WBO makes Canelo mandatory to face Saunders
The WBO has bypassed Avtandil Khurtsidze and made Canelo Alvarez, who has never fought at 160 pounds, the mandatory to face middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders.
The WBO, in its reasoning for sidestepping No. 1 ranked Khurtzsidze, referenced Canelo’s surging popularity and history of crowd-pleasing fights in its decision. Canelo has emerged as a “boxing fan’s idol” and is a “crowd favorite, with more than 52,000 fans present in his recent bout against Liam Smith in Dallas,” the WBO wrote, according to ESPN.com. “He is the top pay-per-view fighter on HBO, [and] his presence has given that category a renewed interest in boxing. At this moment, [he] will give boxing the maximum required exposure.
“In view of the facts presented above, in accordance with the WBO regulations, and weighing the merits to be considered, the championship committee has decided that, in the best interest of boxing, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez should be the mandatory challenger.”
While Alvarez is the WBO junior middleweight champion, Golden Boy officials, who handle Alvarez, have spoken of moving him to 160 pounds to eventually face Gennady Golovkin in the fall of 2017. They’re also in talks with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. about a fight above 160 pounds in May. If Chavez and Canelo agree to fight, Khurtsidze’s camp wants assurances he will become the mandatory to face Saunders. Lou DiBella told RingTV.com he plans to appeal the ruling to, at the very least, make sure his fighter is made the mandatory if Canelo fights Chavez. He has 10 days to file his appeal. Canelo held a WBC middleweight title previously but he was fighting at a catch-weight of 155 pounds in those bouts.
“We respect the WBO’s decision but we also expect that Khurtsidze will become the mandatory if Canelo ends up making a deal to fight Chavez Jr.,” said Keith Connolly, an advisor to Khurtsidze. “We’ve waited patiently for the last nine months but we also understand the business side of the sport, and we do expect to become the mandatory if Canelo goes in another direction.”