By Jake Donovan
If legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra were still alive, he'd say it was deja vu all over again for the team at Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions.
McJoe Arroyo becomes the second boxer from the PRBBP stable in just over a month's time to withdraw from a title fight due to injury. The unbeaten 115-pound titlist has officially been pulled from a planned mandatory title defense versus Jerwin Ancajas, due to take place this Saturday in Bacoor City, Philippines.
Now at risk is his title status, as the International Boxing Federation (IBF) is having his medical records reviewed to determine whether to grant a medical exemption to have him stripped of said belt.
The fight was in limbo since April 7, when a planned media workout session in Puerto Rico was canceled by PRBBP staff due to Arroyo (17-0, 8KOs) suffering a lesion in his left hand. The announcement made at the time was that the defending champ would visit a doctor, with hopes that the wound was minor.
However, four days of silence did not sit well with the Ancajas camp, as representatives from Manny Pacquiao's MP Promotions - who was to promote the event - inquired with the IBF as to the status of the fight and the severity - and legitimacy - of the previously announced injury.
PRBBP attorney Rick Torres assured the sanctioning body that his team would comply with the imposed deadline of providing official medical proof of injury along with doctor's suggestions for rehabilitation. Such records were submitted on Tuesday afternoon to the IBF, which will make a final ruling pending further review by an appointed physician.
The hope was for an official announcement to come Wednesday morning. However, a power outage on site at the IBF headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey left staff on hand without the means to properly follow through on the case until power was fully restored.
Arroyo was due to make the first defense of the title he claimed in a technical decision win over Arthur Villanueva last July in El Paso, Texas. The bout was his first under Al Haymon's advisory banner, a connection that PRBBP hoped to parlay into a big fight down the road.
Instead, they were left to stand and watch as MP Promotions - through Sampson Lewkowicz - won the rights to the fight with a paltry purse bid offering of $25,000, the minimum accepted sum in order for the fight to be sanctioned.
Arroyo would have landed the favorable end of a 85/15 split, but still only leaving him with $21,250 for a first defense that would take place on the road. PRBBP subsequently issued confusing press releases suggesting that Haymon and Lewkowicz would work together to bring the fight to "a neutral site," namely the United States despite the fact that such matters were in the full control of MP Promotions.
Ancajas (24-1-1, 16KOs) is due to enter his first title fight; that status won't change although whom he next faces for said title very well could.
Should the IBF not grant a medical exemption - which would provide a 60-day window for the fight to be reschedule - Arroyo could be stripped of the title, or forced to defend against the winner of an interim title fight between Ancajas and the next highest available contender should the IBF - who only orders interim title fights in extreme cases - choose to go that route.
The situation eerily mirrors that of Roman 'Rocky' Martinez, who was a medical scratch barely a week prior to his scheduled March 12 World Boxing Organization (WBO) super featherweight title defense versus Miguel Berchelt. PRBBP did not approve of Berchelt's default appointment as mandatory contender, protesting the ordered purse bid as well as its outcome before reluctantly moving forward.
Martinez wound up suffering an injury mere days before he was due to travel to his opponent's hometown of Merida, Mexico, where the fight was scheduled to take place. As a result, the WBO sanctioned and interim title fight which Berchelt won in a 6th round knockout of George Jupp. Martinez is still on the hook to face Berchelt, but has been linked to a potential June showdown versus two-time Olympic Gold champ Vasyl Lomachenko, who will move up in weight in what would ultimately become a non-title fight absent honoring the ordered mandatory title fight.
Arroyo is now in the same position, with less wiggle room as the IBF has an industry-wide reputation for being the strictest of all sanctioning bodies when it comes to holding to its policies.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox