UPDATE (2:07 P.M. ET): WBA HAS OFFICIALLY DECLARED ITS NOW VACANT "WORLD" HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE AT STAKE FOR FRIDAY'S MAIN EVENT. MAHMOUD (MANUEL) CHARR HAS BEEN DEMOTED TO "CHAMPION IN RECESS."
Trevor Bryan and Bermane Stiverne are set to fight, even as confusion lingers over the exact stakes.
The pair of heavyweights weighed 267 pounds apiece for their forthcoming fight which headlines a Don King-distributed Pay-Per-View event Friday evening from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
The show will take place at the casino’s event center, behind closed doors without fans or media present.
What remains unclear as this goes to publish is what version of the WBA heavyweight title—if any at all—will be on the line for Friday’s main event.
The status of the bout has been in limbo seemingly from the moment the show was first announced. Bryan (20-0, 14KOs)—who holds the interim WBA heavyweight title—was due to face WBA “World” heavyweight titlist Mahmoud (Manuel) Charr in a title consolidation clash. Those plans were scrapped earlier this week over the dispute status of Charr’s P1 visa application, which was vital in his making the trip from Cologne, Germany.
Charr claimed to have the issue resolved, only for King—a Hall of Fame promoter and one of the all-time best, though presently well past his best years—to never submit a countersigned contract required as verification that Charr was due to fight in the United States on Jan. 29th.
The matter remains one over which legal representation for both boxers continue to squabble.
Adding to the fun are a pair of mass emails sent by the WBA to all parties involved, copies of which have been obtained by BoxingScene.com. The WBA sought to address an exception request filed by King to have the sanctioning body demote Charr to “Champion in Recess” which would allow Bryan and Stiverne to compete for the vacant WBA “World” title. A win by Bryan would in turn leave the interim title vacant, while pushing him one step closer to a desired showdown with any of the top heavyweights, including unified WBA “Super”/IBF/WBO/IBO champ Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22KOs).
The first email sent by the WBA indicated that King’s request would be granted. In present form, the winner of Friday’s bout would have been required to next face Charr by no later than May 30, 2021. The ruling would have nullified the results of the purse bid hearing from last March, in which King claimed promotional rights with a $2,000,000 bid.
According to the initial ruling, King would no longer remain on the hook for such payment, which was to have been distributed via 75/25 split in Charr’s favor.
Directly in line with all of the madness surrounding this show, the WBA followed up less than 30 minutes later claiming that the previous email was sent in error and for its contents to be disregarded.
The messy effort to put the toothpaste back in the tube still leaves an air of uncertainty regarding what’s at stake in Friday’s main event. Stiverne (25-4-1, 21KOs) has not won a fight since Nov. 2015, having suffered knockout losses to Deontay Wilder in their Nov. 2017 WBC heavyweight title fight rematch and to England’s Joe Joyce in his most recent start last February in London.
Also of note is the fact that Stiverne—a former WBC titlist—is unranked by the WBA.
Meanwhile, Bryan gets to make his way back to the ring for the first time in more than two years. The unbeaten heavyweight takes an optimistic approach to the circus, as all he wants to do is perform.
“It feels wonderful to get back into that squared circle,” Bryan told BoxingScene.com of fighting for the first time since a 4th round knockout of BJ Flores to win the interim title in Aug. 2018. “I couldn’t be more excited. People haven’t seen me fight in so long. This is almost a homecoming.
“This is a chance to reintroduce who Trevor Bryan is—and who I am is someone who will be a big factor in the heavyweight division.”
A card which was once advertised to have two title fights at stake atop a six-fight show only registered official weights for three live bouts on Friday.
Kansas-bred cruiserweight DeShon Webster (12-3-3, 6KOs) survived the cut as he faces Sarasota-based southpaw Johnnie Langston (8-3, 3KOs) in a scheduled six-round contest. Webster weighed 198 pounds, while Langston checked in at 199 pounds after having spent five of his last six fights at heavyweight.
Webster moved up from light heavyweight to cruiserweight in 2019, fighting for the sixth straight time at the weight. Interestingly, he enters having fought to a majority draw in three of his last four starts—the dissenting verdict among that mix coming in a Dec. 2019 12-round unanimous decision defeat to unbeaten Tervel Pulev, whose older brother Kubrat Pulev is a former two-time heavyweight title challenger.
Unbeaten bantamweight Joahnys Argilagos (5-0, 3KOs) weighed 117 pounds for a scheduled four-round bout with Ernie Marquez (10-15-12) who came in extremely light at 112 pounds. Argilagos captured a Bronze medal for Cuba during the 2016 Rio Olympics before relocating to Houston, Texas upon turning pro in May 2019.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox