Report/Photos: David Finger
Day four of the 61st annual WBC Convention in Tashkent, Uzbekistan continued with the eagerly anticipated sessions on ratings and mandatory challengers. However, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman kicked off the day with a president’s report, in which he discussed the activity of the WBC in 2023. He highlighted that there were 80 world, interim, or silver fights in 2023 and highlighted some of the promoters that have worked with the WBC in those 80 fights. Queensberry Promotions promoted 14 of those fights, followed by PBC, which promoted 13. Matchroom was right behind them at 12 and Top Rank was next on the list at 8 followed by Universum at 7.
Sulaiman then spoke about the Jose Sulaiman Boxers Fund as well as the activity of WBC Cares in 2023. He also spoke of the WBCs role in bringing the first world champion from Africa, Battling Siki, home to Senegal. Siki was murdered in 1925 and buried in an unmarked grave in Flushing Cemetery in Queens. However, in large part due to the actions of the WBC, Siki’s body was repatriated to Senegal in 1993. He also noted that the WBC received the prestigious Paris Peace Forum Award in 2023. From there Sulaiman discussed his goals for the WBC in 2024, including bringing in a boxer’s retirement fund into purses. Having welcomed Billy Dib to the stage, Sulaiman made a proposal that the WBC would match any % of a purse that a fighter would put into a retirement fund.
“If a fighter puts 10% of his purse into the fund, the WBC will match 10% of (the fighter’s) sanctioning fees.”
Following this report was what an exceptional presentation by Asdh Habib of Undisputed Games. Habib unveiled what appears to be one of the best boxing games to have hit the market in years: Undisputed. With exceptional graphics and gameplay, Habib invited two members of the audience to play the game, with one person playing as Saul Alvarez and the other playing as “Bud” Crawford. The attendees were visibly blown away by the graphics and game play, even though the person playing as Canelo got himself knocked out in about a minute by Crawford.
Undisputed is currently available on Steam and will debut on Playstation and Xbox soon. It runs $25 on Steam.
The next presentation was by Raja Salman Haidar, who did a presentation geared for promoters of larger events on the benefit of his company: Your Needs. Your Needs included an event management system (EMS) that adapted to any event and a sport federation platform (SFP) that was able to work with boxing events effectively.
Following this presentation, a special Confederation of the Year award was given to the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC).
Next was a presentation on by representatives of Grand Lujo Tequila on the special edition WBC tequila, followed by a short break.
With the morning presentations concluded, the much anticipated ratings session kicked off and as expected, there was no shortage of fireworks, kicking off with the heavyweight rankings. In addition to the developments regarding Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois switching sports in the rankings, several promotional companies pushed to have their fighters move up. However, citing the flurry of activity that is set to take place in December with several top ranked heavyweights, the requests were denied as the situation is anticipated to be considerably clearer by the end of the year.
In the bridgerweight division, although champion Lukasz Rozanski is slated to fight Badou Jack, a date has yet to be finalized (although February looks probable). Don Majeski spoke on behalf of #1 ranked Kevin Lerena, and asked if there would be a deadline to the hold the Rozanski-Jack fight.
In the cruiserweight division no changes to the ratings were approved.
At 175-pounds Jeff Cunningham of BOXXER pushed to have the winner of the #2 Joshua Buatsi and #3 Daniel Azeez to be named mandatory to champion Artur Beterbiev. Sulaiman and the committee advised it would be considered at the mandatory session later in the day.
At super-middleweight Matchroom boxing made a compelling argument for #14 ranked John Ryder to move back into the top ten based off his performance against Canelo Alvarez. Dean Lohuis admitted they didn’t like where Ryder fell in the rankings.
“We were hoping for a higher ranking but we couldn’t find it,” Lohuis admitted. “I felt bad that I couldn’t do better for Ryder. He really deserves it.”
Nonetheless WBC President Sulaiman personally moved to have Ryder ranked at 7 or 8. Lohuis counter with the 9 spot, which appeared to mollify all involved and Ryder was moved up to #9.
At middleweight Tom Dallas of Matchroom was apparently unaware of yesterday’s fireworks and was unaware that Boxrec.com was not particularly well regarded by the WBC. When moving to have #6 ranked Austin Williams into the top five, he cited the fact that Boxrec.com had him ranked #1.
“Please don’t mention Boxrec,” Sulaiman said after hearing the request, “it is not a criteria for rankings.”
Nonetheless, the committee did approve having Williams move up from #6 to #5, over Shane Mosley Jr.
At 154-pounds no changes were approved after several requests were made by various parties. However, it should be noted that Errol Spence sits on a #3 ranking and Brian Mendoza entered the WBC rankings at #7.
In the welterweight division Conor Benn was reinstated in the rankings after he was dropped after an “adverse analytical finding” showed traces of a fertility drug in his system last year. The WBC cleared him of wrongdoing back in February. A push was made by Jeff Cunningham to move Florian Marku back into the rankings but he was advised that Marku was dropped due to inactivity. However, Marku did knock out an 18-1 fighter named Dylan Moran back in September, something that Cunningham failed to correct initially. After mentioning the Moran fight to the WBC committee, the committee did confirm they were aware of that fight but that he was nonetheless stripped of his WBC International belt due to failing to defend his title and that was the reason he was dropped from the rankings.
At 140-pounds, #11 ranked Steve Claggett (the NABF) champion was moved up to #8 after winning last night over a 30-1 Miguel Madueno in Montreal. Claggett now sits on the #8 rankings. Also, OPBF champion Daishi Nagata returned to the WBC rankings after being dropped.
In the lightweight division the committee advised they will revisit the rankings on Saturday, after the Shakur Stevenson fight. As a result, Cuban prospect Lazaro Alvarez’s push to move from 19 to 15 was tentatively rejected (at least for now).
