By Mauricio Sulaiman
WBC President – Jose Sulaiman’s son
MANDATORY CHALLENGER RULE – HOW IT ALL STARTED
This week’s column, I’d like to get into the history of our sport. I’ve relied upon the knowledge of some expert historians and dear friends like Don Majeski, Bob Yalen and Victor Cota to add some interesting facts and rich history of our beloved sport.
The birth of boxing has been proven to be from the caveman era. Archeological findings place the birth of boxing as a sport in Ethiopia, roughly 8000 years BC. It appears in Egyptian hieroglyphics 5000 years BC. Boxing images were depicted in Greek art, as well as in the mosaic at the Bardo Museum in Cartage. It went on to Rome, Iberia and Britannia. It was in England in the early 17th century where boxers fought with bare fists and soon became the sport of nobles. The first world champion was James Figgs in 1719, and the first boxing rules were implemented by Jack Broughton in 1743, followed by the more well-known Marquis of Queensberry rules. From England, boxing jumped to America and the rest of the world to create the great luminaries in boxing history.
Our sport bases its rules from a document created by John Graham Chambers (who was a bare-knuckle fighter) and was officially implemented through British Parliament by the 9th Marquee of Queensberry, John Scholto Douglas, back in 1867. Such Marquee of Queensbury rules in reality are simply 12 rules!…basic rules like three-minute rounds and one resting minute, 24-foot square ring, no wrestling, disqualification if hitting a boxer who is down, etc…..
On February 14, 1963, some of the most important boxing entities met in Mexico (BBBC, EBU, OPBF, California, New York and Nevada Commissions, etc…) and the World Boxing Council was created. The WBC is responsible for most of the current rules in the sport. The only purpose of existence for the WBC is to try to make boxing safer for the fighters, to try to implement rule and order, and to make sure the sport is dignified and is at all times honorable.
Nat Fleisher, founder of “The Ring” Magazine, was the first to create boxers rankings or ratings. Today boxing relies on ratings for its format of competition.
Boxing was completely disorganized during most part of the 20th century. World champions were recognized by different entities, some by boxing commissions or federations, some by states, some by popular demand.
Throughout history so many fighters were not given the opportunity to challenge for the world title. Some were due to race and discrimination, some due to politics in times of war and many due to their talent and eminent threat to the champion. Some examples are Peter Jackson, who John L. Sullivan refused to fight, and Harry Wills being refused by Jack Dempsey, both because of race, same as Sam Langford and Kid Norfolk; Charley Burley and Jimmy Bivins because of war and politics; and Lazlo Papp just to name a few from the “old days” …..
Sonny Liston, Archie Moore and Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles all had to wait five years as #1 contenders to receive an opportunity to fight for the world title. These three examples led to the WBC implementation of the “mandatory challenger” rule. The rule basically gives the champion one year to fight any voluntary defenses against eligible ranked fighters and once every 12 months has the obligation to fight the mandatory challenger. With this rule, top prospects could not be avoided and were granted a chance to compete against the champion for the championship of the world.
This rule has proven to be fair and just and some great champions conquered the WBC championship as mandatory contenders. Some of whom were: George Foreman (vs. Frazier), Sugar Ray Leonard (vs. Benitez), Oscar de la Hoya (vs. Chavez), Larry Holmes (vs. Norton), Hagler (vs. Antuofermo and Minter), Duran (vs. Leonard), and so many more. Today’s current champions who won the title as mandatory contenders are: Deontay Wilder, Adonis Stevenson, Viktor Postol, Francisco Vargas, Shinsuke Yamanaka, Carlos Cuadras and Wangheng Menayothin.
The purse offer rule and procedure came along with the mandatory challenger rule in order to avoid abuse of power from the champions who would make unfair economic offers to the mandatory challenger. There is a great story found of the first procedure which would be equivalent of a purse offer of today, from promoter Tex Rickard in 1910 … feel free to enjoy the link:
While I write this piece during the weekend, trying to find out which was the first purse offer in the WBC, Don Majeski shared with me his recollection:
The first world championship purse offer, which I can recall, was held in May 1974 at the Maria Isabel Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City for a world featherweight title bout between champion Eder Jofre of Brazil and challenger Alfredo Marcano of Venezuela. Rafito Cedeno of Venezuela won the bid over promoter Marcos Lazaro of Brazil. Jofre relinquished the title and, subsequently, Marcano lost to Bobby Chacon in a bout for the vacant title held in Los Angeles.
There have been cases in which, for a variety of reasons, the reigning champion would not accept to fight the mandatory challenger. Two of the most notable ones were when Leon Spinks would not fight mandatory contender Ken Norton and opted to fight a rematch with Muhamad Ali… Norton fought Jimmy Young and became WBC world champion.
And Lennox Lewis was the mandatory contender to Evander Holyfield, while Holyfield fought Riddick Bowe, the WBC ordered Lewis to fight Donovan Ruddock and knocked him out dramatically in two. When Bowe defeated Holyfield, winning the WBC title, he opted to throw the WBC belt into a trash can instead of fighting his mandatory challenger Lennox Lewis. Lewis was crowned as WBC heavyweight world champion from his victory over Ruddock. History shows what happened for the following decade in the division, Lennox dominated the heavyweights until he retired as WBC champion in 2004.
The WBC Green and Gold belt is the dream of most if not all fighters; rules regarding the belt are in place, and while those same rules grant the opportunity to become a champion and to become a sports idol, those same rules must be applied to and respected by all world champions who have both rights, and obligations, to uphold.
Thank you and I welcome any comments, suggestions or recommendations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy WBC