The International Boxing Federation’s 38th annual convention took place in Chicago from May 28-June1, and ProBoxTV was in attendance. On the final full day of the meeting, we sat down with IBF President Daryl Peoples for a lengthy interview. In this first of two parts, Peoples discusses general perceptions about the sanctioning bodies, the rules about unifications and mandatories, the growth of women’s boxing, and concerns for the future of amateur boxing and the Olympics.
The interview has been lightly edited for length, grammar, and clarity.
Boxing media and sanctioning bodies are not necessarily the best of friends. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that fans and media have about you guys that you would like to try to rectify?
Well first of all, a lot of fans think that all sanctioning bodies are blood sucking leeches.
Boxing is different than a lot of sports, because there's no central regulation. But that doesn't mean that it's complete chaos. One of the biggest things that I think a lot of boxing fans and boxing media miss, is that there are rules. What makes it more confusing is our rules may differ a little from the WBC, the WBA, the WBO. And that adds to some of the confusion. People don't understand mandatory rules. They don't understand eliminators. They don't understand the whole process. And then that's partly because it's fragmented. And but there are rules … They may not make sense to you if you're uninitiated, but there are rules. And they’re not just arbitrary. And me and Paco and Gilberto and Mauricio - for the most part, we don't just make it up [chuckles]. There are rules, and they should be applied fairly.
You mentioned fragmentation. That is something that obviously you hear about all the time. And it's one that a lot of media will point to as one of the reasons why it's hard to get people interested in boxing, because the standard question is: Oh, who's the champion? And there's often not a simple answer to that. What do you say in response to that? And what are you and Mauricio and Gilberto and Paco doing to encourage fighters to unify and to try and maybe not strip each other's titlists? That's a very open-ended question.
It is, and I wish I had the answer. We all realize that a unified or undisputed champion is good for the sport. But then again, you know, when you're a champion, you have a lot of obligations. We're working on it. The first thing we're going to need to try and figure out is the rotation. And who's next? Our rules differ greatly. And that's something that we're trying to come to a compromise on.
Because that's the difficulty, isn't it? It's one thing for a fighter to unify. And then it's like, oh, shoot, I've got 30 days to do my IBF mandatory or however long to do my WBA and, and then it can be like, well screw it. I'll just give that belt up.
We're working on this, because our guidelines are kind of tight. Our time frames are a little shorter than some of the other organizations. And listen, if you're undisputed champion, that's a great honor, a great accolade. We need to figure out a way where not every fight for the rest of your career is a mandatory. People want to see the best fighting the best. They want to see tough fights all day all the time. But, you know, everybody's entitled to one easy day at work. You know? So, we're trying to figure that out and work out timelines. It’s a moving target. There's a lot of moving parts. And we're trying to figure out a way to make it work. We've sat together, but we all have rules that vary. And we've also come to the realization that, if we're going to do what's right, or what's perceived as right, we may have to start adjusting our rules, or even coming up with a certain set of rules for a particular situation,
You know, we bring some of this stuff on ourselves. But we're trying to make it better. And we understand collectively how people perceive us. But we genuinely try to do what's right for the boxers that fight for our titles. But unfortunately, sometimes people see what they want to see. And, again, we're partly to blame for making ourselves easy targets sometimes.
I will say, you do obviously have regional titles, but you seem to me to do a lot fewer interim belts, super belts, that kind of thing, than certain other organizations.
That is true, because it's easier to manage a family of five than a family of 50.
Not every fight needs to be for a title, because then you diminish what a champion is, right? I'm finding now in the four-belt era with a lot of undisputed champions. It makes it difficult, but that's good for boxing. It's good for everybody. “Oh, I don't know who the real champion is.” Well, there are four real champions. And that's something we need to fix. Okay. We need to figure out a way everybody wants to see one champion. I want to see one champion, because it makes it manageable. But then people also have to realize that when you're a champion, you have obligations. We have ratings. We're often criticized for our ratings. But just because a fan in the United States doesn't know a boxer from Thailand doesn't mean he can't fight. The talking heads on some networks would have you think that they discovered the Klitschkos. Well, these guys were with us and intercontinental champions for five years. But until they got to a big platform, you wouldn't have known about the Klitschkos. So, I mean, we do serve a purpose.
You talked at the opening of the convention about how women’s boxing is doing such a great job of unifying champions. It feels at times lately that women's boxing has been almost the catalyst for the men to get their act together. How much do you think that rise in women's boxing is because we finally got to a place where the talent pool was bigger? How big of a factor was having women's boxing in the Olympics for example?
Huge. Huge. The whole rise in women's boxing is a result of them competing in the Olympics. And now people realize that there are ladies out there that can fight. Not to disparage the pioneers, but There was Laila, there was Christy, there was Ann Wolfe …. and also-rans. You know what I mean? Yeah. But now, first of all, the skill level of the ladies now is just off the charts. There are competitive fights. And the ladies are trying to establish themselves in the sport. So, I'd like to see that courage in some of the men. [Women] want to fight the best because they've got to, it's harder for them. They have to establish themselves. And you know what, I think? The 0 at the end of the record is a little less important to the ladies, because they want to fight the tough fights. You know what? You can lose and you can still be great.
Where are you guys at with regard to two minute rounds, as opposed to three minute rounds, for women? Is that something you're still looking at? And you basing that on medical opinion that maybe women might be more susceptible to concussion?
I'm going to leave that to people that are a lot smarter than me. The medical people say that two minutes is safer. So that's what I'm gonna go with. Do I think that women are prepared to fight three rounds? Of course I do. But again, if it's not going to be safe, I'm not going to endorse it. You know the cliche, you don't play boxing. This is a hard way to make a living. So ,if that one minute can afford them that little bit more protection, that's what we're gonna do.
There are huge governance issues with amateur boxing, of course. And there's a real risk that we're going to lose it from the Olympics. Are you concerned about the cascading effects that could come from that?
This could go really wrong. And traditionally, many or all of the greats are guys who had medals around their necks. Speaking from watching things in the United States, Europe and other countries. You have guys who participate in two or three Olympics, they’re national champions for four years. So not only are they refining their craft and learning more about boxing. A lot of times in other countries these guys are national heroes already when they make their pro debut. We're not seeing that as much in the United States. And in a lot of other places, a lot of the talented guys, they'll go to the Olympics and then they're automatically pros. So I think the decline in the Olympic movement is affecting the talent pool in the pros. Plain and simple. The Olympics in boxing is our minor leagues, right? That's the developmental league. And we have to preserve that at all costs. Or it's going to have a ripple effect that's not going to be good.