Shooting down myths

Graham Houston
10/08/2017 8:46pm

Fallacies pop up from time to time, argues Boxing Monthly editor Graham Houston, including a nonsensical one about the so-called ‘real’ reason behind 12-round title fights...

There are a number of myths in boxing.

One is that a challenger has to beat a champion decisively to take his title via a points decision. This, of course, is nonsense. Any number of titles have changed hands on a close, sometimes debatable decision.

Another myth is: You have to knock them out to get a draw in Germany. I’m still hearing that one from time to time. There’s a very long list of visiting fighters who have won decisions in Germany, including Mairis Briedis in April.

I’m sure we’ve all read the one about where a boxer who breaks his hand in a fight will just keep punching until the hand goes numb. Paulie Malignaggi, who knows a thing or two about broken hands, shot that one down. In his role as a TV analyst for Showtime, he explained that it hurts even to block a punch with a broken hand, let alone keep punching with it.

Another one that I heard only a few weeks ago is that “cynics” believed the WBC reduced the number of rounds from 15 to 12 in world title fights to suit American television programme schedules, and not for fighter-safety reasons.

To the best of my knowledge, this notion was floated by the late, great Harry Mullan, who suggested — perhaps mischievously, knowing Harry — that a 12-round fight would fit neatly into a one-hour programming slot.

As we all know, the WBC brought in the 12-round limit shortly after the Korean fighter, Deuk Koo Kim, died after being stopped in the 14th round of a particularly gruelling lightweight title fight with Ray Mancini that was shown on US national television in November 1982. (See photo, above left)

The WBA, though, continued with 15-round title bouts until 1987, five years after the WBC’s ruling. The IBF, formed in 1983, was still sanctioning 15-round title bouts up to 1988.

So, if the reduction from 15 to 12 rounds was to benefit US television programming schedules, how come the WBA and later the IBF weren’t in on the deal?

The three “free” TV networks used boxing as a staple on their sports anthology shows: ABC Wide World of Sports, CBS Sports Spectacular and NBC SportsWorld. If a fight ended inside the distance, the network would use canned programming to fill out the time slot: highlights of The World’s Strongest Man competition, whatever.

Why on earth would all three US TV networks get their heads together (such an unlikely scenario) and work out a secret deal with the WBC for 12-round title bouts when the WBA wasn’t on side?

If having a neat one-hour time-slot was so important to US TV networks, why not have all sports fit into a one-hour time slot? No more endless overtime periods in basketball, say?

The WBC in fact took a lot of heat over the 12-round ruling, so much so that WBC president Jose Sulaiman was quoted as saying in May 1983 that it was conceivable the organisation would revert to 15-rounders. However, after input from assorted boxing commission doctors, the 12-round limit remained in place and, of course, the WBA and IBF eventually followed suit.

Who were these “cynics” who believed that 15-rounders were cut to 12 to suit American TV? I don’t believe there were any.

It’s the most nonsensical of all boxing myths and needs to be shot down once and for all.

This editorial was originally published in the May 2017 issue of Boxing Monthly