The “World Level” Boxing Debate

The term “world level” is thrown around a lot in the sport, but what really is world level boxing?


A phrase used perhaps too often

I want to begin by stating that this article is in no way intended to be perceived as being particularly negative towards any particular boxers or promoters.

It is also not a condemnation of any fighter being below world level, rather that they have yet to prove themselves at this level, but then again we seem to have reached the stage where “world level” is a subjective opinion rather than a universal standard.

Despite the inspiration for this article being this past weekend’s Matchroom show in Leeds, this is far from an exclusively Matchroom issue/strategy, it is executed by promoters and television networks the world over.

The three main fighters on the Leeds show, and more importantly the fights they were in and how they were marketed, has lead me to document this examination of  the term “world level”, or alternatively “world class”, both which are regularly associated with boxers that tend to be in fights with other “world level” fighters – basically fighters ranked by one of the big four alphabetical boxing governing bodies.

It is worth noting, something which is known by all hardcore fans, that the rankings of these governing bodies stand for absolutely nothing in terms of determining who the top fighters in a weight class are.

In none of the four body’s top ten rankings will you find the merited top ten fighters of that particular weight class. You will find the champion of each division, barring the WBA which boasts a variety of “world champions”, is for the most part worthy of a top ten ranking in their weight class.

Beyond that, only 2 or three fighters in a governing bodies top 15 will actually be worthy of a place on that list.

On Saturday night, IBF No. 8 ranked featherweight, Josh Warrington, outpointed and outclassed IBF No. 9 Joel Brunker.

Taking nothing away from Warrington, it was a dominant performance from the Leeds fighter who has to date comfortably beaten every opponent he has been matched with.

It was billed as Warrington’s venture on to the world stage and the acid test to see if he could mix it with “world level” opposition.

If Warrington wins every round against a supposed world class boxer, surely this means Warrington is on the verge of pound for pound superstardom?

He is such a classy and skilled operator that he despatches world class opposition with such ease, surely he’s on another level to fighters in the featherweight division.

Well, not quite.

Look a little beneath the surface

Lets dissect this world class boxing match a little further. Warrington’s opponent, Joel Brunker, was undefeated before taking on the now IBF world champion Lee Selby in October of last year.

Similar to Saturday night, Brunker looked average and didn’t win a round before eventually being stopped in the 9th round.

In Brunker’s unbeaten run prior to the Selby bout, none of his victories were against any fighters that would be considered even in the top 30 featherweights in the world.

If you compare this to another individual sport, such as tennis, would the players outside the top 30 in the world be considered world class tennis players?

Simply put, no.

Tennis aficionados would laugh at the very notion. Again, I am not in any way trying to discredit Brunker’s career as a boxer.

I respect him like I respect all fighters but other than Sky Sports and Matchroom telling us that he is world level, the only evidence to suggest that a fight between him and Josh Warrington is a world level fight is that they both reside in different continents.

Boxing fans deserve better

My reasoning behind this article is that as a boxing fan, I feel I deserve better.

I feel boxing fans deserve the same as other sports – the best facing the best and more relevant to this article, fighters actually earning their status as opposed to being gifted it by promoters and television networks.

On a final note from Saturday night’s show, in the same vein of fighters not having earned their status, we saw Tony Bellew and Martin Murray, each in another keep busy fight against low level opposition. Keep busy fights which were intended to keep the rust off ahead of potential world title fights.

Considering both are fighting at new weight classes, and have fought low level opponents since moving up to those weight classes(barring Bellew’s defeat of Cleverly, who is now back down at Light Heavyweight, and never a top ranked cruiser), how on earth are both in line to challenge for a world title at their new weight classes?

Neither has faced someone in the top 20 of their division and it looks like neither will before getting the title shot.

Despite both having decent careers at their former weights, particularly Murray, neither was a world champion or was ever close to being the best in that division, so the idea that they can move up in weight and move straight to a world title shot without merit is a very frustrating prospect for lovers of the sport.

In closing, the agonising desire for the best to fight the best in boxing is nothing new, but the term world level is now being wheeled out more and more for fights and fighters which are not even close to having earned that distinction.

I feel the quality and integrity of the sport I love is being seriously diluted by the constant hyperbole surrounding the almost immoral governing body rankings and the fights these rankings lead to.

There are a lot of people out there for whom boxing is the main reason they pay their monthly Sky Sports subscription.

Similar to those also dish out every month for BoxNation. With the lies they are sold, they are frankly not getting value for money. 

For me, this false hyperbole reached a crescendo on Saturday night. Boxing fans deserve better.

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