Coming into this past summer Gary Shaw believed that his time in boxing had come to an end. After stints running Main Events, and later Gary Shaw Productions, he was more than content at age 77 to enjoy the rest of his life in sunny South Florida.
"I was enjoying the water and the palm trees," said Shaw, who got the call to clean up the mess the World Boxing Association had created with their plethora of title belts, that oftentimes saw them having more a few 'champions' in each weight class.
It's perhaps a necessary evil to have more than one belt in a division, it's something entirely less palatable when a single alphabet group has multiple belt-holders in them.
As pressure mounted on the sanctioning body in the wake of the scandalous decision in the Gabriel Maestre-Mykal Fox bout on August 7, the WBA was spurred on to make significant changes in the way they ran their organization.
Step one was to eradicate their spurious titles (that had tags like 'interim' and 'regular' attached to them).
The call went out from Gilberto Mendoza Jr. to Shaw. And it wasn't a hard sell for him to come aboard.
"I love boxing, so it's in my blood. When the opportunity came, it didn't take long for me to agree," said Shaw, who said he consulted with his wife on the decision. And just like that he became the WBA Chief of Staff.
The edict is clear from Shaw, "Let's get one division, one champion."
Meaning that their first step was turning all the interim champions into mandatory challengers after extensive meetings with the ratings committee. "We really dissected every division," explained Shaw, who says the assurances he was given by Mendoza Jr. about having autonomy to make rulings have been kept. This isn't just a title or a figurehead position.
"Before, I woke up at 5:30(am), and started watching the stock market and watched the news all day," said Shaw. "Now, I wake up and usually my first calls are with (attorney) Pat English, and (noted boxing manager) Shelly Finkel) and it continues during the day."
According to Shaw, there really hasn't been any push back from the industry on the WBA's new policies.
"The fighters like it, the promoters like it," he told SNAC.com. "We thought we'd have a little problem when we took away all the interim belts. But the fighters liked it because we put them in number one mandatory positions."
Shaw says that their mandates are just that, those who do not comply will lose their titles and rankings with the WBA.
"It doesn't make a difference, we're very strict on that," he insisted. "We no longer give extensions, once you tell us the date(of a fight) -- that's the date the fight is going to take place. If you don't want to fight, we drop you."
What's interesting is that thus far, Shaw says that the promoters (who oftentimes believe that certain titles are really their possessions, and not the boxers) haven't given them any negative feedback. Titles are important to them because they are often the easiest way to dress up a show, or to market an event.
Shaw says, while that is true, "The truth is, they know it's way too confusing. They're in the sport themselves and you ask them, 'Who's the lightweight champion?' I mean, they don't know, and then you have interim, silver, and intercontinental.... it's a mess."
And then you have the WBC with their 'franchise' nonsense, which has clouded the issue since Vasiliy Lomachenko was given this designation a few years ago. From the time Teofimo Lopez beat him, and now with George Kambosos, it's still not clear if he's the undisputed champion at 135 given the fact that Devin Haney has the WBC title at that weight.
A few months ago, the heads of the four major sanctioning bodies (which include the World Boxing Organization, the International Boxing Federation, and the World Boxing Council, along with the WBA) met for a summit of sorts in Puerto Rico.
"The mission statement was that we all need to work together because working as one is more powerful, and working as one really works," Shaw explained of the pow-wow. "We discussed how we're going to get all these 'super champions', and unified champions to fight one another, and under what type of sanctioning.
"So that's what we worked on, so that the WBA, the 'BC, the IBF and WBO can all take our champions and fight one another. Eventually, you'd end up with the Super Bowl, you'd wind up with two fighters that make it through all the cuts."
For now, the WBA seems to be making positive changes. Recently, they approved the unification bout between their welterweight champion, Yordenis Ugas, and WBC/IBF titlist, Errol Spence, with the provision that the winner face Radzhab Buatev and Eimantas Stanionis. Butaev recently stopped Jamal James, who had been the WBA 'regular' champion at 147, and Stanionis their number one contender, who agreed to step-aside to allow Ugas-Spence to take place.
Other WBA business includes handling the protest of Michel Soro after he was struck late repeated times against Israil Madrimov a few weeks ago in a fight that was ruled a ninth round TKO. This bout was sanctioned as a title eliminator at junior middleweight. Shaw said earlier this week that he is still trying to figure out the situation between heavyweights, Trevor Bryan (the WBA 'regular' heavyweight champion) and Mahmoud Charr, who were supposed to fight this past summer.
This is what Shaw signed up for. He seems to be enjoying his new responsibilities, which also including heading the NABA (North American Boxing Association), which is affiliated with the WBA. For Shaw it's a chance to put a bow-and-tie on a life in boxing, that began with his days as an inspector for the New Jersey State Athletic Commission in the early 70's.
"I'd like that to be my ending legacy, to really make a positive contribution to the entire sport. That's what I'm looking to do."
Here is this weeks episode of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' on Triller with Mario Lopez and yours truly:
Lot's of derision in regards to this weekends PBC all-heavyweight show, but I have a question: is this really any different than those 'Latin Fury' and 'Pinoy Power' cards that Top Rank used to stage?....Speaking of heavyweights, is WBC champion, Tyson Fury, going to face Dillian Whyte or not?....So just how many pay-per-view buys did the Jake Paul-Tyrone Woodley rematch do? I'll be honest, I don't care....RIP to the great John Madden.... Happy New Years to everyone... I can be reached at email@example.com....