By Jake Donovan
The IBF lightweight title is now up for grabs, after reigning titlist Mickey Bey relinquished the crown in lieu of honoring his mandatory obligations.
Bey (21-1-1, 10KOs) was slated to face top-rated challenger Denis Shafikov on July 18 in Macao, China. The bout was placed on a show promoted by Top Rank, who earned the right to host the fight as the sole bidder during a purse bid hearing earlier this year.
The show will go on in Macao, just without the lightweight title fight as Bey has since had a change of heart about traveling abroad.
“Mickey Bey vacated the title because he did not want to go to China to do his mandatory,” IBF Championship Chairman Lindsey Tucker informed BoxingScene.com.
The move is the latest in a series of actions that suggest Bey was sour on the matchup all along. Bey declined the opportunity to face Shafikov on April 30 in Las Vegas. The fight would have been part of fight week for his promoter, Floyd Mayweather (Mayweather Promotions) in his eventual win over Manny Pacquiao in what has become the most lucrative event in boxing history.
Along with the additional exposure that would have come with media outlets from around the world in town to cover all of the fight week festivities, Bey would have earned $200,000 for a fight that would have headlined an ESPN2 telecast. He instead chose to ride out the ordered purse bid, which was won by Top Rank, the lone bidder with an offer of $78,000.
Had Bey decided to go through with the July 18 fight, he would have stood to make $58,500 for the first defense of his title. Instead, his reign begins and ends with his largely forgettable title-winning effort via 12-round decision over Miguel Vazquez last September. The bout served in supporting capacity to Mayweather’s repeat win over Marcos Maidana in their Pay-Per-View headlining rematch in Las Vegas.
Shafikov (35-1-1, 19KOs) remains in line to fight for the belt, as the IBF will order a vacant title fight between the Russian southpaw and former 130 lb. titlist Rances Barthelemy. The two sides will have 30 days to negotiate from the time of the ordered fight, or else will be subject to a purse bid hearing.
Negotiations between the respective camps for Shafikov and Barthelemy could prove interesting. Shafikov fights under the Top Rank banner, while Barthelemy is part of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions stable.
Barthelemy recently moved up in weight following a brief stay as a 130 lb. titlist. The unbeaten Cuban banger is coming off of a 10-round shutout of Antonio DeMarco earlier this month in Las Vegas, in a bout that aired live on a rare Sunday edition of boxing on free-to-air CBS. The bout took place at the 140 lb. limit, but his handlers insist he will be made available to fight for the vacant lightweight title and that making weight will not be an issue.
There is no official word as to whether Shafikov will remain on the July 18 card in Macao. The rest of the card remains intact, including former four-division champ Nonito Donaire in a stay busy fight, as well as a vacant 140 lb. title fight between unbeaten contenders Ik Yang and Cesar Cuenca.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox