On September 17th, Erik “El Terrible” Morales will fight Jorge Rodrigo Barrios on the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz PPV undercard. When this fight was originally announced there was some reason for excitement in the boxing community.
A boxing fan cannot see a living legend like Morales (51-7-0, 35 KO's) enough times. He proved earlier in the year with a gutsy performance against Marcos Maidana that he still has something left, and his effort to rebuild his career after a series of losses was capturing the hearts of boxing fans.
The choice of Barrios (50-4-1, 35 KOs) as an opponent, who has not won a significant bout in quite some time, made this a bit of a tune-up fight for Morales, but as the second match on a big PPV it was certainly nothing to complain about.
Of course, sometimes the sport of boxing just cannot just let a good thing be. This week it was announced that the WBC was going to declare junior welterweight champion Timothy Bradley its “champion in recess” effectively stripping him of his title.
This news would have been bad enough taken alone. Whatever you think of Bradley’s recent questionable business decision to not defend his title against Amir Khan, Bradley had fought just six months before. On top of this, the WBC does not currently even have a mandatory challenger lined up for Bradley.
However, considering that according to their bylaws, the WBC reserves the right to strip a belt from a fighter that doesn’t defend every six months, this could have been a regrettable but excusable choice.
To turn this matter from unfortunate decision into complete and total farce, the WBC announced that the Morales-Barrios fight would fill this now vacant championship. Never mind the fact that they have title eliminators scheduled between two other fighters, but they have now been pushed to the back of the line for no reason other than not having the name recognition of a Morales. This “championship” bout will be between two men who have absolutely no claim to this kind of an opportunity.
Why Barrios is undeserving is basically self-explanatory, he has never campaigned in the 140-pound weight class, he has fought only once in the past 20 months, he hasn’t beat a respectable opponent in many years. Of course, if you know the WBC, you know that he wasn’t selected because he deserved a title shot; he was selected because they are pretty confident Morales will beat him.
As silly as Barrios fighting for a belt at this point in his career is, boxing fans have to be honest with themselves and realize that as great as his career has been, Morales does not belong anywhere near a title shot right now either. “El Terrible” surprised people by making his last fight so competitive when many in the media suggested that he was in serious danger fighting a puncher like Maidana, but he did not win the fight. In fact, the last time Erik Morales did beat a world class opponent was his defeat of Manny Pacquiao. That was six years ago.
The Mexico-based WBC has apparently been deaf to recent criticism that they have been unfairly stripping titles and awarding them to Mexican fighters; either that or they simply don’t care. This nonsense, however, makes questionable WBC champions Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. and Saul Alvarez look quite legit in comparison.
Why should we care about this as boxing fans? Well, there are different schools of thought. One is that we can decide to simply ignore them. Whatever belts are on the line doesn’t change the action in the ring, which is what we love about the sport. However, especially in the case of the grandfather of international boxing organizations, the WBC, it is a little sad to see these belts so utterly devalued.
This is a belt that was held by Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and countless other great champions, and now it is hardly worth the material it is made with. It’s also sad that casual fans see these titles being given out and have an understandable amount of confusion over who the true champions are.
In the end, the best we can do as fans is try and educate the public ourselves about who the best fighters truly are, and rightfully jeer at these criminals that say otherwise. Also remember, boxing is still boxing whatever meaningless strap of fabric the fighters wear into the ring.
Sean Morehouse can be followed on Twitter @morehouse17