Every year one of the centerpieces of the annual WBC convention is the review of its world titleholders and the setting of mandatory defenses and some title elimination bouts.
That exercise took place Wednesday at the sanctioning organization’s 55th annual convention in Baku, Azerbaijan. Here is a division-by-division rundown of each weight class and what the WBC has in store. Keep in mind that it is the organization that has made the orders, but the boxers may not go along with the order and instead could elect to pursue other fights within other sanctioning bodies.
Heavyweight: Titleholder Deontay Wilder of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was due to make a much-anticipated optional defense against Cuban banger Luis Ortiz on Nov. 4, but Ortiz was bounced from the fight on Wednesday when he failed a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association random drug test conducted under the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program. Former titlist and mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne, from whom Wilder won the title by one-sided decision in January 2015, was scheduled to fight on the undercard as part of a step-aside deal to allow Wilder to fight Ortiz. But with Ortiz out, Stiverne will instead move into the main event and meet Wilder in the overdue mandatory fight.
Cruiserweight: Titleholder Mairis Briedis of Latvia outpointed Mike Perez on Sept. 30 in the quarterfinals of the eight-man World Boxing Super Series. He has chance to unify four major belts in the tournament so the WBC has put off a mandatory order in the division until the tournament concludes in May.
Light heavyweight: For a variety of reasons, Montreal’s Adonis Stevenson has not made a mandatory defense since November 2013. His next fight is supposed to finally be a mandatory defense against Montreal rival Eleider “Storm” Alvarez. Promoter Yvon Michel hopes to put the fight on in December, although it could move to early next year. Also, a very interesting title eliminator to produce the next mandatory challenger was ordered between Oleksandr Gvozdyk, the Oxnard, California-based Ukrainian, and Staten Island, New York’s Marcus Brown in what would be a battle of unbeaten 2012 Olympians.
Super middleweight: David Benavidez, of Phoenix, edged Las Vegas-based Romania native Ronald Gavril to win a split decision and the vacant belt in a barn-burner on Sept. 8. Benavidez and Gavril are expected to meet in a rematch on a date to be determined.
Middleweight: On Sept. 16, unified world champion Gennady Golovkin, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Santa Monica, California, and Mexican star Canelo Alvarez fought to a disputed draw in one of the year’s biggest fights. A rematch has been ordered and the camps are working on a deal for them to fight May 5. Jermall Charlo of Houston is the mandatory challenger for the winner.
Junior middleweight: Houston’s Jermell Charlo (Jermall’s twin brother) will make his mandatory defense against Erickson Lubin of Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 14. The winner of an Oct. 21 semifinal title eliminator between Poland’s Maciej Sulecki and Germany’s Jack Culcay will be ordered to fight Vanes Martirosyan of Glendale, California, in a final eliminator.
Welterweight: Unified world titleholder Keith Thurman of Clearwater, Florida, is recovering from an injury and won’t return to action until at least January. Shawn Porter of Las Vegas is the mandatory challenger and will stay busy against Chicago’s Adrian Granados on Nov. 4.
Junior welterweight: If unified world champion Terence Crawford vacates to move up to welterweight, as most expect he will do for his next bout, the WBC will order Albany, New York, native Amir Imam to face Jose Ramirez of Avenal, California, for the vacant title, although Ramirez is first scheduled to fight Mike Reed on Nov. 11 and would have to win. Also, the organization has ordered New Orleans’ Regis Prograis to face former titlist Viktor Postol of Ukraine for the interim title with the winners of the two bouts to meet each other. If that bout were to go to a purse bid the split would be 50-50.
Lightweight: Mikey Garcia’s last fight came as a junior welterweight when he outpointed Adrien Broner in July and he has also been calling out junior middleweight titleholder Miguel Cotto. So it remains to be seen if Garcia of Ventura, California, will defend his lightweight title. However, the WBC has ordered him to face Venezuela’s Jorge Linares, a former WBC titlist who now owns another sanctioning body title. A Linares-Garcia fight is a very tough deal to make and seems unlikely to happen in the immediate future.
Junior lightweight: A deal is in place, although not signed yet, for Miguel Berchelt to defend his title against fellow Mexican and former titlist Orlando Salido in December. An all-Mexican final eliminator to determine the next mandatory challenger has been ordered between former titlist Francisco Vargas and Jhonny Gonzalez, a former bantamweight and featherweight titleholder.
Featherweight: Titleholder Gary Russell of Capitol Heights, Maryland, will be mandated to face No. 1 challenger Joseph Diaz of South El Monte, California, in a battle of former U.S. Olympians. The WBC said it would be mandated for around May.
Junior featherweight: Rey Vargas is supposed to defend against Mexican countryman and mandatory challenger (and former titleholder) Julio Ceja. Mexican countrymen Diego De La Hoya and Hugo Ruiz have been ordered to meet in a final eliminator for the right to fight for the title as the next mandatory.
Bantamweight: World titleholder Luis Nery of Mexico tested positive for a banned substance after his fourth-round knockout victory to win the belt from Shinsuke Yamanaka on Aug. 15 in Japan in a test conducted by VADA as part of the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program. Nery could be stripped with the belt being returned to Yamanaka. The WBC has yet to rule on the issue as it goes through its investigation. Meanwhile, it has ordered Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez to face Thailand’s Petch Sor Chitpattana for the right to become the next mandatory challenger.
Junior bantamweight: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand, who is coming off a sensational fourth-round knockout of Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in their Sept. 9 rematch, has requested that he be allowed to make an optional defense before he makes his mandatory defense against former unified flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico. Estrada became Sor Rungvisai’s mandatory challenger by virtue of his decision win against former titlist Carlos Cuadras on the Sept. 9 undercard.
Flyweight: Daigo Higa of Japan is scheduled to fight France’s Thomas Masson in an optional defense on Oct. 22 in Tokyo. His mandatory challenger has not been determined.
Junior flyweight: Ken Shiro of Japan is scheduled to face mandatory challenger and former titlist Pedro Guevara of Mexico on Oct. 22 in Tokyo. The winner is supposed to fight former titlist Ganigan Lopez of Mexico.
Strawweight: Thailand’s Wanheng Menayothin is expected to defend the title in November in an optional defense. His No. 1 challenger remains Panama’s Leroy Estrada.