Cuban Yordenis Ugas is receiving a lot of flak from boxing fans for proclaiming himself as the new World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion after beating American Abel Ramos recently. Many claim that Ugas only won the “regular” version of the belt and that Manny Pacquiao, who holds the “super” version of the title, is the WBA’s real champion at 147 pounds.
The criticism is correct, but Ugas is not the party to blame. The head honchos of the WBA are the ones who created the convoluted titular hierarchy that has unsuspecting boxers like Ugas believing they won a legitimate world title.
The WBA used to recognize one champion per division until it tinkered with its rules and created “spin-off” champions like “super” champion, “regular” champion and even “interim” champion.
A regular champion actually starts out as a real champion unless there is already an existing super champion. In the normal course of things, with no super champ in existence, two boxers contend for the WBA regular championship. The winner is crowned the regular and genuine champion.
Here’s how the WBA complicates everything: If the regular WBA champion makes at least five defenses or beats one of the counterpart champs from the WBC, IBF and WBO in a unification battle, the WBA has the option to promote the WBA regular champ to super champion. Once the regular WBA champ is promoted to super status, the regular title he once owned is declared vacant. Two other boxers are picked to contend for the regular title and a new regular champ is crowned. However, do take note that in this situation there already exists the super champ who once held the regular belt. Verily, between the regular champ and the super champ, it is the latter who is considered the real champion.
Here’s how Ugas found himself in such a predicament: in 2013, Keith Thurman stopped Diego Chaves for the WBA interim welterweight title. Thurman settled for an interim or temporary belt because then ‘super’ champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. was more interested in figuring in a rematch with Marcos Maidana in 2014.
With Mayweather dodging him, Thurman continued to defend the WBA interim title until the WBA decided to promote him to regular champ in January 2015. Mayweather was still the super champ at the time, so nobody took Thurman’s belt seriously.
When Mayweather retired after beating Andre Berto in October 2015, the WBA stripped Mayweather of the WBA super title. With no super champion, the regular belt Thurman was holding ended up being recognized as the real welterweight title.
Thurman continued to make defenses of the WBA regular title until he was promoted to super champion by the WBA in February 2017, just before he fought WBC counterpart Danny Garcia in March 2017. With Thurman the new ‘super’ champ, the regular belt became vacant and the WBA decided to promote then interim champ, David Avanesyan, to regular champ. Nobody took Avanesyan’s reign seriously, what with Thurman the super champ.
Thurman beat Garcia to unify the WBA super and WBC belts, but opted to keep the WBA title. Avanesyan defended the regular belt but lost to Lamont Peterson in February 2017. When Peterson vacated the regular throne, the WBA picked Lucas Matthysse and Tewa Kiram to fight for the vacant regular belt in January 2018. Matthysse beat Kiram, but he eventually lost the regular belt to Pacquiao in July 2018.
Though he claimed the WBA regular belt, Pacquiao knew it was a secondary title and he thus went after Thurman. Pacquiao became the genuine WBA champ when he defeated Thurman for the super version in July 2019.
Of course, with Pacquiao the new super champ, the regular belt became vacant again. Russian Alexander Besputin picked up the regular belt in November 2019, but he was stripped of the title for testing positive for a banned substance. The WBA regular crown became vacant again and this is the title Ugas won by beating Ramos on September 6.
It is clear that Ugas is just a secondary champion and that Pacquiao is the genuine king. This complication could have been avoided if the WBA just retained the regular belt and refrained from creating a super champion. Then again, more belts mean more sanctioning fees for the organization. Yes, money is the root of this title convolution.
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