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Canelo as WBC “Franchise Champ?” Makes Perfect Sense

(Originally Published in

Last Wednesday, the WBC announced that they were elevating WBC middleweight champ Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to Franchise Champion. The boxing media, sensing a suitably safe target to play-act outrage, jumped all over “yet another title ruining boxing.” ESPN even posted a critical piece entitled “WBC's franchise title just doesn't make sense.”

But the Franchise Champ stuff does make perfect sense.

The WBC, which is perpetually money-hungry and infinitely full of crap, created that title designation to make sure none of their pesky bylaws interfered with a happy Canelo bringing them fat, juicy sanctioning fees indefinitely.

In basic terms and sidestepping the gobbledygook issued by president Mauricio Sulaiman via press release, the Franchise Champ designation was created to award special status to very, very special WBC champs to remove them of their championship obligations and, thereby, open the door for bigger, better fights. That’s the company line, anyway.

In reality, it frees up any big-earner of the sanctioning body’s choosing to disregard the pesky challenges, no matter how deserving, of not-so-big earners and/or not-so-well-connected ranked opposition. The WBC has never been shy about bending or flat-out violating their own rule of law, but this latest hustle saves them the effort of having to explain their shady moves. It also saves them the embarrassment of having to point to the “unless the WBC in its sole discretion otherwise directs” escape clause tagged to each of their bylaws which basically tells the world that their rules are etched in stone, unless they choose not to respect them.

Having Canelo installed as the Franchise Champion means that they don’t have to worry about their red-headed cash cow having an Anthony Joshua moment against an unseemly Andy Ruiz-type underdog and ruining the ongoing Alvarez money orgy.

Don’t underestimate, either, the WBC’s drive to keep Canelo buttered-up and happy after the Mexican star snubbed and publicly bashed the Mexico City-based organization for the better part of two years over their aggressive push to make a Gennady Golovkin bout. During that separation, Sulaiman courted a reconciliation that crossed the cringe-worthy line several times, even appealing to Canelo’s patriotism and support of indigenous Mexican communities by having artisan, hand-crafted belts made for bouts where Canelo refused WBC sanctioning.

Now that the WBC is back in the 28-year-old’s good graces, what better way to satisfy him than by essentially making him champion for life?

This Franchise stuff also means being able to keep a well-connected challenger not in a golden goose’s plans appeased by silver-plattering him a “full” world title, like what they just did by elevating Jermall Charlo to full world champ status. Charlo had been gifted the interim WBC middleweight title when it became clear that bouts with full champ Canelo and the full champ before him, Gennady Golovkin, weren’t going to happen.

Under the Franchise plan, Charlo can have his world title and Canelo doesn’t have to look bad trying to act above the challenge of Charlo (or anyone else)-- because he’s only about the really BIG fights now. And the definition of “big,” of course, is now defined at the sole discretion of the WBC, which will have ultimate power, along with the Franchise Champion’s promoter, in approving all opposition.

“Franchise is a new concept and I feel good about it,” Sulaiman told ESPN. “We are trying to provide an avenue to enhance boxing and to grow the industry. We are making a rule, a status, to bring clarity, not to confuse.”

And here’s a taste of that clarity:

A Franchise Champion will no longer be defending any title, since the Franchise Champ designation is non-transferable, but the WBC may put a Diamond belt up for grabs in any bout featuring a Franchise Champion and if the challenger wins the Diamond belt, he may become mandatory challenger for the world championship. In other words, beating the higher-regarded WBC champ could earn a fighter a shot at the now lesser belt for, most likely, a significantly smaller payout.

This “clarity” kind of sucks for everyone but Canelo and, of course, the WBC.

This nonsense is a hustle, a con, and a greedy grab at legitimizing complete and total bullshit. It’s nothing more than an attempt to keep cash cows permanently in place, whether they win or lose, paying their 3% to the sanctioning body for their entire career. It’s almost admirable in its audacious dirtiness.

But it’s no shocker. Knowing the players in the game, it makes perfect sense.

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