What is Emeritus Status?
A fighter gains emeritus status after he, in good standing, has vacated his title as champion but has been promised an immediate title shot by the WBC should he decide to attempt to regain his title.
Essentially, Ward will automatically become the new champion's mandatory opponent if or when Andre decides to pursue that route.
WBC Rule 1.21 a states: All WBC recognized champions must defend their title at least two (2) times a year.
The WBC's move will be met with cheers and jeers. However, the organization sends a strong message: Inactivity, for any reason, will not be tolerated.
And that is good. Injured or not, a fighter shouldn't be allowed to essentially sit on titles without defending them. Allowing it would be unfair to the top contenders and the fans.
Moreover, when a champion fails to defend his title over long periods, the organization sanctioning his title loses revenue; another reason for condemning inactivity.
But is there a double-standard?
Do organizations always enforce their policies on all champions?
In its announcement below, the WBC states, "...unfortunately Andre has sustained injuries that have left him out of the ring for long periods of time."
Given their decision to strip Andre Ward and, moreover, their own policies, shouldn't the WBC have stripped Floyd Mayweather, their welterweight champion, many months ago?
The 36 year old Mayweather, regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, won the WBC Welterweight Title by knocking out Victor Ortiz on September 17, 2011.
Although he will be defending that title next month against Robert Guerrero, nearly 21 months will have elaspsed without a title defense.
Keep in mind, Mayweather's bout with Miguel Cotto was contested at jr middleweight so Mayweather vs Cotto was not a title defense for Floyd's WBC Welterweight Title.
The Case For the WBC
On one hand, one must sympathize with the WBC in their decision-making process.
After all, Floyd Mayweather is a megastar and the highest-revenue generating athlete in the world. Stripping him of his title would cost a sanctioning organization far more in revenue than any praise it would receive for upholding its policies and not making exceptions.
And while it would be easy for us to condemn the actions of the WBC, how many of us would do exactly what its doing if we were WBC employees and our careers and livelihoods depended on the organization's success?
Admitedly, stripping fighters like Mayweather, Pacquiao, De La Hoya or Tyson for inactivity would take tremendous courage - or idiocy depending on how the situation is viewed or who you ask.
The Case Against the WBC
The WBC is a business and its reasoning can clearly be understood.
Nevertheless, its over-the-top actions do nothing to help the sport and only provide legitimacy to the claims of those who say sanctioning bodies are corrupt.
How many fighters have not received well-earned title shots because a sanctioning body has manipulated their rules for financial purposes?
Over time, gross violations of one's own rules leave an organization without dignity and its reputation in ruin.
How Much Are Sanctioning Fees?
For the WBA, it's 3% of both fighters' purses. It doesn't seem like much but consider Mayweather's purses.
For a base purse of $22.5 Million USD, the sanctioning fee for Floyd Mayweather, alone, would be $675,000 USD (522,041 EUR/420,691 GBP)
We dont know the purse percentage(s) the WBC uses to determine its sanctioning fee but can surmise its close to the WBA's if not greater.
So its not surprising sanctioning organizations like the WBC don't like when their champions are inactive.... Unless, of course, a champion generates big-time revenue when he is.
Any organization should be expected to allow a cash cow and boxing legend like Floyd Mayweather to "color outside the lines" a bit. That's certainly understandable. But did they excessively bend the rules?
After a year without a title defense, why didn't the WBC make Floyd an emeritus champion too?
With Floyd as the new champion's mandatory challenger, the WBC would still reap the benefits of the added revenue for Mayweather's participation.
Possible Answer: Perhaps the WBC, like every other sanctioning body, is afraid if they strip a megastar of his belt and status as their champion he will, in turn, fight for another organization's title, leaving them out in the cold?
Obviously, Andre Ward is not a megastar yet.
The purpose of this piece is certainly not to condemn nor promote the WBC's actions as sanctioning bodies sometimes find themselves in difficult, complex situations. The news about Andre Ward is simply an attempt to explain their "perceived" rationale and why the rulings of sanctioning bodies, although well-intended, can sometimes be frustrating for fighters and fans.
Is there an easy solution? Probably not.
Is there a better way?
The statement on Andre Ward is below.
WBC's Statement Declaring Andre Ward's WBC Super Middleweight Title Vacant
Andre Ward is one of the most dominant champions of today and is a true ambassador of the sport of boxing and an example to the youth of the world.
Very unfortunately Andre has sustained injuries that have left him out of the ring for long periods of time, first as he sustained a broken hand after conquering the WBC championship vs Carl Froch on December 2011 which kept him out of the ring until September 2012 when he defeated WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.
Andre Ward was set to fight Kelly Pavlik when he suffered yet another injury which required surgery and has kept him out of the ring for 8 months and is yet uncertain as to when he will resume his boxing career.
The WBC Board of Governors is honored to announce that by a unanimous voting Andre Ward has been designated champion emeritus, joining a very limited number of champions who have received such recognition which grants them special privileges to be able to resolve their own personal matters while not losing their standing as WBC champion of the world.
Once Andre Ward is ready to return, the WBC will order an immediate bout between Ward and whomever is the reigning champion with a purse split of 60-40 in favor of Andre Ward.