The most fundamental problem in boxing is that there is no framework in place for consistent governance and regulation. Boxing has no infrastructure, and as such, there’s no usable path to initiate change.
Enter the Boxing Promoters Association. Formed in 2009, the BPA consists of many of the largest and most well-known promoters in the United States, aiming to work together and tackle some of the most pressing concerns in the sport. Can they enact real change in a sport which can’t seem to help itself or avoid the effects of self-inflicted wounds?
The organization’s president is Joe DeGuardia, of Star Boxing, and for him, the goal of the BPA is a seemingly simple one on the surface. “The betterment of boxing,” he told me.
That’s about as vague as it gets, of course.
A more thorough to do list for the BPA, according to DeGuardia, includes issues such as medical records and standards, health care and insurance, the impact of federal legislation on the sport and the ability of the sport as a whole to be heard by legislators, internal relations between promoters, the myriad sanctioning bodies which exist, judges and their competency, the amount, quality and tone of coverage that boxing receives in the media, and the sport’s credibility to spectators.
That’s for starters. “That just scratches the surface. The more you look, the more things there are,” he said.
Any boxing fan can reel off that list or a similar one. Therefore, the issue for the BPA isn’t in listing the problems that the sport must find a way to address, but in actually finding a way to do something about it.
This was demonstrated after the maelstrom of controversy stemming from the awful scoring in the Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley fight. The BPA released a press release promising to work as a group and with state commissions to monitor officials and provide transparency. “I am proud that the promoters have taken a giant step in organizing boxing in a positive fashion and believe it will boost the credibility, integrity and health of our sport,” DeGuardia said.
A noble cause, to be sure. Yet, to my knowledge, nothing concrete has actually been done. Discussion is great, and working together is great. But to what end? I haven’t seen any changes in the selection process of judges, the active monitoring of their scoring, improved training methods or anything else.
The BPA is a great idea in theory. And it’s an even better idea if it directly spawns some sort of national boxing commission or regulatory body. But it’s only a great idea if real steps are taken, rather than lip service and backslapping.
It’s something that DeGuardia has acknowledged, to a degree. “The real value is that we start to look at these things, and there is somebody looking at these things from the perspective of the sport. Not a personal perspective,” he said.
“What’s in the interest of the entire sport? That’s what we want to start looking at. Sometimes you have to have the whole bigger than the individual parts, and that’s what we need to do and work towards.”
Yet the promoters in the BPA didn’t put a moratorium on holding big fights in Las Vegas, site of Pacquiao-Bradley, until their commission figures out a way to ensure more accurate judging. In fact, Pacquiao’s own promoter, Top Rank, has him lined up to fight in Vegas in his very next outing, when he meets Juan Manuel Marquez on December 8. Money talks louder than the good intentions of the Boxing Promoters Association, even if it’s your own guy getting a raw deal, apparently.
Ultimately, the Boxing Promoters Association has no authority to make anybody do anything. If they want to make a difference, if they want to actually initiate positive change, it will have to come from within.
Imagine if dozens of promoters said they weren’t holding fights in Nevada — or whichever state is home to the latest scoring scandal — until a new training and monitoring system for judges was in place.
Imagine if dozens of promoters started only following an unbiased poll of boxing writers who voted on the rankings of each division, instead of forking over a share of a fighter’s purse to whichever sanctioning body is willing to let your guy fight for a shiny, worthless belt.
Imagine if dozens of promoters then said that anytime there was a clear polling consensus of the top two fighters in a division, those two fighters fought next.
Imagine if dozens of promoters agreed to legitimate, universal drug testing for every event they held.
Imagine if dozens of promoters signed a legal agreement promising to put 1% of every dollar they earn into a collective fund for the medical treatment of retired fighters.
Sounds pretty great, right? It’ll take more than a few press releases and speeches on the greater good of the sport to make it happen though.
This article was first published on Yahoo Sports on November 25, 2012