Despite its all-encompassing title, the World Boxing Association is more parochial than catholic. It is, in effect, a fraternal club for Latin Americans, with its base of power in Panama. A few auxiliaries have been granted conditional licenses in South Africa and the Orient, but for only as long as South Africans continue their unswerving support and the Far East provides a steady cash flow. Complainers are banished to the rear of the line, just behind the U.S.
With the exception of the two years (1978-79) when Mandry Galindez of Venezuela was president, since 1975 the WBA has been in the tentacular grasp of Dr. Elias Cordova and Rodrigo Sanchez, Panamanians who maintain iron control over the only executive posts that matter: the presidency and the ratings committee chairmanship. Everything else is rubber-stamp.
The World Boxing Council at least attempts to present a facade of respectability. Snug in their safe Panamanian haven, the WBA powers care not. They flaunt their excesses: blatantly sanctioning ridiculous title fights while clogging the ratings with fighters who are ranked far higher than they should be.
"These WBA people are all liars," charges Danish promoter Mogens Palle. "Unless you send them mail that is registered, they claim they never receive it. You ask them for the rules, and they say they'll send them, but they never do. You ask for justice and they say be patient. But don't hold your breath. They give you nothing. They don't want anyone to have the rules, so no one will know when they are breaking them. When only the top people have the rules, they can play any game they want."
Palle is the manager of WBA junior middleweight champion Ayub Kalule, 27, a Ugandan who lives in Copenhagen. Kalule will defend his title against Sugar Ray Leonard, the WBC welterweight champ, on June 19 in Houston. For Kalule the difficult part of becoming champion was not his fight against Japan's Masashi Kudo, a titleholder of modest ability easily beaten by Kalule in 1979. His roughest fight was with the WBA, which blocked him from a shot at the championship for 23 months after he became the leading contender. Kalule had qualified for a title fight in November 1977. He was stonewalled until October 1979. What happened in between illustrates almost everything wrong with the WBA.
Before becoming a fighter, Kalule, the son of a Kampala butcher, had been an outstanding schoolboy sprinter and soccer player. Then he read a magazine article on Muhammad Ali and decided he'd rather fight than run. He patterned himself after his older brother, Zaid, a fine amateur boxer. Zaid was a southpaw; Kalule is a natural righthander. Following his brother's lead, Kalule became a southpaw, too—which gives him a tremendous jab and hook.
In 1974, after winning British Commonwealth, All-Africa and All-World amateur titles, Kalule was named Africa's Athlete of the Year. Intense pressure was put on him to remain an amateur for the greater glory of Uganda, but like most African fighters of quality, he eventually left his homeland for Europe and lucrative purses.
Early in 1976, while touring Scandinavia with the Uganda team, Kalule met Palle, who offered him a professional career. Within a month, Kalule had returned to Denmark with his wife, Ziyada, and their daughters, Marian and Zajida; another daughter, Dauswa, and a son, Sadat, have since been born.
Kalule made his debut on April 8, 1976, winning a four-round decision over Kurt Hombach in Copenhagen. Since then his life-style, which is frugal, has changed little. Every morning he runs at least two miles, and he trains twice a day, once in the morning, again in the afternoon. Kalule is an outstanding boxer and a respected if not heavy puncher. By late 1977 his pro record was 12-0, with three of the victories having come over former WBA champions: Spain's José Luis Duran, Brazil's Miguel Castellini and the Bahamas' Elisha Obed. In November 1977 Kalule became the WBA's leading junior middleweight contender, which meant that the champion, Eddie Gazo of Nicaragua, should have been ordered to fight him. It's a WBA rule that a champion must fight the leading available contender every six months.
The powers of the WBA, however, weren't about to throw one of their own, especially one as inept as Gazo, in against a Kalule. The Nicaraguan had taken the title from Castellini, who had won it from Duran. All were mediocre at best. Kalule had already knocked out Duran and later he would knock out Castellini. Gazo would have been a certain third victim.