Road to confusion

May 10, 2001

A chronology of the demise in credibility among the world boxing organizations and the rise of the role of television and cable networks.

Early 1930s: The middleweight division splinters into two factions, with champs like Baltimore's Vince Dundee and Teddy Yaroz carrying the titles of the New York State Athletic Commission - then the most powerful and recognized sanctioning body - and Al Hostak, Solly Krieger and Tony Zale being crowned by the National Boxing Association.

Late 1930s, early '40s: Featherweights do the same, with NBA's Tommy Paul, Freddie Miller, Petey Sarron, Leo Rodak and Pete Scalzo and New York's Kid Chocolate, Mike Belloise and Joey Archibald.

1940s: Similar divisions occur among the lightweights, as New York crowns Beau Jack and Bob Montgomery and NBA Sammy Angott, Juan Zurita and Ike Williams.

1949: Joe Walcott, whose prestige had added legitimacy to the NBA heavyweight title, loses his belt to New York State heavyweight champ Ezzard Charles.

1950: The NBA takes new name, World Boxing Association, and Charles beats Joe Louis to gain that title.

1962: Los Angeles promoter George Parnassus helps found the World Boxing Council to gain a stage for Mexican fighters he promoted, such as Ruben Oliveres and Sugar Ramos.

1964-68: The WBA twice strips Muhammad Ali of his heavyweight title, once for his return bout with Sonny Liston and again when he fails to enter the draft. Television establishes the WBA as major player, showing an elimination bout for the title taken from Ali.

1970: New York State Athletic Commission champ Joe Frazier unites the heavyweight titles with knockouts of WBA champ and elimination tournament winner Jimmy Ellis.

1973: HBO debuts Jan. 22 with first of three bouts that year - George Foreman's knockout of Frazier.

1974: HBO telecasts Ali's knockout victory over George Foreman in Zaire.

1978: WBA and WBC heavyweight champ Leon Spinks is stripped of the WBC portion of his title for taking a return bout with Ali rather than No. 1 contender Ken Norton. Televised WBC title bout between Norton and winner Larry Holmes legitimizes the WBC on the national stage. Also, gold-medal-winning welterweight Sugar Ray Leonard debuts on HBO.

1981: HBO's busiest year yet, 10 fights, includes Leonard's classic bout with Thomas Hearns.

1983: Network television legitimizes the International Boxing Federation, broadcasting the title bout between Marvin Hagler and Wilford Sypion. Further gains are made by the IBF's crowning Larry Holmes heavyweight champ after the WBC strips him for failing to defend against Greg Page.

1986: The cable network battle begins, as HBO's 14 telecasts are countered by six from Showtime.

Sources: HBO, Showtime, Ring magazine editor Nigel Collins, boxing historian Bert Sugar.

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