• Steve Bunce

Rankings magic paves way for Khan-Floyd

Steve Bunce April 9, 2013

Even today I still wonder exactly how the boxing rankings work. All I know for certain is that people need to look at them differently - and they will once they learn that I, Steve Bunce, was briefly a rankings chairman 25 years ago.

I somehow got involved with an organisation called the WBO, which at that time was not yet recognised in the UK. An agent from Texas asked me to submit the names of some fighters who I thought were worthy of inclusion in this fledgling organisation's top 20. When the rankings came back, some of the fighters that I thought might just make the top 25 were up at No.3 and No. 4!

More than that, it turned out I was now chairman of the WBO's ratings committee. All I had done was scribble down a few names! As a working journalist I had to resign instantly, but one promoter did manage to send a copy of the rankings to my sports editor and got me in a lot of trouble! The cheek of it - I had put a few of his fighters in the rankings!

Here's the short version: rankings are put together by various people around the world who have an interest in various fighters, various promoters and various venues - sometimes the venues are just as important as the fighter or promoter - and as a result there are always a few bizarre inclusions. That said, Amir Khan suddenly appearing at No. 2 in the WBC welterweight rankings is one of the more bizarre rankings out there right now.

We are in a business, and while Khan's sudden leap to the top of a rankings list of a weight he has never fully boxed at does seem ridiculous it's not even the most ridiculous ranking in the WBC ratings - just look at what we said about the heavyweight division last week. Without naming names, there are some people ranked at No. 1 in the WBC rankings who have no right to be in the top 20. There's one guy at No. 1 who hasn't beaten another fighter ranked inside the current top 25 or even a former world champion.

I used to think the British Boxing Board of Control had it wrong by not having a rankings list - now I think they have it right. There can't be any skulduggery because there aren't any ratings - it's all about promoters calling up, making fights and asking permission for their fighters to take part in an eliminator or a title fight. So if someone's got a fighter that I would have put in my top 10 and he gets a British title fight, at least we don't have to deal with him suddenly having a bogus ranking.

In his defence, Amir Khan has been a world champion and has shared the ring with some good fighters. I didn't think he was going to fight full-time at welterweight, but clearly there's a reason for his appearance in the rankings - and that reason could be that has been shortlisted to fight Floyd Mayweather sometime at the end of the year.

It makes sense to me. Khan is exciting, and he's also vulnerable - that's what Floyd Mayweather will be looking for. He doesn't want to fight Canelo Alvarez or Austin Trout. He isn't interested in fighting big guys - he's shown that in the past when he avoided Paul Williams. He doesn't want to fight solid welterweights at the height of their powers, but he doesn't mind taking them on when they're past their peaks.

Also - and this is crucial - everybody thinks they can knock Amir Khan out. Since he was floored by Breidis Prescott and caught and hurt by other fighters, everybody believes that he is beatable. That works to his advantage, if he can control his emotions in the ring. But in a slugfest, when they're in the centre of the ring with their toes digging in the canvas, Mayweather will fancy his chances at welterweight.

It does put Khan under a little more pressure on April 27. He's coming home for the first time in a while, where he's expected to beat Julio Diaz in front of a sell-out crowd having been heavily involved in the promotion. He needs to look good, and I think he can. The problem is Diaz. He's got nothing to lose here, and everything to gain- he's suddenly close to a big fight if he can pull off this one shock, and that's what I think makes it such an entertaining fight. undefined

Floyd Mayweather seems further than ever from fighting Manny Pacquiao © Getty Images

Mayweather distanced himself further than ever from a fight with Manny Pacquiao, which has been on-off for so many years now that I've given up trying to remember when I first heard rumours about it. In all fairness, the opening of the door for pro boxing in China may have just closed the door on the chances of the two meeting in the ring.

Floyd may be putting up barriers, but Manny's also looking elsewhere. At the weekend Bob Arum put on a sensational show at The Venetian casino in Macau, which brings in eight times the revenue of its Las Vegas counterpart. It is enormous business: Arum said there are potentially 300m people in China watching the fights he stages there. Lots of the gamblers are Chinese and Japanese, but most are from the Philippines - and Manny Pacquiao is Filipino.

Pacquiao fighting in Macau with a pay-per-view service in Asia will make the American numbers look ridiculous. So why should Manny fight Floyd at the MGM for $20m when he could fight somebody at the Venetian for upwards of $30m? One thing's for sure - Floyd Mayweather is not booking flights to Macau, no chance.

Obviously everything this week falls under the shadow of Michael Norgrove's death - a death that makes no sense whatsoever. He was a winning fighter. He was involved in a fight where he wasn't hurt - in fact the fight's been declared a no-contest, it wasn't like he lost or was getting a beating. He wasn't struggling at the weight, which has been a factor in the past quarter-century. And he had recently passed his MRI scan. I don't think there's any hidden agenda: his death really does seem to be one of those things.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.