TULSA, Okla. – One can hardly blame boxing fans if they have a difficult time naming current champions.
That’s because there’s no shortage of associations out there that are handing out world championship belts.
Even avid fans might confuse who’s on top of the rankings in the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Organization and the International Boxing Organization.
But yet another association sprouted up this past December, the Native American Boxing Council. This group, recognized by the Association of Boxing Commissions, can sanction bouts on tribal lands.
As its moniker implies, the NABC is a boxing organization which was formed to enhance the sport for Native American fighters, both in the professional and amateur ranks.
“If the interest wasn’t there, we wouldn’t be doing it,” said Gerald Wofford, NABC president.
NABC is also hoping to provide Native American fighters with a positive outlet to further their careers, promote tribal culture, and take pride in the recognition of their championships.
The organization is still in its infancy. One of its goals is to name a champion and have a list of the Top 10 pro fighters in each of the 17 weight divisions, ranging from flyweight to heavyweight.
But it’s not just 17 champions the NABC eventually wants to have. It’s actually double that number – 34 – since the association is keen to have both male and female champs in each grouping.
As of mid-October, however, the NABC had five reigning champions, four males and one female.
It’s not as if the NABC is simply crowning any old stiff as one of its champs.
For example, its most recently crowned champion is Marcus Oliveira, a light heavyweight boxer who is living in Kansas.
Oliveira is undefeated in the pro ranks and is sporting an impressive 20-0-1 record.
The NABC is not the only association aware of Oliveira’s talent. Several others also have him highly ranked.
Wofford is hoping NABC will crown several other champions in the near future.
“We’ll fill them up as soon as we can,” he said of the weight classes that do not have current champs. Though he cannot estimate how many Native American pro fighters there are in the country, Wofford said there is no shortage of them.
He’s hoping several more of these Native American fighters, or their handlers, contact the NABC to confirm their identities.
Wofford said his association was created in part to give Native American boxers some additional respect.
“They don’t have the opportunities to be spotlighted as much as they should be. We want them to be spotlighted as champions. There’s a lot of work these Native American boxers put into the sport. We want to spread the word out there about them.”
And though the NABC might not be well-known, Wofford said those in the fight game do receive added notoriety by being dubbed a champion.
“That always means a lot to a boxer. If you are presented as a champion, that gives you recognition no matter where you’re fighting.”
In order to be ranked by NABC, boxers must join the organization. Fighters must be competing in the pro ranks and also be a member of a federally recognized tribe.
Besides the NABC rankings, the website will also contain information about Native American fighters and upcoming events.
NABC is also involved in the sport at the amateur level.
It is organizing this year’s Native American Amateur Boxing Championships, scheduled for Oct. 15 – 17 at the Isleta Puebla Recreational Center in Albuquerque, N.M.
Wofford was anticipating between 50 and 75 boxers from across the country to take part in this year’s tournament.
The amateur nationals, which are certified by USA Boxing, are open to Native American fighters from age 8 to adults.