Belts, belts and more belts; in combat sports there’s no greater indicator of championship success than a bejeweled strap worn around the waist or shoulders. Literally, a fighter cannot label himself a champion, sans a belt, and the more he stockpiles in his trophy case, the more illustrious his career has obviously been.
Of Boxing’s four major sanctioning bodies, the World Boxing Association (WBA) is the oldest and the World Boxing Organization (WBO) the newest. Historically, the World Boxing Council (WBC) has been held in the highest esteem, with fighters desperately seeking that “green belt”. More recently, and with an assist from Floyd Mayweather, the WBC has come to be known as the “Money belt” in fistic circles.
But lowkey, slowly yet surely, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) is on the come up. In a vocation where no title belt entity can be fully trusted, the IBF is asserting itself as the one with the most integrity, consistency and desire to make the word “champion” stand for more than just another opportunity at a sanctioning fee. The lesser of the four evils governing modern day prizefighting, demanding blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul of its combatants.
Founded in 1976, the International Boxing Federation was initially called the United States Boxing Association (USBA). With the WBC based in Mexico and the WBA residing in Panama, organizers decided the U.S. was ready and probably overdue for sanctioning body headquarters all its own. So in ’77, twenty-four American boxing commissions met to come up with structure, a constitution and by-laws. Initially a steppingstone to the WBC and WBA, the USBA eventually created an international division called the USBA-I which later became the IBF, as we know it today.
IBF Welterweight Champ Errol Spence Jr.
In ’83, its most prominent inaugural world champions were Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Larry Holmes. Today, Gennady Golovkin, Anthony Joshua and Errol Spence Jr. are among those proudly displaying IBF hardware during their ring walks. Certified legends the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Bernard Hopkins, George Foreman, Felix Trinidad, Pernell Whittaker, Julio Cesar Chavez, Roy Jones and Oscar Dela Hoya have all laid bricks upon the winding, never ending road to unequivocal legitimacy for the International Boxing Federation.
IBF Heavyweight Champ Anthony Joshua
The IBF championship is the Heart and Soul belt because that’s precisely what has become the norm, a pre-requisite for sustained success as a representative. Topping the list of reasons why is the dearth of those designated “champions”. The others anoint a litany of titlists: Super, Regular, Diamond, Silver and Emeritus “champions” up and down their weight classes and rankings. Yet, as of this writing, the IBF had one lone fighter, out of seventeen divisions, deemed so much as an interim strap holder. Bottom line, the fewer Pugilists recognized, the lower the financial windfall received, in the form of a sanctioning fee.
IBF Lt.Heavyweight Champ Artur Beterviev
They’ve also implemented a same day weigh-in, with a 10-pound cap on the amount either fighter can gain, the morning after hitting the scales officially. This results in fighters adhering to their true weight classes as opposed to shrinking down and massively rehydrating, for an unfair advantage. It takes character to win and defend the International Boxing Federation’s title, evidenced by Kell Brook traveling to American soil to unseat Shawn Porter, and Errol Spence Jr. crossing the pond to remove it from Brook’s possession. In each case, traveling abroad made the task all the more daunting. Par for the course when vying for that red strap.
IBF Jr.Lightweight Champ Sergey Lipinets
Let the sanctioning body that is without sin cast the first stone. To spearhead and operate a “non-profit” title belt entity, is to be sullied, to get dirty. The IBF isn’t above or beyond reproach. Luckily, being U.S. based makes it easier to regulate, investigate and punish when warranted. Uncle Sam’s right there to slap the IBF on the wrist, when caught with its’ hand in the proverbial cookie jar. As such, there’s less B.S. and fewer fingers in a fighter’s pocket, via the IBF.
Does your favorite fighter have what it takes to be an International Boxing Federation champion; to rock the red Heart and Soul belt?