On Saturday, Errol Spence Jr made the second defence of the IBF welterweight title he won from Kell Brook in May of last year by crushing IBF mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo inside of one round. Ocampo, previously undefeated in 22 fights, was counted out in the final seconds of the first round after going down from a body shot delivered by Spence’s powerful left hand.
While the post-fight narrative has been based around whether or not Spence will be able to get the winner of the upcoming fight for the vacant WBC title between Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter fight next, or whether a dream unification bout with fellow undefeated champion Terence Crawford, who took the WBO title from Jeff Horn with a one-sided ninth round stoppage last weekend, could take place. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about why Errol Spence, one of the most dangerous punchers in the world, was forced to fight such an overmatched opponent as a mandatory defence in such a talent rich division?
Spence did the right thing by taking on his mandatory challenger now following his successful January defence against Lamont Peterson. Terence Crawford and Jeff Horn had already agreed to face one another, Manny Pacquiao was fighting Lucas Matthysse and then unified champion Keith Thurman injured his left hand in April, which forced him to vacate the WBC title he took from Garcia. It made sense for Spence to get his mandatory challenger out of the way so it wouldn’t tie him up when the other big names in the division were free to face him. My issue isn’t with why Spence was fighting Ocampo, it is why the IBF forced Spence to fight Ocampo considering Ocampo had not yet proved himself to be anywhere near Spence’s league.
Ocampo is 22 years-old and still is an excellent prospect. He has been a professional since 2012 and was making solid steps towards being a top contender. His most notable win came over Jorge Paez Jr in 2015, a fight he won on points over ten rounds. Ten rounds, however, is the most Ocampo has been scheduled to fight so far in his career. He had never trained for a 12-round fight prior to the Spence contest and he had never fought outside his native Mexico either, which begs the question, why was he the IBF mandatory challenger?
Looking through the IBF welterweight rankings and Ocampo isn’t even their number one contender, he’s number three. Number one is vacant and number two is held by Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas, who won the #2 ranking by defeating Philadelphia’s Ray Robinson in February. If the IBF wants to enforce a mandatory challenger, why are they doing it when they don’t even have a proven top contender? That right there suggests they are just enforcing a mandatory for the sake of enforcing one.
The next question about all of this is one that never gets asked about the sanctioning bodies. Considering the talent of the welterweight division right now, why aren’t Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Manny Pacquiao in the IBF world rankings? Those men, along with Spence, make up the consensus top welterweights in the world yet the IBF only has Spence as their champion with none of the others listed in their top fifteen.
This shouldn’t be solely an attack of the IBF either. The WBC, WBA and WBO don’t include Spence in their top ten because he holds the IBF title. Porter isn’t ranked by the WBA and is ranked #6 by the WBO. While it’s good the WBO considers Porter a top ten welterweight, the WBO also thinks a fighter named Giovanni Santillan, a boxer who I have never heard of, is better than him as he is ranked number five. The WBA shares the IBF’s sentiment and doesn’t think Garcia is worthy of a top 15 ranking.
This right here is one of the major issues in boxing and one that never gets talked about. Sanctioning bodies not ranking other sanctioning body’s titleholders or top contenders means we get number three contenders like Carlos Ocampo, a great prospect who was rushed into the world scene because the IBF were too petty to rank Garcia, Porter and Pacquiao in their top five and too greedy to not enforce a mandatory challenger even though they didn’t have a clear one. Being a number three contender for one of the major sanctioning bodies means you are, at best, a top 16 contender as there are three other bodies also ranking four champions as well as four top contenders while not ranking the top guys ranked by one another.
Let’s think about what could happen if this practise stopped. Let’s say the IBF champion Spence was without a mandatory challenger and was also rightfully ranked by the WBC, WBA and WBO based off his wins over Brook, Peterson, Algieri and Bundu. In theory, Spence could match himself with a top fifteen contender in the IBF as a defence of his title but against a contender also happened to be highly ranked by one of the other sanctioning bodies. He would still pay the sanctioning fee to the IBF for such a match, but it would also help him rise in the rankings of those other sanctioning bodies. Should he rise up the rankings of another sanctioning body while defending his title? This could eventually lead to a sanctioning body enforced unification match after he achieves their position as mandatory challenger. If their champion refuses to unify, the sanctioning body could strip him of the title.
Further to this, when we get fantastic matchups like last August’s WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO junior welterweight unification match between Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo, the type of fight that should have happened more than once in the history of men’s boxing (the other time being Bernard Hopkins vs Oscar De La Hoya), instead of the IBF stripping Crawford eleven days after defeating Indongo for not agreeing to face their mandatory challenger Sergey Lipinets next, the IBF could have negotiated with one of the other sanctioning bodies to have Lipinets face their top contender–say Kiryl Relikh or Jose Ramirez–and the winner of that bout gets the next shot as they are mandatory for two of the sanctioning bodies.
This would eliminate the number of mandatory defences a unified champion would have to make which would mean more unified champions and less confusion about who the best in each division actually is. Instead we got to see Errol Spence, one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world today and certainly one of the best punchers in the sport, destroy a 22-year-old prospect with no world class experience who had not fought a 12-round bout in his career.