‘Punching prof’ to crown Canadian champions

Adela Talbot // Western NewsLed by Kinesiology professor Mac Ross, the debut Canadian Boxiana National Rankings showcase up to the Top 5 Canadian boxers in each of 12 weight classes for both men and women.

One Western professor is looking to restore the prestige of Canadian boxing titles via a new independent ranking system he hopes will cut through the often chaotic world of boxing and help re-establish the place of the sweet science in the country.

Released today, the debut Canadian Boxiana National Rankings showcase up to the Top 5 Canadian boxers in each of 12 weight classes for both men and women. Modeled after famed The Ring magazine boxing rankings, the order is decided upon by a panel of Canadian boxing writers, journalists and podcasters who submit anonymous ballots. Those ballots are then averaged.

“We are trying to take the sport back to origins where you had to beat the best to be the best – No. 1 vs. No. 2,” explained Kinesiology professor Mac Ross, who is leading the effort. “We wanted to strip away all the politics, all the stuff that sanctioning bodies deal with, and let fighters compete.

“If you want to compete against the best in the country, we want to give you some recognition for that. With this title, you become recognized as the Canadian champion.”

As these are the debut rankings, all titles are considered vacant. Some categories don’t have enough fighters to fill out a Top 5 yet.

It is a system, Ross said, designed to “recognize only the best” while growing with the sport.

In order to qualify for the title, a boxer must reside in Canada, have faced a Canada-based opponent in the last 12 months. Only boxers ranked No. 1 or No. 2 can contest their division’s vacant title. Once champion, they must defend against a Top 5 opponent in their division every 12 months in a bout scheduled for 10-12 rounds. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of champion status.

The rankings will be issued on the 15th of every month at the Canadian Boxiana website, canadianboxiana.org.

Ross – known as @ThePunchingProf on Twitter – hope the new system will clear up the muddied waters of Canadian boxing titles.

Most fight fans are familiar with the four major sanctioning bodies in The States – the World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Organization (WBO). With each organization boasting its own champions, along with its own set of biases and criteria, it has created a confusion in the sport.

Unlike a generation or two ago, few fans can name a Heavyweight champion – a person who was once the considered the most famous athlete in the world, Ross said.

In the absence of a centralized ranking system, many have turned to The Ring rankings which the magazine has issued since 1925. Gathered from a panel of journalists, the rankings are independent of the politics of promotion. The magazine names its own champion and issues its own title belt.

Adela Talbot // Western NewsThe Canadian Boxiana Championship Belt is awarded to the No. 1 ranked boxer in each category of the Canadian Boxiana National Rankings. The belt sports artwork that “represents the Canadian wilderness that the nation’s boxers originally competed in,” explained Kinesiology professor Mac Ross.

The same problem exists among Canadian fighters facing an alphabet soup of sanctioning bodies with titles like the National Championship of Canada (NCC), North American Boxing Association (NABA), National Boxing Authority (NBA) and Canadian Professional Boxing Council (CPBC).

“At any given time, we could have four Canadian Heavyweight champions – and we only have like 12 boxers. It makes no sense. It doesn’t represent national championship status,” Ross said. “I think that is where we come in.”

Organizing bodies are important, he stressed, as they provide links to the world councils and give elite fights a chance on the world’s stage. But those same organization tend to make the Canadian title seem like “a stepping-stone title rather than representing a true Canadian champion.”

The Canadian Boxiana National Rankings are about restoring a true Canadian champion – and it couldn’t come at a better time, Ross said.

Boxing has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity in Canada. Historically revered in Quebec, more matches are being scheduled nationwide, with Ontario boasting more events and more promoters than in generations.

“It is a great time for the sport,” Ross said. “We had a whole era of great amateur fighters who didn’t turn pro. There was no opportunity. Today, a lot of these fighters are getting a chance to be a pro, even if only for a hobby, or if they are really good, continue on and make it a career.”

In addition to creating and running the Canadian Boxiana National Rankings, Ross also designed the championship belt awarded to the No. 1 ranked boxer in each category. The belt sports artwork that “represents the Canadian wilderness that the nation’s boxers originally competed in.”

While coming along at the right time, Ross knows it will take time to establish the rankings and title.

“There has already been some negative pushback – people calling it a joke, just another belt to throw on the pile of belt,” he said. “So it will take time. But it has the possibility of increasing not only the level of competition among Canadian boxers, but elevating the sport as a whole.”