As the WBC moves towards a purse bid for a fight between Ronald “Winky” Wright and Javier Castillejo, another boxer wants a to fight Wright so badly, he’s filed a lawsuit in order to get a shot at the man recognized as the true junior middleweight champion of the world. The boxer going to court is Travis Simms, who is undefeated as a professional and holds a lesser version of the 154-pound world title. Simms has sued the WBA in federal court in New York City, charging that the sanctioning body should be required not only to follow its own rules, but also live up to its written word, by ordering Wright, the WBA super champion, to face Simms, the WBA regular champion.
Boxing is full of athletes claiming unfair treatment from one sanctioning body or another but Simms has a pretty good piece of evidence in his favor: he got the WBA’s promise in writing. Simms won the WBA regular title in December of 2003 when he knocked out Alejandro Garcia in Atlantic City. Two months after Simms won the title, his attorney, Kurt Emhoff, wrote to WBA
executive Renzo Bagnariol and asked him to clarify when Simms would be able to challenge the super champion, who at the time was Shane Mosley.
Bagnariol e-mailed Emhoff (in all capital letters), saying, “INDEED ACCORDING TO THE WBA RULES AND REGULATIONS, THE WBA UNIFIED CHAMPION SHANE MOSLEY HAS A MANDATORY DEFENSE DUE BY MARCH 14, 2004. AS YOU WELL NOW, MR. MOSLEY HAS AN UNIFICATION BOUT, WITH THE IBF WORLD CHAMPION RONALD WRIGHT, AND THIS BOUT IS SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 13, 2004. THE WINNER BETWEEN MOSLEY AND WRIGHT, WILL HAVE TO FACE THE WORLD SUPER WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION TRAVIS SIMMS IN A
PERIOD OF 120 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THE FIGHT.”
Bagnariol confirmed this e-mail with a follow-up e-mail on March 9, 2004. Four days later, Wright defeated Mosley to become the new WBA super champion. Although sanctioning bodies cannot force an unwilling boxer to take a bout, Simms expected the WBA would enforce its own rules by ordering Wright to make a mandatory defense against Simms, as per Bagnariol’ s e-mail. Instead, the WBA sent its attorney, Robert Mack to do its dirty work. Just three weeks after Wright defeated Mosley, Mack suddenly informed Emhoff that Simms’ mandatory would be delayed due to a rule change by the WBA.
See if you can follow Mack’s logic: "As you have been told by Mr.
Bagnariol, the Chair of our Championship Committee, our regular rules provide that a contender (who is not an official contender) who defeats a WBA world champion, in other than the heavyweight division, generally must defend his title against the official contender within 120 days from the date on which he obtains the title,” wrote Mack. Then came the hook. However, the WBA recently adopted amended rules regarding unified, undisputed, and super championship titles.
Those rules provide that the winner of an undisputed championship (defined as a championship recognized by three sanctioning organizations) must make a mandatory defense against the WBA official contender within 21 months of obtaining the title. However, if the boxer who has obtained the title was not previously certified by the WBA as the official contender, he has a period of no longer than nine months to defend the title against the official contender/world champion, who in this case is Travis Simms. Mr. Wright was not previously certified, and therefore it looks as though the nine month requirement applies. Consequently, current applicable rules provide that the mandatory defense period for Mr. Wright runs nine months from the date he obtained the title, and not four months, unless the Executive Board should decide otherwise as an exception to the rules." Despite the WBA world championship belt around his waist, Simms was on the oustide looking in.
The WBA then allowed Wright to fight an immediate rematch against Mosley. Mack and the WBA did not seem to be troubled by the fact that an immediate rematch was completely against its own rules. “The World Boxing Association shall not permit a direct rematch, which means to be any fight the new champion desires to have with the ex-champion from whom he won the title, before he makes his first title defense against any of Official Contender of his category. This provision shall be applied to all categories," reads the WBA rule.
If the WBA was to apply its rules to Wright with the same zeal that it did to Simms, Wright would have been stripped of the super championship. “Any member of the World Boxing Association who violates or cooperates in violating this provision shall be subject to what is set forth in Article 4.2 of these Regulations, and if the member is a Champion or a ranked boxer, the penalty could be to declare Title vacant or exclusion from ranking as the case may be.”
Indeed, the WBA did just that in another weight class, removing Kostya Tszyu from the super championship when he did not face regular 140-pound champion Vivian Harris.
Wright defeated Mosley in the rematch, but Simms reportedly received word from the WBA that he might have to make two mandatory defenses before the WBA would order the super champion to face him. Although Simms has received no formal notification, the WBA reportedly told Don King Productions that Simms would have to make back-to-back mandatories against two DKP fighters, Alejandro Garcia and Rhoshii Wells. Simms filed the lawsuit in federal court in New York City right around the time of the Wright-Mosley rematch.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief requiring the WBA to follow its rules by ordering Wright-Simms, and if Wright refuses the bout, Simms wants him stripped of super champion status just as the WBA did to Tszyu. Stripping boxers of their titles is generally not a good thing, but after having fees deducted from his paycheck by the WBA every time he
fought for its world or regional titles, fairness, consistency and adherence to the rules is what Simms is looking for.