Award-winning boxing writer Springs Toledo believes the sport of professional boxing is in serious need of reform.
If you’re familiar with boxing’s overcomplicated world title picture that includes various entities from all over the world -- all with varying levels of financial ties to boxing promoters -- crowning different world champions in the same weight class, you probably understand why Toledo thinks things need to change.
Boxing’s world title situation is flat out confusing, to expert and novice boxing betting fans alike.
“What we have now are several little fiefdoms more or less appointing champions based on popularity and purse sizes,” Toledo said. “Worse than that, we have too many fans and nearly all the writers following their edicts as if they weren't insane. There are seven so-called champions in the super middleweight division alone. That's laughable, but not funny.”
The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) was formed in 2012 in the aftermath of Ring Magazine was purchased by an investment group led by Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions.
Before that happened, the magazine was generally considered the most authoritative and trustworthy source of divisional rankings and championships in the sport. The Ring has tried to push through the controversy and criticism.
But after dismissing longtime editor-in-chief Nigel Collins, the new editors of the magazine announced a controversial new championship policy in which bouts between any fighters ranked in the top five of a division could fill vacant titles.
Upon learning of the change, Toledo, a prominent member of the magazine’s advisory panel, resigned from his post along with fellow panel members Cliff Rold and Tim Starks. The three became the founding members of the TBRB.
“It was founded on the premise that boxing, if it is going to ever become a rational sport, needs to have a rankings board that is unanswerable to any of the sport's powerbrokers,” Toledo said, “and that it needs a system based on common sense -- namely the idea that the world champion in any given division can only be singular and the obvious point that only a contest between the top two contenders crowns said champion under an open throne.”
“It needs to have objective, merit-based rankings,” Toledo added. “Because without it, it's not possible to have a system that can identify the rightful champion.”
The goal of the TBRB is simple. It seeks to provide the sport with authoritative top-10 rankings and singular world champion designations in every division through an approach combining unbiased reasoning and common sense. It can help bettors as they formulate a strategy on how to wager.
The TBRB exists to insist on the sport's reform, and it’s board members are independent journalists, boxing historians and record keepers from all around the world. Today, the TBRB is comprised of 53 members representing 21 countries on six continents.
While Toledo and the TBRB began as a response to Ring Magazine’s unpopular change to how vacant championships could be filled, the group continues to operate even after the original policy was put back in place in 2015.
But Toledo and company didn’t just want The Ring to change back to the way things were before. They wanted to make sure nothing like that could ever happen again.
“First and foremost, we are not owned by a promotional entity,” Toledo said. “To be sure, I would not accuse The Ring of loading the upper echelon of their ratings with Golden Boy fighters. But the fact remains that there is a clear and undeniable conflict of interest there, regardless of good intentions.”
Toledo argues the TBRB’s more strict championship policy has struck a chord with boxing fans around the world - -people eager to see a more simple and sane world championship picture in the sport of boxing.
For Toledo, that means the work of the TBRB is just starting to get off the ground. Unlike The Ring, the group is a nonprofit with the sole purpose of ranking fighters and crowning champions. The TBRB has no ties to boxing promoters and isn’t a commodity to be bought and sold on an owner’s whim the way a magazine might be.
Toledo believes the TBRB’s rankings are the best in the sport.
“It is the go-to rankings for purists and what I call ‘thinking fans’ all around the world,” Toledo said. “Many websites carry our rankings, but again, we never expected a revolution where boxing -- as irrational as it is and as it has been for 50 years--would see a sudden reversal when so many of its insiders are throroughly invested in continuing the confusion.”
And while he admits to not having any delusions of grandeur at this point in the overall process of reform, Toledo firmly believes the TBRB will be around years from now when the twisted and convoluted boxing culture might be ready to go back to the way things used to be --the way Toledo thinks boxing should be today.
“If boxing ever becomes rational--meaning if it once again recognizes that a divisional world champion can only be singular--then we'll be around to provide a framework.”