By Steve Kim Updated on June 20, 2024

How Much Do the Belts Matter?

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No matter what anyone tells you, for as flawed -- some would say corrupted -- as the sanctioning bodies are, the championship belts that they dole out, absolutely matter. For boxers, they are a mark of significant achievement, and proof of your status within the division. They generally mean bigger paydays as networks and promoters yearn to feature championship bouts.

Yes, it's a flawed system with the proliferation of titles, no argument. But ask yourself this: if these trinkets weren't of value, why don't more boxers simply vacate them, and save themselves the sanctioning fees that come along with them?

Because...say it with me: belts (still) matter.

But on the flip side, they do have varying degrees of importance to fighters. Some absolutely need them to boost their market value, and to entice other boxers to step inside the ring with them. Others, basically have them as fancy accoutrements.

Case in point, Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Devin Haney. 

Picture for How Much Do the Belts Matter?Matchroom Boxing

It was reported last week that Naoya Inoue, the reigning undisputed champion at 122, would have to face his WBA mandatory by September against 'MJ' Akhmadaliev. My view is that Akhmadaliev would be the most difficult hurdle to clear at 122. This is a rugged, well-schooled southpaw with power in both hands.

But Bob Arum has recently stated that it looks like they will instead take a Tokyo tune-up with TJ Doheny (whose last three outings have taken place in 'the Land of the Rising Sun') and then 'the Monster' will fulfill his IBF mandatory, Sam Goodman.

Now, some will say that Inoue is skirting Akhmadaliev. But that would be a gross exaggeration, and quite frankly based on his track record, downright disrespectful. The reality is those who handle his career may not want to go through with a purse bid and have this bout end up on a non-ESPN platform, and outside of Japan, where Inoue has become a sizable draw.

Picture for How Much Do the Belts Matter?Naoki Fukuda

But it has to be stated, Akhmadaliev is a dangerous and difficult foe. There is some risk management involved here. Although, if Akhmadaliev had not been upset by Marlon Tapales resulting in the loss of his IBF and WBA titles last April, he probably would have earned that showdown with Inoue last December.

Yeah, those belts mattered for Tapales, and without them Akhmadaliev may not get this fight.

Then you have the case of current WBC junior welterweight titlist, Devin Haney, who is coming off the tainted fight against Ryan Garcia on April 20. He is obligated to face his mandatory challenger, Sandor Martin.

It was reported on Tuesday by Dan Rafael that Top Rank was the only bidder for the Haney-Martin fight.

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This was a punch in the gut to Haney, who in recent years has grown accustomed to much higher paydays. Haney is miffed at Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, who promoted his fights in the past. In recent months, Hearn, had suggested that the Martin fight would be a good comeback fight after getting sent to the canvas three times by Garcia. 

But the reality is that without a long-term commitment with Haney, Matchroom was under no obligation to bid on this particular fight. Also, while Martin is a respected boxer, this match-up isn't one that looks like it will be a commercial blockbuster. This is why Top Rank (which has Martin under contract and obligated to put up a bid) was the only one at the table.

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Even free agency comes at a price. Independence can be risky business. You're only as good as the leverage and status you command.

But Haney doesn't necessarily have to accept this deal and go through with this match-up. He has the right to vacate the title and simply move on with the rest of his career. Haney, given his past accomplishments at 135 and 140 may have better, more lucrative options. Or, maybe he's just another ex-champion? 

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So just how much does this (WBC) belt matter to Haney?




This week on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' Mario Lopez and I review the Tank Davis and David Benavidez victories: 




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Top Rank has a card on ESPN+ this Friday night that features the first title defense of WBO featherweight champion, Rafael Espinoza, who faces Sergio Chirino... The co-feature on that card has a battle between junior lightweights Andres Cortes and Abraham Nova....Also, on this bill is a  match-up between junior middleweights, Troy Isley and Javier Martinez....IBF featherweight titlist, Luis Alberto 'Venado' Lopez will defend his belt versus Angelo Leo on August 10 in Albuquerque, New Mexico....I can be reached at






About Author
How Much Do the Belts Matter?
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.