There they go again.
As usual, the WBC does what it wants with little to no regard for its own rules. President for life Jose Sulaiman and his band of merry men seemingly make stuff up as they go along because they think they can do whatever they want, and too many others are happy to follow along so long as it helps them.
Case in point: Saturday's fight between Abner Mares and Eric Morel, who will meet on Showtime (9:30 p.m. ET/PT) from the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
As for the fight itself, I'm not a fan. As much as I enjoy watching Mares fight, that is how little entertainment value Morel provides. The next time the former flyweight titlist is in a good fight will be the first time in his 16-year career.
But Showtime elected to buy the fight, so that's what we'll get Saturday. So be it. My real issue is that the bout will be fought for the WBC's vacant junior featherweight title. That is a joke and contrary to the reality that should exist.
When Toshiaki Nishioka, who had held the title since 2009 and was beginning to creep up the pound-for-pound list, told the WBC that he couldn't make a mandatory defense because of a personal issue that would keep him away from boxing for a long stretch, he was stripped (and designated "champion emeritus").
With the title vacant, the normal protocol is for the organization to go down its rankings and match the two leading available contenders for the belt. That's how it is supposed to work -- unless, of course, you're the WBC, which chooses to ignore its own rules.
Instead of assessing the availability of the 40 boxers it rates at 122 pounds, the organization instead sanctioned Mares and Morel for the title.
The problem is that neither was ranked at 122 pounds when the WBC sanctioned the fight. That's a no-no, not to mention that neither guy deserves to box for the belt at this point because neither has accomplished anything in the weight class. Also, there were more than three dozen fighters who were ranked at 122 hoping for the opportunity. Simpiwe Vetyeka, for example, had already won a final eliminator, meaning he was supposed to get a mandatory shot at the title.
The WBC's explanation: Executive director Mauricio Sulaiman, Jose's son, told ESPN.com that the organization had received a request from Golden Boy to sanction the fight and that it agreed -- even though the WBC was under no obligation to do so given Vetyeka's status as the mandatory.
Mauricio Sulaiman claimed that Vetyeka was passed over because he hadn't fought since last summer -- even though one of the reasons was because he was awaiting his mandatory shot. Then Vetyeka was bypassed.
Sulaiman also claimed that Vetyeka faced "contractual problems with multiple managers and promoters." Even if that was the case, so what? He still had rights from winning the final eliminator and wasn't offered the opportunity to fight for the vacant belt.
But why would the WBC let such issues get in the way of ramming through Mares-Morel?
Mares (23-0-1, 13 KOs) is a fine fighter. He's one of the best young guys in the sport. He was a Mexican Olympian in 2004 and has emerged as an exciting fighter who won Showtime's bantamweight tournament and claimed a world title, which he vacated earlier this year in order to move up in weight.
Morel (46-2, 23 KOs), who is originally from Puerto Rico, was a 1996 U.S. Olympian and held a flyweight title from 2000 to 2003. After a three-year hiatus, during which he went to prison on a sexual abuse conviction, Morel returned in 2008 as a bantamweight, where he claimed an interim title but faced mostly modest competition.
Mares and Morel are both good fighters. Nobody disputes that. But thanks to the WBC's shenanigans, both are being handed shots at a title for which they don't truly qualify. Now, I don't in any way blame the fighters for accepting the chance to fight for a world title. Nor do I blame promoter Golden Boy for accepting the sanction and using the title designation to help sell the fight. That's its job (even though, with its power, it could help the sport by distancing itself from the WBC immediately).
But the WBC? Shame, shame, shame.
The fight was put together in late February and formally announced in mid-March. But in the March WBC rankings, Mares was rated No. 1 at bantamweight. Morel? He was all the way down at No. 12.
Then, after the fight was made, the WBC went looking for a sanctioning fee. Suddenly, in the April rankings, Mares, with zero accomplishment at 122 pounds, was ridiculously installed as the No. 1 contender. And Morel, who couldn't even crack the top 10 at 118 pounds? Miraculously -- amazingly! -- he appeared at No. 5 in the April junior featherweight rankings.
You see how the game is played here?
The fighters' sudden rise up the rankings seemed to be for no other reason than to allow the WBC to sanction the fight for the title it stripped from Nishioka and grab the payday at the expense of the fighters it trampled on. What about the guys who were ranked at 122 and got bumped down because of this fraudulent move?
In the March rankings, South Africa's Vetyeka was No. 1 at junior featherweight, with Mexico's Victor Terrazas at No. 2. They should have been tabbed to fight for the vacant title.
But in April's rankings, both were suddenly shoved down without having lost. Vetyeka fell to No. 2 and Terrazas to No. 4.
South African promoter Branco Milenkovic, who handles Vetyeka, was rightfully disgusted by how the WBC finagled its rankings to make Mares-Morel appear to be a legitimate title bout while jobbing Vetyeka.
According to Milenkovic, at the WBC convention in Las Vegas in December, the organization anointed Vetyeka as the official mandatory challenger for then-titlist Nishioka, who would be allowed one optional defense and then be compelled to face Vetyeka.
Once Nishioka was relieved of the title, Vetyeka should have been fighting Terrazas for the vacant belt.
Said Milenkovic, "Is it not the custom or standard that in these situations the current No. 1 [Vetyeka, as of March] and No. 2 [Terrazas, as of March] in the division compete against each other?"
Keep in mind also that Vetyeka had already won a "final eliminator" against Giovanni Caro in July 2011 for the right to fight for the WBC's junior featherweight title. He paid his sanction fee, of course, but was then passed over so the WBC could instead do as it pleased.
In this case, that meant sanctioning Mares-Morel for the belt while ignoring Vetyeka's rights.
There they go again.