LOS ANGELES — Oscar De La Hoya won 10 world titles across six separate weight classes during his Hall of Fame career.
Now as the head of Golden Boy Promotions, De La Hoya is tasked with building up the next generation of champions for his company, which is headlined by stars like Ryan Garcia, Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Joseph Diaz Jr., among other top fighters.
The WBC, WBO, IBF and WBA are the four major sanctioning bodies across boxing’s 17 different weight divisions, and they haven’t done the sport any favors in recent years by muddying the world title picture.
A quick peek at the stars De La Hoya promotes in two divisions offers a glimpse at the bigger problems at hand that the bevy of belts have created in boxing.
When Ortiz Jr. stopped Egidijus Kavaliauskas in August, he draped the WBO international welterweight title over his left shoulder and called out Terence Crawford. The Nebraska-native Crawford has been the WBO champion at 147 ever since knocking out Jeff Horn in 2018.
Errol Spence Jr. is also the WBC and IBF champ at 147, Yordenis Ugas is the WBA “super” champion and Jamal James is the WBA "regular" champion.
In July, Diaz Jr. was awarded the interim WBC lightweight title when he beat Javier Fortuna. Diaz Jr. held the belt proudly in victory and immediately wore a WBC T-Shirt sporting himself as the champion. The same interim title was held by Garcia after he knocked out Luke Campbell in January, but Garcia vacated the title once he pulled out of the Fortuna fight that Diaz eventually seized.
Interim status aside, Devin Haney is the WBC’s champion at 135, while Teofimo Lopez is the WBC’s franchise champion in the division.
Lopez is also the Ring Magazine, WBO, WBA and IBF titleholder at 135. Gervonta Davis is the WBA "regular" lightweight champion after beating Mario Barrios in June.
Still following along on who the real champions are, at least at 135 and 147?
If you’re not, it’s OK, because De La Hoya and a host of others in the sport can’t follow along at times either, and they are pounding the table for reform.
“There has to be a drastic change [in boxing]. We have to do something about the organizations out of control. Meaning, there are so many world titles in one division,” De La Hoya told reporters while promoting his Sept. 11 comeback clash against former UFC champion Vitor Belfort at Staples Center on Triller and FITE pay per view.
“I'm a promoter, and a fighter now, I don't even know who the champion is a lot of times. That's not good for the casual fan. That's not good for the new fan. Jake and Logan Paul have done a good job in attracting a whole new audience. But that audience is soon going to realize, 'who is the champ?' I'm confused. Something drastic has to happen. There's a lot of good champions out there but they are not properly being handled by the organizations and everyone around them.”
The WBA is undoubtedly the guiltiest sanctioning body from the bunch and hasn’t done the sport any favors in recent years by handing belts out like chachkies. In an attempt to remedy the situation, the WBA eliminated all interim titleholders across every division effective immediately on Aug. 25.
There is plenty of work still to be done, however.
Even De La Hoya conqueror Floyd Mayweather Jr. could agree with his arch rival on that font.
“I don’t care if it’s Top Rank, if it’s Golden Boy [Promotions], if it’s Mayweather Promotions, if it’s PBC – there’s too many champions in the sport of boxing right now. Too many champions. It’s not a such thing as a super champion, not at all. And I’m not taking nothing away from no fighter. It’s too many belts,” Mayweather said last year.
“And the reason why it’s too [many belts], let me tell people what’s going on in the sport of boxing, why there’s so many different titles and so many different belts. People don’t know you have to pay, for every belt that you win, there’s a sanctioning fee. So now, if a fighter wins an interim belt, he has to pay a sanctioning fee. If a fighter has just the regular belt, he has to pay a sanctioning fee. Then, if a fighter is a super champion, then he has to pay a sanctioning fee. This is not good for the sport of boxing. Now, when a fighter fights, every fighter is a champion now. Belts now is like a fighter winning an amateur trophy. Everybody is a champion. Everybody have a belt.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com