Inside the WBC ratings meeting

Rian Scalia
15/12/2016 1:12pm

Rian Scalia has a 'ringside seat' for Boxing Monthly at the WBC ratings meeting at the sanctioning body's annual convention in Hollywood, Florida, as promoters and handlers argue the case for their boxers to advance up the rankings ...

Sanctioning body rankings in boxing are frequently the cause of scrutiny. No system is perfect, but an invaluable insight into how the rankings are compiled was available on Tuesday for those who have headed to the WBC's annual convention at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida.

The movers and shakers of the boxing world all filed into the third floor of the hotel for one of the essential sessions of the World Boxing Council (WBC) convention – the ratings meeting. Most who go are there to advocate on behalf of their fighters. The session isn't something that gets talked about or analysed a lot despite it being a vital part of boxing.

Up close, it's also very different to what you might imagine.

The WBC presents its ratings and the microphone is open to promoters, managers and handlers alike to state their cases in an attempt to improve the rankings of their fighters and move them towards lucrative world title shots and eliminators. It's not a simple or short procedure though; moving from the heavyweight division downwards, the process takes a long time as handlers and the WBC go back and forth between themselves.

Disagreements pop up. Sometimes things get a bit heated depending how adamantly the handler advocates for his or her fighter.

Despite some of the arguments, a sense of good nature prevails. It's business, after all, but there's also a lighter side to the  meeting. For example, during the super middleweight division segment, Sampson Lewkowicz notes that George Groves and Fedor Chudinov are fighting for the vacant WBA title. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, responding, asks: "Which WBA belt are they fighting for? A, B, C or D," generating laughter around the room.

Everyone, of course, is trying to gain the upper hand. Lewkowicz, representing David Benavidez, states that Jesse Hart is the mandatory in the WBO and therefore should be removed from the WBC rankings. Top Rank's Carl Moretti, representing Hart, runs up to the microphone and declares: "Sampson has no right to speak on behalf of my fighter." He clarifies that Hart is number one as ranked by the WBO but isn't the mandatory.

This type of exchange is common. But the vibe is that it's not personal at all, it's just how the game is.

Sitting behind super middleweight Zac Dunn and his team, I witness manager and former world champion Barry Michael managing to successfully move Dunn up to the number five spot ahead of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Michael makes multiple efforts to state his case in a division that takes quite a while to settle. After all is said and done, he comes back to his seat and pats Dunn on the back - Michael, Dunn and the boxer's father all look very satisfied.

One of the reasons the super middleweight rankings take such a long time is because of a back and forth debate concerning the status of number two Anthony Dirrell and number three Avni Yildirim. Yildirim's promoter Ahmet Oner - who's done a fantastic job moving the up and coming fighter along - is a fiery character who wants Yildirim to move above the number three spot. Tom Brown, representing Dirrell, is having none of it though and the back and forth debate continues into Wednesday at the mandatory challenger session.

At the end, Oner doesn't get what he wants and he stays at the microphone saying, "Wow, I'm so mad!"

Among the various arguments handlers have in favour of an increase in ranking for their fighters are inactivity or losses of other fighters, rivals not being enrolled in the WBC and VADA's clean boxing programme, and loyalty to the WBC.

In one particular instance, Nisse Sauerland, on behalf of David Price, argues that the Liverpudlian heavyweight should take Erkan Teper's place in the rankings due to the drug test failure fiasco that surrounded Teper long after the fight.

Even the WBC are confused about the status of Teper's suspension but to add to the mix Teper has since lost his most recent fight to Christian Hammer. The ratings committee respond by saying that Price hasn't beaten good enough opposition to warrant being put into the top 15.

It is clear that the WBC convention is important for developing a relationship between fighters and the sanctioning body, which in turn helps in stating a case for a ranking. Attending the sessions and speaking is considered a gesture of support to the organisation - for example, Constantin Bejenaru, the number 15 cruiserweight, is present and thanks the WBC for the chance to be there, with Sulaiman commending him for his efforts in attending and relocating his life from the small country of Moldova to the United States to pursue a career in boxing.

One thing constantly being emphasised as important is enrolment in the WBC's clean boxing programme. If not enrolled by the end of this month, fighters will lose their spots in the rankings. The subject is repeatedly brought up, on the screens that accompany the discussions fighters it is even indicated which fighters aren't yet enrolled.

Representatives from all over the world are present to say their piece to act as advocates for their fighters. A rep from the Nigerian Boxing Federation is there to lobby for cruiserweight Olanrewaju Durodola; Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves in South Africa represents several fighters while Japan, South Korea and Argentina are among the many other countries represented.

One of the themes that the WBC pushes is how boxing brings people together. It's an apt point - despite the arguments, debate and disagreements, there's a definite feel of camaraderie amongst the boxing crowd at the convention. Whatever corner of the globe people are from, boxing unites them all.