At 130-pounds no changes were approved, nor were any changes approved at 126-pounds. However, at 122-pounds there was an interesting push to have #13 ranked Ionut Baluta move up ahead of #11 ranked T.J. Doheny due to his victory over Doheny. However, the request was shot down.
“That was back in 2020,” Dean Lohuis noted, “a lot of water’s gone under the bridge (since then). Since that time Dohney knocked out our #17 ranked righter in the first round. He had two great wins in a row.”
No requests were made at 118-pounds and the rankings were approved as it. At 115-pounds the committee approved moving #13 ranked Juan Carlos Camacho into the top ten at #10. At 112-pounds a motion was granted to move #9 ranked Galal Yafai to #7.
At 108-pounds one of boxing’s most legendary little men appeared in person to request a return to the WBC rankings. Ryohei Maio stood next to his fighter, Katsunari Takayama and moved to have the Hall of Famer enter the top fifteen in the light flyweight division. Takayama is currently ranked #19. In a division where fighters seldom fight into their thirties, Takayama is a virtual Bernard Hopkins. The 40-year old won his first WBC belt back in April of 2005 and has remained a force in the lighter weight classes for the last 20-years.
One minor correction to the rankings was made, when representatives of #10 ranked Hassanboy Dusmatov noted that he has not formally moved up in weight to 108 pounds, and that he is still competing in the 105-pound weight class. He was subsequently ranked at #5 at straw-weight and moved out of the 108-pound rankings. The final move at 105 poundswas where #10 ranked Siphamandla Baleni was dropped to #16 due to a recent loss.
After lunch the session on mandatories kicked off, with no mandatory ordered in the heavyweight division where Tyson Fury is slated to fight Oleksandr Usyk in a unification fight.
“We know that on December 23rd there will be many fights that impact the mandatory,” Sulaiman added.
At bridgerweight no mandatory challenger was named for the winner of the Rozanki-Jack fight. In the cruiserweight division a four-man tournament was approved to establish the mandatory to face off against champion Noel Mikaelyan. At 175-pounds it was noted that champion Artur Beterbiev was slated to fight #1 ranked Callum Smith, and the committee elected to let the fight play out and determine a process to determine the next challenger after that fight.
At super-middleweight it was noted that the WBC will determine the next step after David Benavidez’s fight against Demetrius Andrade on November 25th. However, it was noted that should Benavidez defeat Andrade, he would be the mandatory challenger for Saul Alvarez.
At 160-pounds President Sulaiman indicated he was “accessing” options for Jermall Charlo and that the WBC was considering a tournament for the mandatory for the division. At super-welterweight the WBC approved #2 ranked Serhii Bohachuk versus Sebastian Fundora for the interim title and ordered #1 ranked Charles Conwell to fight the highest ranked opponent in a final eliminator to face either Charlo or the interim champion. For the record, Errol Spence would be the highest ranked fighter.
In the welterweight division the WBC made no moves regarding “Bud” Crawford, and he will remain WBC welterweight champion. Mario Barrios remains the interim champion, but President Sulaiman received a vote of confidence to reach out to the highest available contenders to see about the availability of each of them and test the waters about a possible tournament to find a challenger to interim champion Barrios.
Sulaiman then expressed concerns about the state of boxing with the growing number of unified champions, and the problems that this sometimes created for keeping the ratings in motion.
“We are in a very complicated time, where lack of authority, lack of order, reigns in the world in almost every aspect.” Sulaiman noted. “Society is different…However, there is one common denominator for boxing, which is the undisputed recognition of the elite boxer. Fans and media and television network promoters consider undisputed to be something very special. To be extraordinary. And the boxing industry is not prepared to address an undisputed champion. The industry is not prepared with (regards to) the rules that have been in place for sixty, fifty, forty years. The structure of mandatory challengers and the rules and regulations. We often see a unified champion…lose recognition by any organization. Terence Crawford is no longer undisputed. Jermell Charlo is no longer undisputed. There is talks that the winner of Fury-Usyk after there is a champion, will not be undisputed. The WBC addressed in a different way this specific matter with a concept that in practicality was very successful, but it was killed by the media and fans, which was a franchise designation.”
Sulaiman then added that the WBC was considering ways to address this issue and that was part of the reason why there hadn’t been as much movement in the mandatory session.
“The WBC board had a meeting and we have been discussing several ways to addressing the undisputed situation. That is the reason why we are not reaching specific rulings as we customarily do. I want to clarify in depth that we need to move into the future and be clear and not hold hostage an excellent champion when you do not have the merits to have a mandatory contender. The mandatory has to be the best challenger for the champion.”
At 140-pounds the winner of the Devin Haney-Regia Prograis fight will be required to make a mandatory defense against #1 ranked Sandor Martin. At lightweight there was no major discussion due to the recognition that much will be determined by what happens after the Stevenson-De Los Santos fight tomorrow. At 130-pounds no mandatory was ordered for O’Shaquie Foster, while at 126-pounds Rey Vargas was ordered to fight interim champion Brandon Figueroa.
At 122-pounds mandatory challenger Luis Nery was awarded a title fight against the winner of Naoya Inoue and Marlon Tapales and at bantamweight the champion Alexandro Santiago is ordered to fight mandatory challenger Vincent Astrolabio next.
At 115-pounds no developments regarding a mandatory were noted, and at flyweight #2 ranked David Jimenez was ordered to fight the highest available contender in an elimination bout. A proposed tournament was approved to find the mandatory contender and at 105-pounds a request to have #1 ranked Luis Castillo face #2 ranked Alex Winwood fight each other with the winner being declared the mandatory was approved.