By Jake Donovan
The highlight of Julio Ceja’s weekend came the moment he knocked out Henry Maldonando inside of five rounds Saturday evening in Mexico to remain unbeaten.
That feat pales in comparison to the news he received on Tuesday afternoon.
Upon receiving notification of Leo Santa Cruz relinquishing his bantamweight title to move up in weight, the IBF ordered a vacant title fight between the next two highest rated contenders. Ceja is rated #3 in their bantamweight rankings, two spots behind England’s Jamie McDonnell, the #1 contender. The #2 spot is currently vacant.
"This is great news for me,” stated 20-year old Ceja (24-0, 22KO) when learning the news. “I am ready for become world champion at a very young age. My promoter will do everything possible to bring McDonnell to Mexico.”
Santa Cruz made three successful defenses of the crown, including a CBS-televised win over Alberto Guevara last December. The bout turned out to be his last at bantamweight, as his 5’7” frame has simply outgrown the division.
McDonnell (20-2-1, 9KO) was already due a title shot based on his 8th round stoppage win ver Darwin Zamora in their sanctioned final eliminator last October. The 26-year old Brit is currently riding a 12-fight win streak since suffering back to back losses five years ago.
Negotiations have begun between the camps, with a purse bid to be ordered if the two sides cannot come to terms within the next 30 days.
Ceja (24-0, 22KO) and his team have no intention of holding up progress in what will be his first world title shot, eager to literally travel the globe in order to reach such status.
"We are negotiating with McDonnell’s representatives,” confirmed Oswaldo Kuchle, Ceja’s manager. “The fight could happen in the UK, but we will do everything that is in Mexico. We know “El Pollito” has the ability and size to be world champion. We support him all the way, because we know he will be the new champion.”
Ceja picked up right where he left off following a terrific 2012 campaign. The baby-faced knockout artist went 6-0 (5KO) on the year, most of which came against former champs and contenders. His win on Saturday was his third straight knockout, while continuing to show improvement with each fight.
The latter part, Ceja insists, is attributed to his immediate access to one of the greatest trainers in boxing history.
“I feel very confident with Ignacio Beristain in my corner,” Ceja reveals. “It’s the right time for me to be World Champion.”
His fighting ego wishes that it comes against the absolute best. Still, there also comes with youth the benefit of time being on his side.
“I would have loved to fight Leo Santa Cruz,” Ceja admits. “But I know I will be here in boxing for a long time. I will definitely move up in weight classes in short period. But first, McDonell is next for me."
Jake Donovan is the Boxingscene.com Managing Editor, Records Keeper for Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Jamie McDonnell , Leo Santa Cruz , Julio Ceja