Deontay Wilder wants to unify heavyweight belts; how feasible to keep them together, though?
Deontay Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion, was recently in the Yahoo Sports studios in Playa Vista, Calif., where he spoke with our Justin Perry about a variety of topics. One of them was the importance of unifying the titles in the heavyweight division.
Wilder made the point that champions in other divisions who unify the belts often then move up to the next class. Terence “Bud” Crawford did just that. He unified the super lightweight belts when he knocked out Julius Indongo in August, and promptly announced a move to welterweight. He’s likely to fight Jeff Horn on April 14 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
But Wilder pointed out there is nowhere else for heavyweights to go, so it’s necessary to unify. And the titles will become more unified next month. Wilder will defend his WBC title on March 3 in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center when he fights KO artist Luis Ortiz. Then, on March 31 in Wales, IBF-WBA champion Anthony Joshua will meet WBO champion Joseph Parker in a unification bout. Both fights will be on Showtime.
The plan is for the winners to meet for all the marbles later in 2018.
“The goal of this is to unify,” Wilder said. “The heavyweight division is so small that we need one champion, one face, one name. And that’s me, Deontay Wilder. Once I obtain that belt, I’m going to clear it all out.”
By April 1, there will be two champions instead of three, and by sometime in the fall, it should be reduced to one, if all goes well.
The problem, though, is keeping the four major belts around the waist of one champion, even if said unified champion keeps winning.
It’s virtually impossible to do now with the sanctioning bodies. They won’t agree on mandatory challengers, and that will inevitably lead to the champion being stripped of one of the belts.
Let’s say for the sake of argument here that Wilder comes out on top, defeating Ortiz and then the Joshua-Parker winner. That means that then he’ll have to defend the title against the mandatory challengers at some point from the IBF, the WBA, the WBC and the WBO.
Much can change, but if you look at the ratings now, three of the four have a different fighter as its top-ranked man. The WBC has Dillian White ranked No. 1. The IBF does not have a No. 1 ranked fighter, but has Kubrat Pulev ranked No. 2. The WBA and the WBO have Alexander Povetkin ranked first.
If Wilder, as the newly crowned undisputed champion, is ordered to make his mandatory against each division’s highest available contender, he’ll inevitably be unable to do at least one of them and will be stripped.
So here’s a suggestion on how to handle it, though I have no hope that it would occur. The heads of the four organizations — Mauricio Sulaiman of the WBC, Gilberto Mendoza of the WBA, Paco Valcarcel of the WBO and Daryl Peoples of the IBF — should meet in March to discuss what to do if/when there is an undisputed champion.
The solution is simple: Agree before there is a unified title on the order the mandatories come due, and further agree that the other organizations will sanction those bouts. So if they came out and agree on an order of WBO, IBF, WBA and WBC, the champion would have his mandatory come up in that order and wouldn’t have to be stripped for failing to defend one of the others.
As Wilder said, having one champion hold all four belts is better for the division and better for the sport, and best for the sanctioning bodies, it will make more money for them. A popular champion would command more purse money and that would lead to more sanctioning fees.
Don’t expect that to work, though. Figure there will be a lasting peace in the Middle East before boxing’s sanctioning bodies ever work together for the betterment of the sport.