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Interview with WBF President Howard Goldberg

Posted on December 8 2009                                              Bookmark and Share
By Graham Pearman, WBF Media Director



Many thanks for talking to us. Can you first tell us how you became involved in boxing and give us a brief history of your background within the sport.

Absolute pleasure.  I became interested in boxing at the age of six through a neighbour of mine and a great man by the name of Simmy Lewis.  He was and still remains to this day at the young age of 92 arguably one of the finest boxing statisticians worldwide.  I watched hundreds of fights as a youngster and was then roped in to learn to become a referee and judge.  I officiated since 1978 and have worked in over 50 world title fights as a judge, and probably the same amount of South African title fights in the capacity of a referee and judge.  I also did a stint as a promoter, and have also supervised close to a hundred world title fights.

You recently re-formed the WBF breaking away from the Australian group led by Mick Croucher who you worked closely with for several years. Why the split?

The split was indeed sad as I am very fond of Mick. At the last fight of Francois Botha in Germany, I was approached to have a meeting with several disgruntled and high flying boxing administrators from countries around the world who felt that the WBF under Croucher could not be taken to a higher level, and that it was their intention to break away and re-energise the boxing sanctioning body. I was then approached by this group to preside over the new sanctioning body. We approached Mick to be part of the new team in an extremely high executive position, but sadly he declined. We are setting high standards, will have complete transparency, and will strive for independent ratings. We will be striving to take the organisation to a much higher level, both professional and structurally.

What do you consider your organization can offer fighters and why should they fight for WBF titles?

It’s about opportunities for quality fighters who for some reason or another fail to be given title fight opportunities.  We aim to empower boxers, trainers, managers, officials and even administators to realise their dreams and ambitions.  We intend our champions not only to win titles but to be role models and icons for the youth of today, who hopefully will aspire to the levels of their heroes.  We want the very best in the world to contest our titles.

You are looking to attract new promoters to come and work with the WBF. What makes you different from the other alphabet groups?

It’s not really what makes us different and I would rather not compare ourselves with the other organizations and what they do.  Rather I would add, that it is our intention in being a completely transparent organisation whose main aim is to develop quality boxing worldwide, we present an affordable and quality alternative to those promoters who are unable to secure title shots for their championship boxers. Very often many of the world’s top fifteen or so fail to land big title shots – we hope to remedy this problem where possible.

Have all the champions from Mick Croucher’s WBF aligned themselves with you or are some sticking with the Australian version?

All the existing world champions from the Foundation were offered the opportunity to vacate their titles and simply move over to the Federation and automatically become our world champions. All have done so without any hesitation. We have some really outstanding champions within the top twenty on Boxrec, including our lightweight king, Mlungisi Dlamini, 21-0, and our heavyweight champ, Francois ‘The White Buffalo’ Botha. 

Where and when will be the first WBF sanctioned fight since you took over as president?

It’s really been hectic and suddenly we are getting promoters all over the world interested in working with us. Apart from our International and Intercontinental titles taking place in December and January, our next world title fight is on December 18 involving our undefeated International champion Tamas Kovacs. Then it’s Francois Botha vs Evander Holyfield in Uganda on 16 January, William Gare vs Marco Antonio Rubio in South Africa on 22 January, and four others for February still to be confirmed.  Let’s also not forget the world title fight for Noni Tenge of South Africa, a lady we believe to be the very best welterweight in the world today. Also in Europe, things are taking off, especially in the Franco-Italian regions. Our female world champion Myriam Lamare, of whom we are very proud, is # 1 at boxrec.

Many people will see the addition of another world governing body as just another way of making money and confusing the already clouded championship picture. What would you say to those people?

Certainly people will say that.  I would ask the true boxing people to judge us on what we do, the quality of the fights we stage, and the commitment we will give to our ideology of developing boxing.   Hopefully we will let our champions do both the fighting and talking for the World Boxing Federation. I have always believed that any boxing organisation will be judged on the quality of its champions and that of the championship fights. We would like to be judged similarly.

Who will be compiling your world championship ratings? Do you have a ratings director?

We firmly believe in independent ratings such as those of the IBO and Boxrec.  Ed Levine has done a fantastic job with his ratings, which preclude any favouritism to special promoters with special fighters. To achieve this, we have entered into a partnership with Boxrec to adopt their ratings, which makes us and the IBO the only sanctioning bodies to accept independant computer ratings. We believe that all fighters should be rated independently and in turn, the organization will exercise its professional wisdom in selecting appropriate fighters to contest its titles.

Will you be re-structuring the WBF titles which are available? Will there be the minor titles such as Intercontinental, International, All-Americas belts or will you just concentrate on world title bouts?

A slight restructuring with most of the titles staying the same. There will be similar titles to other organisations such as the International and Intercontinental titles, as well as a few pertinent to specific regions.  However, there will be no such thing as an eight round title fight for any title whatsoever.

Where do you see the new WBF in a couple of years? Do you really think you can achieve high profile fights on the big American cards or is it a case of just being patient and building up your reputation and seeing what happens?

It’s a bit of both. We’re in this business to make sure that the World Boxing Federation is taken very seriously indeed. We will from the outset ensure complete professionalism, etiquette and honesty, and we will strive to get the very best fighters coming to fight for our titles.  Naturally the US market would be one of our major aims, and the way to enter this market is to offer the very best fighters in the world.  We have a great team at the Federation, with much experience and knowledge, and with great connections.  We will synergise all our strength and give it our all. World boxing deserves nothing less than that.

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