Monday, September 25, 2023  |


Mandatory challengers named at WBC annual convention

Fighters Network
The World Boxing Council’s 53rd annual convention took place over the past week in Kunming, China, and one of the key topics of conversation was how to sort out the various title challengers going forward.
Some of the big questions centered on the middleweight division, with regard to Gennady Golovkin’s position in the rankings and what happens after the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez fight on Nov. 21.

Also on the agenda were the junior middleweight and welterweight divisions’ statuses in light of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s recent retirement.

The following are the mandatory challengers in the 17 weight classes:

Heavyweight – Ron Rizzo of DiBella Entertainment represented current titlist Deontay Wilder and asked for Wilder to be allowed to make a voluntary defense of his title on Jan. 16.

The request was granted, provided Wilder makes a signed commitment to face mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin next. That said, Povetkin must beat Mariusz Wach tonight. Povetkin’s team were happy with this, estimating all being well that they would be ready to fight sometime in the spring.

Cruiserweight – Grigory Drozd will face mandatory challenger IIunga Makabu on a date to be confirmed in March.

Light heavyweight – Yvon Michel said his first priority is to make a unification fight between his fighter and current RING champion Adonis Stevenson (who also holds the WBC belt) and Sergey Kovalev, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO titles. He also said he has a date in February on hold for Stevenson’s next defense.

On Nov. 28, WBC No. 1 Isaac Chilemba will face No.2-ranked Eleider Alvarez to decide who will be Stevenson’s mandatory challenger.

Super middleweight – Badou Jack successfully defended his title against mandatory challenger George Groves in September and is in a voluntary stage. A fight with former WBC middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is being discussed.

Middleweight – RING/WBC champion Miguel Cotto will meet Canelo Alvarez on May 21, in Las Vegas. The winner has 15 days to make a commitment to Gennady Golovkin.

Junior middleweight – It was decided that Floyd Mayweather Jr., who holds titles at 147 and 154, would become the “Emeritus champion” and that the titles would be vacant.

President Mauricio Sulaimán explained that a tournament would take place. A letter would be sent out to the Top 10 contenders in the division to see who was willing to participate in the tournament.

Once the boxers have made their intentions clear, the brackets to decide who would face one another will be announced.

Welterweight – Same as above.

Junior welterweight – Newly-minted beltholder Viktor Postol’s team, represented by Viktoriya Fedorova, motioned for Postol to receive a voluntary defense before he has to face his mandatory challenger, Amir Imam, who fights on Nov. 28. This was approved by the board.

Lightweight – Jorge Linares will fight mandatory challenger Dejan Zlaticanin next. No date was given as yet.

Junior lightweight – Takashi Miura will put his WBC title on the line against mandatory challenger Francisco Vargas on Nov. 21.

Featherweight – Gary Russell Jr. was due to meet Oscar Escandon on Nov. 14. However, Sampson Lewkowicz, who represents Escandon, revealed that the fight was canceled because of an injury suffered by Russell. Lewkowicz motioned for the No. 1-ranked contender Robinson Castellanos and Escandon to meet in December or January. Rolando Arrellano of Golden Boy Promotions, who represents Castellanos, agreed with Lewkowicz’s suggestion. The request was granted with the winner to face Russell upon his return.

Junior featherweight – Leo Santa Cruz officially vacated the WBC title at 122 pounds. Julio Ceja, who knocked out Hugo Ruiz for the interim title, was upgraded to full champion. Ceja is in a voluntary stage; however, Lewkowicz announced that he is in contact with Ceja’s promoter, Promociones del Pueblo, for Ceja and Ruiz to fight a rematch on Jan. 23. The winner will then have to face two mandatory challengers.

It was also decided that No.1 Qiu Xiao Jun (if he wins this weekend) will fight No. 4 Alexis Kabore to decide the first mandatory challenger, while No. 2 Rey Vargas was matched with No. 3 (and current RING champion) Guillermo Rigondeaux to become the second mandatory challenger.

Bantamweight – Mauricio Sulaim├ín said Shinsuke Yamanaka was undecided on his future and may look to move in weight. With the champion’s position unclear it was agreed that No. 1 Suriyan Sor Rungvisai will face No. 2 Anselmo Moreno. If Yamanaka moved up in weight, Suriyan-Moreno would be for the vacant WBC belt.

Junior bantamweight – Carlos Cuadras faces Koki Eto on Nov. 21. The winner must then meet No. 1-ranked Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

Flyweight – Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai was named mandatory challenger to RING/WBC champion Roman Gonzalez. A motion was made for No. 2 Noknoi Sitthipasert to square off against his Thai countryman Nawaphon to decide the mandatory challenger for Gonzalez. However, it was determined that Nawaphon, who has been No. 1 for a significant amount of time, would be installed as the mandatory. At last year’s convention, Nawaphon was matched with Edgar Sosa to become the mandatory; however, Sosa received a straight shot at Gonzalez in May, leaving Nawaphon without an opponent.

Junior flyweight – Pedro Guevara fights Yu Kimura on Nov. 28. It was announced that No. 1 Jonathan Taconing would face No. 4 Juan Hernandez in a title eliminator on Dec. 5.

Strawweight – Wanheng Menayothin will look to make a third successful title defense versus Young Kil Bae on Nov. 24.
Wanheng’s team asked for a voluntary defense next February, should they safely negotiate their way past Bae.

No. 1 Denver Cuello will face No. 2 Saul Juarez to decide the mandatory position to Wanheng. There was some confusion from Cuello’s team; his representative, Joe Jaro, expressed concern that he hadn’t received the contract for a projected Dec. 5 fight. Mauricio Sulaim├ín is in the process of completing the formalities of the fight.

It was decided that, if the winner of Cuello-Juarez was not able to fight Wanheng in February, the champion would be allowed to make a voluntary defense.

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