27 to face the winner of IBF champion Lamont Peterson v. Lucas Matthysse targeted for May 18. It is expected that the winner of that fight will go up against former WBA light welterweight titlist Amir Khan, which creates a great deal of anticipation since this could potentially give him the opportunity to avenge one of his back-to-back losses to either Peterson or Garcia. This set-up is also very appealing since the tournament would involve three of the four world recognized titleholders, hence creating unification.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum also plans to stage a tournament among four exciting fighters in the welterweight division with Filipino star Manny Pacquiao, Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez, hard-hitting Brandon Rios and WBO champion Timothy Bradley. Arum told BoxingScene.com/Manila Standard that match-ups will be determined after the March 30 light welterweight rematch between Rios and Mike Alvarado. Any formation between these four fighters would make for great action bouts, even though Bradley is currently the only titleholder. The world anxiously awaits to see how Pacquiao returns after his devastating knockout loss to Marquez and all three opponents hold a good deal of intrigue in that regard. This particular tournament is less likely to develop, however, since the 39-year old Marquez has been non-committal on his future plans to continue boxing.

Naturally, the absence of tournaments in recent years has not been the only issue plaguing the sport. In large part, it has been the business of boxing that has prevented this level of competition from taking place. A tournament would help to restore faith that boxing can still be a sport rather than a business interest that must be protected at all costs.

It would be ideal if a fight could be arranged whereby the winner from each promotional company's tournament faced off against each other in a particular weight class. Perhaps by that time, this "Cold War" will have warmed over.

That would be an even better solution for boxing.

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Tags: Abner Mares, Amir Khan, Andre Ward, Bob Arum, Boxing, Brandon Rios, Danny Garcia, Juan Manuel Marquez, Lamont Peterson, Lucas Matthysse, Manny Pacquiao, Mike Tyson, Timothy Bradley, Zab Judah

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