The Pugilist

Andre Ward tells WBC to get lost – and hopefully he is the first of many

Super middleweight champion Andre Ward was lavished with praise on Monday when he essentially told the WBC to stick their gaudy green title belt where the sun doesn't shine.

But Ward's actions won't amount to much, because there are few boxers who are willing to take the same stance.

Despite the fact that boxing's major sanctioning bodies routinely cheat, manipulate the rankings, strip fighters of titles they won in the ring, coerce them into giving up their fight-worn equipment and almost daily break their own rules, boxers are desperate to have them.

Few boxers are willing to take a stand like Ward did and tell these morally and ethically bankrupt grounds to get lost.

It's going to take fighters like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Wladimir Klitschko, Canelo Alvarez, Juan Manuel Marquez and other high-profile boxers to follow Ward's lead for his action to have any kind of an impact.

Rest assured, though, that's not going to happen in our lifetime.

Ward won his WBC title by defeating Carl Froch in the finale of Showtime's Super Six tournament in 2011. He then successfully defended it last year with a dominating performance over long-time light heavyweight king Chad Dawson.

He'd planned to defend it in January against Kelly Pavlik until a shoulder injury that required surgery forced its postponement.

Last month, the WBC stripped Ward of its beltand named him its champion emeritus. That move was a way for it to get sanctioning fees for two titles in the same class, a common trick for sanctioning bodies.

On Monday, though, Ward opted not to play that game. In a statement released through his publicist, Ward told the WBC he didn't want the emeritus title:

“After careful thought and consideration with my family and team, I have decided to relinquish my WBC Super Middleweight World Champion Emeritus Title.

“As has been recently reported, the WBC elected to strip me of my world title belt, making the upcoming bout between Sakio Bika and Marco Antonio Periban for the vacant Super Middleweight Title.

“After consultation with my manager James Prince and attorney Josh Dubin, it is my belief that the WBC did not have the right to strip me of my World Title and name me Champion Emeritus.

“We voiced our position to the WBC, and after several discussions, have agreed to disagree with their interpretation of the facts and rules. In our opinion, we feel strongly that I did not violate the rules in any manner whatsoever.”

Ward is right, of course. For years, boxing's major sanctioning bodies have manipulated the sport unfairly and, on occasion, unlawfully, with the goal of maximizing revenue.

Promoters and television executives frequently scream about the horrors of the sanctioning bodies -- Currently, the WBA, the WBC, the WBO and the IBF are the four, ahem, major sanctioning groups -- but they're complicit because they play the game when it benefits them.

The sanctioning body belts probably mean less in the U.S. than they do anywhere else in the world, but even in the U.S., they still for some reason carry weight.

TV executives want title bouts on their air and thus are willing to do business with the Jose Sulaimans and Gilberto Mendozas of the world when it suits them.

A world where sanctioning body belts didn't exist is but a dream. Fighters want them and, in most cases, are paid more for fighting for them.

Fans continue to support them by attending shows that are for sanctioning body belts in greater numbers than those that are not. And TV people want the drama of a title on the line and so they turn their heads to the frequent abuses.

It's not going to change any time soon. They won't rank a fighter who holds another organization's belt. They'll manipulate the ratings. They'll break the rules to allow one fighter to do what he wishes while stripping others who strictly follow the rules.

Ward's actions were admirable, but ultimately meaningless. And it should be noted that Ward is an established fighter who has a television contract with HBO and can expect significant paydays each time out. He's not a young, anonymous champion still living paycheck to paycheck.

If a large number of Ward's fellow champions were to take the same action, it might mean something.

Until then, it's best to appreciate the great actions in the ring and pay as little attention as possible to the sanction bodies and those who run them.

Kevin Iole