This is a story about the good things happening in boxing’s super welterweight division, but let’s start with the nonsense — the fraud, really — that the World Boxing Association is perpetrating upon the public at welterweight.
On Aug. 7, Cody Crowley will face Gabriel Maestre for the interim WBA welterweight championship on Fox.
This past Saturday in Los Angeles, Manny Pacquiao finally received the belt he won by defeating Keith Thurman in 2019. If you thought it was strange to take 19 months to get a champion his belt, consider what happened on Jan. 29, when the WBA basically stripped the championship from Pacquiao, declared him the champion in recess and gave the super championship to Yordenis Ugas.
Ugas had won a vacant WBA belt last year and was summarily promoted to super champion, bumping aside Pacquiao, one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport who had won his title by defeating a highly regarded champion in the ring.
But Jamal James still has a WBA belt, which he won by beating Thomas Dulorme.
We could go on and on, but the WBA is despicable and nauseating. They’ll take the fighters’ sanctioning fees, but they won’t do what is right for the sport.
Which brings us to the main event of a Showtime-televised card on Saturday in San Antonio between IBF-WBA-WBC champion Jermell Charlo and WBO champion Brian Castaño.
Fights like these are what boxing Is supposed to be about: Having the best fight the best.
It will be the first time in the four-belt era that the super welterweight championship will be unified, and it’s continuing a positive trend in boxing.
Josh Taylor unified the super lightweight titles in May by defeating Jose Ramirez. Taylor is now the champion at 140 pounds.
Teofimo Lopez has been the undisputed champion at lightweight since October, when he defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Canelo Alvarez has three of the four belts at super middleweight and is in talks with the other champion, Caleb Plant, for a unification bout in September.
And heavyweights Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua had signed to fight for the undisputed title, which was interrupted when Deontay Wilder won an arbitration award and Fury was forced by a mediator to fight Wilder once more. But should Fury get past Wilder on Oct. 9, he and Joshua are expected to fight for the undisputed title in short order.
Charlo has long been the top dog at super welterweight, but that’s perception. A win over Castaño would affirm that via competition.
“Not a lot of people get these opportunities,” Charlo said.
That they don’t only serves to diminish the sport. Ask yourself why the Super Bowl gets ratings so much higher than any playoff game, in some cases three or four times more. It’s because the Super Bowl is football’s version of the undisputed championship. People care more.
For so many decades, the boxing landscape has been littered with so many phony titles that people who try to follow along get lost and give up out of frustration.
Charlo is a -275 favorite at BetMGM to become undisputed champion, while Castaño is +215. Charlo has been improving steadily and has faced a far better roster of opposition than Castaño. Charlo’s only loss was a 2018 upset to Tony Harrison, but a year later, he avenged that defeat by knocking Harrison out in the 11th.
He’s also got significant wins over Jeison Rosario, Austin Trout, Erickson Lubin, Gabe Rosado and Charles Hatley, among others.
“You’re going to see a more developed Jermell Charlo on [Saturday],” Charlo said. “I guarantee you’re going to see a top pound-for-pound fighter. At any point, this fight could be over with.”
This could be the fight that turns Charlo into a star. He’s got a fan-friendly style, he’s got a strong resume and with the undisputed title, he’ll render useless money-grubbing sanctioning bodies like the WBA.
Fighters pay for the privilege of fighting for these belts, and so the WBA and its brethren find more and more ways to have more champs. It’s why Crowley and Maestre are fighting for a “championship” on Aug. 7 that will have zero meaning or significance and will only serve to add a few dollars to the WBA’s bank accounts.
It’s blood money.
But fighters like Charlo who seek out the best and never look for the easy way deserve the accolades that come their way. And in professional boxing, there is no better accolade than being called an undisputed champion.
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