By Jake Donovan
For those concerned that the World Boxing Association (WBA) is threatening to return to its old ways – take a deep and relax. Even what appears to be a random title fight sanctioning is in fact part of a well thought-out plan.
An understandable amount of confusion has come from the announcement of a vacant super lightweight title being at stake in the May 21 showdown between Ricky Burns and Michele Di Rocco in Glasgow, Scotland. From such classification came the suggestion that the pair will vie for the title recently stripped from Jose Benavidez, rather than the WBA just eliminating the belt as part of its promise to consolidate the number of fighters it refers to as “champion.”
The latter is a mission still being carried forth by WBA head Gilberto Jesus Mendoza. However, an exception was made in making a concession he felt was necessary to move forward with a pair of fights.
Di Rocco was actually the mandatory challenger for full champion Adrien Broner, who will instead defend versus Ashley Theophane. Their April 1 clash will headline at D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., with Spike TV to televise. The lead promoter for the event is Mayweather Promotions, who has Theophane under its banner and asked the WBA for the exception with the promise of the winner honoring such mandatory obligations.
The simple solution as most boxing fans would see it would have been for Broner to face Di Rocco, with Burns and Theophane to meet in an eliminator with the winners to square off.
Understanding how the business model works, the WBA agreed to work with all parties on the condition that its own terms are met.
A Broner-Theophane matchup satisfies the egos of both camps, as Broner and Mayweather Promotions figurehead Floyd Mayweather Jr. have a long-standing (oft-)friendly rivalry. The fight was all but taken on a Mayweather dare to Broner, who claimed his version of the belt with a 12th round knockout of Khabib Allakhverdiev last October.
Such an angle gives the April 1 event a better storyline than had Broner defended versus a relatively unknown mandatory challenger. Rather than forcing the brash Ohio native to vacate or - in approving Broner-Di Rocco - leaving the challenger from Italy without a dance partner, an interim title fight was honored.
Both fights will carry the “championship” label, but essentially serves as a four-man elimination tournament The winners of the two scheduled bouts will have to meet – or have a concrete deal in place – by no later than August 1.
“Burns and Di Rocco will fight for the regular title,” Mendoza confirmed to BoxingScene.com in fully explaining his position when the fight was first rumored. “From there, the new regular titlist will face the winner of Broner-Theophane to form a single (140-pound) champion. They will have 120 days from the point of Broner-Theophane to meet.”
Failure by either side to honor such agreement will result in immediate forfeiture of title status. Whether it comes to that or for the winners to meet in a title consolidation bout, either scenario still leaves the WBA with a single super lightweight champion – and continuing to make good on its housekeeping process in moving forward in a positive direction.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox