Screwed.

by Paul Magno

Mike Oliver was knocked silly by journeyman Reynaldo Lopez. This wasn’t supposed to happen to the well-regarded prospect, especially on national TV while waiting for his long-promised title fight with IBF Super Bantamweight champ Steve Molitor.

The look on his face as Oliver regained his senses said it all. He was shocked and just plain depressed. But Mike Oliver was a victim long before Reynaldo Lopez’s left hook found its target and long before ref Dick Flaherty waved off the contest in the third round. The IBF had been victimizing the Hartford, Connecticut southpaw for the last year or so…and worst of all, unlike the fight with Lopez, he didn’t even have a fighting chance.

Back in July of 2007 Oliver beat former world champ, Cruz Carbajal in what was sanctioned by the IBF as a “Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator.” Great. The kid is going to get his shot. But then August came and September; then October and November and not only wasn’t he getting his shot at Canadian World Champ Steve Molitor, but the IBF was still ranking Oliver as #2, opting to leave the #1 spot vacant and to not place the winner of their title eliminator in the top spot.

Then, in December of ’07, the IBF decided to have another official “Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator” featuring #15 ranked Fernando Beltran Jr. and Jose Arboleda. Beltran Jr., the winner of that fight, shot right past Oliver and was immediately placed in the #1 spot, where he almost immediately got his title shot- a one-sided shutout loss in April to Champion Molitor.

…And there was Mike Oliver, still ranked #2 in the world by the IBF and still without the shot that he had earned by winning his title eliminator almost one full year earlier. In his second “stay busy” fight while waiting for his title opportunity, he was TKO’d by Reynaldo Lopez.

There is no questioning what went down in the ring; Lopez rightfully beat Oliver. However, He beat a Mike Oliver who should’ve already been either a champ or a title challenger. As it stands now, Oliver is out of the picture, Steve Molitor is happy and the IBF has succeeded in, once again, dismantling another fighter’s hopes and dreams with their insane and offensive decisions.

As I write this, The IBF is currently updating their rankings. You can bet that Mike Oliver will find himself well below his #2 spot and dropped much more quickly than he was elevated despite doing everything the organization asked of him. Also, expect Lopez to be rated high enough to justify another easy challenger for Steve Molitor.

This isn’t the only case of the sanctioning bodies dropping the ball (or intentionally throwing the ball away); It’s just the latest case of these organizations pursuing their own interests at the expense of the guys who actually step in the ring and put their hearts and souls on the line.

And this isn’t meant as a diatribe against the IBF specifically, either. The other 3 recognized sanctioning bodies have hands just as dirty as the sole U.S.-based organization. The WBC, WBA and WBO have more skeletons in their closets than a costume shop the day before Halloween. These organizations, despite their stated objectives of benefiting the sport, actually hinder it more than anything else and contribute to the image of boxing being “The red light district” of the sport’s world.

Mysterious challengers with questionable records becoming #1 contenders…Retired former champs being allowed to come back and demand a title shot whenever they please…”Super Champions” who are allowed to skip their mandatory challengers…Sanctioning bodies running interference for their personal favorites…Stripping a new champ for not paying sanctioning fees and then returning the belt to the ex-champ who just lost it…etc…etc…

These organizations need to be tossed into the garbage along with their shiny belts. We don’t need them and the fighters sure as hell don’t need them. Let’s find another way to bring continuity to the sport. There are many ideas being batted around by boxing people. Who knows which one would be the best for the sport? But one thing is for sure- none of them can be as bad as the system currently in place- A system that screws guys like Mike Oliver and, in turn, screws us as well…

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