The world of boxing’s sanctioning bodies has always been confusing and, in the past, clouded with suspicion. 

Boxing used to have darker connections, with Sugar Ray Robinson held back from fighting for a world title because he refused to sign with the International Boxing Club (IBC) that operated out of New York and reportedly had ties to underworld figures such as Frankie Carbo. 

Boxers couldn’t secure a fight at Madison Square Garden unless they held links to the IBC in the 1950s, and even fighters such as Robinson, Jake LaMotta and Joe Louis eventually had to do business with the New York sanctioning organisation.

Boxing has cleaned up in comparison to those shadowy times, with the emergence of sanctioning bodies including the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO and more recently IBO. Yet many promoters still have preferred sanctioning bodies, with the majority of their fighters boxing for one organisation’s title. 

The validity of the IBO remains a hotly debated topic within boxing circles with many reluctant to embrace a fifth organisation, no matter how well run. Its President is Ed Levine, a well respected figure in the industry, who elaborated further on the issue of sanctioning bodies having affiliations with certain promotional outfits.

“It is obvious to see that many sanctioning bodies have links not just with certain promoters but with geographic areas also,” Levine told Boxing Social. “This is not something new in boxing; it dates back to the days when you couldn’t get a fight in New York unless you had connections. Boxing is all about connections and that is still very prevalent to this day.

“At the IBO, we don’t rely on working with only one promoter or working in a specific location. We work with different managers and promoters all over the world. We are very proud of remaining independent from a political standpoint and going about our business in the way that we do. 

“We have a niche in boxing and I am happy with that. When we have unification fights, if some of the other sanctioning bodies or promoters don’t want to refer to it as a unification fight – that’s fine. It doesn’t affect what we do and we are happy to continue to grow and operate independently in the way that we are doing.

“I tell people in boxing all of the time that the IBO provides opportunities for fighters all over the globe who may not be given those opportunities elsewhere. Sometimes, IBO champions also get opportunities with other sanctioning bodies based on their success with the IBO.”

High profile IBO champions have included the great Wladimir Klitschko.

The IBO has notably used computerised rankings in recent years, a system which is unique among sanctioning bodies. “Initially in our rankings, we had a system produced in the UK called the Independent World Boxing Rankings. We then switched to BoxRec as it is easier to identify the fighters and use the rankings,” said Levine. “The software is based on a points system and you have to beat better fighters in order to move up the rankings. Our computer rankings are powered by BoxRec and we have a contract with them, but our rankings are slightly different based on the algorithm.

“We get inundated with requests on a daily basis for fighters to compete for IBO titles, whether that be the regional belts or the world title. We get messages from managers who may have a 12-0 fighter, but those 12 wins have come against fighters who have poor records such as 0-2, 4-12, for example. So what we do is advise the fighter to [box] a fighter ranked in our top 100, and then they may be eligible to fight for a title such as the IBO Intercontinental title.

“What we do with the Intercontinental champions is take them out of the ratings and then they will eventually have an opportunity to compete for the world title, if they follow certain criteria. We are all about giving fighters a clear pathway where they can progress their careers. This is something that we are very focused on doing with the fighters. We don’t give titles away and that can be seen in the quality of contests of our regional belts.”

Levine then discussed some of the daily operations within the IBO office in Coral Gables, Florida. “Every day, we get inundated with requests for title fights and we turn down the vast majority of them as we are committed to providing quality title fights and real pathways for fighters to progress,” he stated.

“One thing we do, however, is analyse the scoring from judges in our title fights. This is something we take very seriously as we want to see our title contests judged correctly and fairly. If we see that a judge hasn’t been doing a consistent job then we will look to terminating his licence.”

The IBO’s star champion is heavyweight king Anthony Joshua,
pictured here with IBO President Ed Levine.

Boxing is still mostly at a standstill, with the vast majority of fighters, managers, promoters and sanctioning bodies having to adapt and plan for the future. Levine explained the IBO’s position as boxing regains its footing, as well as the future of some of the organisation’s champions.

“In regard to IBO business, we are still committed to providing future opportunities to fighters globally. We had a countless amount of world title fights lined up including fighters such as Terri Harper, Kevin Lerena, Cecilia Braekhus, Dominic Boesel, Sebastian Formella and, of course, Anthony Joshua,” said Levine. “So, for those fights not to take place [on schedule] is hard to take; however, we all understand the situation now and I’m confident that these champions will get great opportunities to defend their titles when the time is correct.

“It is a massive shame, but I fully support the postponements as the public’s health is more important at this point in time. We are still excited, however, about being a part of some massive events that could possibly take place in the second half of the year involving the likes of Anthony Joshua and Gennady Golovkin. Both Gennady and Anthony are always in highly entertaining contests and really are global superstars, so for them both to be IBO world champions is something all of us at the IBO are very proud of.

“The IBO ratings will remain static [until more fights are scheduled] and with reasonable extensions of time limitations for world champions to defend their titles.

“For the time being, however, my prayers are with those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and I hope that this situation resolves itself sooner rather than later so we can get back to society as we have known it.”