By: UK Boxing Writer – Robert Massey

In professional boxing, until the 1980’s, the “championship distance” referred to the title rounds that were numbered between 13 and 15.  This changed though, following the death of lightweight Duk Koo Kim in 1982 after his 14 round knockout loss to Ray Mancini.

Almost immediately, the WBC issued a statement saying that WBC world title fight bouts would be set for 12 rounds. The WBC claimed that their  medical advisors conducted a study that illustrated that most fighters receive greater injuries during rounds 13, 14 and 15. The WBA later followed suit by voting to reduce their championship distances to 12 rounds on October 19, 1987.  While the IBF continued to hold onto the position there was no documented medical evidence to show a 15 round fight is more dangerous than a 12 round fight, they eventually voted to shorten their championship distance to 12 rounds, as well, on June 3, 1988.

This is a great controversy within the boxing community, especially with those who remember the days of 15 round fights.  Some state that 15 rounds are too dangerous because in those last 3 extra rounds the fighter could be dehydrated, therefore leading to permanent injury or death.  Those that object to this point out that the fatalities overwhelmingly occur within the lower weight classes. Their reasoning continues that these lighter-weight fighters have to lose a lot of weight, and the onus is on the fighter to be on point with his weight and conditioning entering into a 15 round contest. So the problem is not the longevity of a bout, but for the most part, the commitment of the fighter.

A world title fight is the ultimate test of strength and endurance, surely 15 rounds is a better test of this.  I have seen many a fight were the fighter has been ahead on the cards but has ran out of gas in the 10th, and if the fight had been 15 rounds instead of 12 the other fighter would of stopped him. Most definitely, the fighter that can go 15 rounds is a more deserving champion than the fighter that’s exhausted after 10 or 12.

Boxing history would have been so much different if 12 rounds were instituted since the inception of the Marques of the Queensberry rules. A couple of historical examples are as follows:

  • Rocky Marciano vs.  Ezzard Charles – Marciano would not have been the only undefeated heavyweight champion. He won against Charles in the last 3 championship rounds, the 13-15.
  • Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns – Leonard was behind earlier in the fight, but he rallied late to come back and stop Hearns in the 14thround via TKO.
  • Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali – In a heated battle, this fight was finalized with a left hook in the 14thround by Joe Frazier.  Frazier won the fight with a unanimous decision.
  • Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler – Leonard was running out of gas and probably would have lost if the fight had been 15 rounds.
  • Bernard Hopkins vs. Jermaine Taylor I – Taylor appeared to be gassed and Hopkins, being superbly conditioned, would have probably would have won this close fight over a 15 round stretch.
    In some of the aforementioned examples stimulate a rational conclusion that the better, fitter, superbly conditioned man is the one who can complete 15 rounds.  In my estimation, this is the man who should be crowned champion. I say we should bring back and implement championship fights to be conducted over 15 rounds.I personally don’t think that the reduction in rounds has led to any less deaths or fighters suffering from brain damage. It should be left to the boxers themselves, referees, cornermen, ringside doctors, or other boxing officials to be competent enough to know when to stop fights.Going another three rounds exhibit the decisive test of character, heart, and superb condition. This is the mark of the ultimate champion. Let’s bring it back!

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