Team Berto in bad position on WBC mandatory
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
I'm a big fan of Lou DiBella.
I'm equally fond of Andre Berto.
But when I read their names in stories concerning a welterweight title bout against Selcuk Aydin now mandated by the World Boxing Council, I cringe a little.
Because they couldn't be more wrong.
Aydin, for those unaware, is an unbeaten 26-year-old Turk ranked second by the WBC among contenders for the title belt Berto's kept with four defenses since mid-2008.
And when DiBella claims "nobody knows" him, he's not stretching the truth.
His list of foes is familiar to just the hardest of the hardcore, he's fought all but two bouts in either Germany or Turkey and his most recent win - a June 5 split decision over Jo-Jo Dan - was close enough that his own promoter, Ahmet Oner, conceded "we were on the lucky end."
So if you're arguing an Aydin fight won't cover Berto's next boat payment, I won't quibble.
But when Lou contends that's reason enough to simply ignore WBC rule, it's time to throw a flag.
For at least a couple of reasons.
On the small scale, the nose-thumbing toward a championship requirement is more than a mite nervy from an incumbent who's not made a mandatory defense in 19 months.
Berto beat former WBA champ Luis Collazo in January 2009, but has taken TV- friendly charity in three other defenses - topping part-time welter Steve Forbes, active junior welter Juan Urango and up-and-down Carlos Quintana - since winning the crown against Miki Rodriguez.
Not exactly the Murderers Row of the 147-pound ranks, by anyone's grade.
But I understand business is business. And if Jose Sulaiman & Co. have had no concerns with Berto's in-ring lineup, far be it from me to rain on a Floridian's parade.
At some point, though, if you're going to dance, you've got to pay the band.
And if you're going to call yourself the WBC champion, you've got to at least glance at the rulebook, and not complain too loudly when it's suggested you abide by a few.
Andre Berto beat former WBA champ Luis Collazo in 2009.
After all, while I agree that Aydin's anonymous, it's not as if he was dragged in off the street.
He's ranked seventh in the division among non-champions by boxrec.com and has a 2009 win over No. 6 on that list - Said Ouali. He's ranked eighth on another organization's computer and has a better win percentage against its top 50 than all but one fighter ahead of him, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
And while it's not been enough for the boys at The Oscar to affix a top 10 number when a reigning 154-pound champ at No. 5 (Cotto) and a one-fight welter at No. 10 (Bradley) apparently make more sense, his cred is no less legit than the rumored choice for Berto/HBO, 140-pounder Andriy Kotelnik.
Kotelnik, incidentally, has never been full-time at 147 and has lost two straight at 140.
I've never met the man, but I can't blame Oner for being a little irked.
"I heard that DiBella doesn't want Berto to face Aydin and is working on other opponents," he said. "But in boxing you can't always get what you want. We are talking about a mandatory fight here. The WBC has ordered the fight and the reigning and defending champion should respect this decision."
On the larger scale, Team Berto's stance is dangerous precedent in an age of alphabet loathing.
While a gesture to shun the WBC will be applauded for matchmaking sanity and fan appeasement, what contrarians conveniently ignore is that a governing structure remains vital for the sport regardless of who provides it.
So the proper objective is perfecting that structure, not eliminating it.
If DiBella's reticence came with such an ideal in mind, it'd be passable. And if he says he's got a real solution, I'd say, to quote fellow New Yorker John Lennon, "we'd all love to see the plan."
But balking on a reasonable title fight simply because of its windfall, or lack thereof?
You can count me out.
While Berto skipping Aydin to fight Kotelnik is individually innocuous, it nudges the needle further toward a super race of fighters picking and choosing foes based on purses and matchups, rather than quality of opposition and a would-be challenger's ranking among his peers.
The rich get richer. The poor get poorer.
And all you guys in the middle, well...perhaps you would consider cage fighting instead.
Push it all the way and you have Oscar's magazine model, where title belts are eternal - so long as their possessors don't 1) retire, 2) change weight classes or 3) lose a championship fight.
And if they're left to make their own matches, that pesky third option is much less a concern.
Klitschko fights Pacquiao? Martinez fights Marquez?
If the cable guys are happy, it's all good.
But when applied to other sports, it's clear the anarchy template makes no sense.
Imagine if the Miami Heat - at the whim of Mssrs. Wade, James and Bosh - decided to only play games in favorable markets this season; or if the Dallas Cowboys, driven by Jerry Jones, chose to cherry-pick just the opponents who'd guarantee an unbeaten record.
Sure, they'd have shiny trophies and star-struck fans...but what would it really matter?
And at the end, why bother calling anyone "champion" at all?
This week's title-fight schedule:
WBA light flyweight/WBO junior flyweight titles - Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Giovanni Segura (WBA champion) vs. Ivan Calderon (WBO champion)
Segura (24-1-1, 20 KO): Fourth title fight (3-0, 3 KO); Avenged only draw and loss with KO wins
Calderon (34-0-1, 6 KO): Twentieth title fight (18-0-1, 2 KO); Twentieth fight in Puerto Rico
Fitzbitz says: "The sublime talent of Calderon finally meets a violent match." Segura in 9
WBA welterweight title - Donetsk, Ukraine
Viacheslav Senchenko (champion) vs. Charlie Jose Navarro (No. 12 contender)
Senchenko (30-0, 20 KO): Second defense; Twenty-seven of 30 fights in Ukraine (27-0, 17 KO)
Navarro (18-3, 13 KO): First title fight; Two losses in four fights after nine straight wins
Fitzbitz says: "His reign may be dubious, but his superiority here shouldn't be." Senchenko in 8
Last week's picks: 1-0
Overall picks record: 218-76 (74.1 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.