Mahmoud "Manuel" Charr anxiously awaits his ring return, although not as eager to reclaim his old title.
The former WBA secondary heavyweight titlist—now deemed “Champion in Recess” by the sanctioning body—announced plans for his next fight, as he is set to face unbeaten American fringe contender Christopher Lovejoy. The bout is reportedly set to take place May 15 in Hamburg, according to promoter EC Boxing.
“It’s time to finally get back in the ring,” Charr said in a press statement announcing the fight. “I am in absolute top form.”
The fight comes in stark contrast to the one that was ordered by the WBA, having called for a new round of negotiations between Charr (31-4, 17KOs) and current WBA “World” heavyweight titlist Trevor Bryan (21-0, 15KOs). The two sided were due to resume talks shortly after Bryan’s 11th round knockout of former WBC heavyweight titlist Bermane Stiverne, claiming the vacant WBA belt removed from Charr due to his inability to arrive stateside for the Jan. 29 fight date at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Charr—through legal counsel—petitioned the WBA over the entire process, insisting sabotage on the part of Bryan’s Hall of Fame promoter Don King over the process to secure a travel visa in time to participate with the fight. The matter remains unresolved, other than the WBA trying to please all parties by allowing Bryan-Stiverne to proceed and providing Charr the opportunity to challenge for his old title.
In lieu of traveling a path with the potential for history to repeat itself, Charr and his team have decided to head in a different direction.
That road has led to a planned showdown with Lovejoy (19-0, 19KOs), who has his own sordid history with King. The Las Vegas-based heavyweight remains known less for his perfect knockout-to-win ratio than for the number of fights to which he was linked that have failed to materialize.
The 37-year-old remains hamstrung in legal issues with King, even announcing his retirement earlier this year only to walk back such claims less than a month later. The entirety of his five-year career has taken place on the Tijuana club show circuit, though having not fought since last January. Lovejoy has scored 1st round knockouts in all but two fights, which ended inside the 2nd and 3rd round in back-to-back fights in 2018. None have come against any opponents of note, with just one career victory coming against an opponent with a winning record.
Charr has not fought since Nov. 2017, claiming the WBA “World” heavyweight title with a 12-round win over Alexander Ustinov. Efforts to defend the title versus Fres Oquendo in 2018 have resulted in a positive drug test result and a subsequent suspension, both of which were successfully appealed due to a legal loophole. Upon reinstatement, Charr was on course to face Bryan, with the fight stalled several times including all of 2020 largely due to the pandemic.
The bout was finally given a working date of Jan. 29th—fittingly the final deadline imposed on King to deliver the fight in order to avoid a default on the purse bid he won last March. Upon Charr’s hampered inability to proceed with the fight, the purse bid was voided by the WBA who in turn offered its blessings for Bryan and Stiverne to fight for the vacant title.
Whether or not Charr is able to work his way back into that mix remains to be seen. For now, his focus is on fighting in his adopted hometown and ruining the perfect run of an unbeaten heavyweight.
“Lovejoy will take the first defeat of his career,” vowed Charr. "And this is just the beginning!"
A location has yet to be revealed for the event, assuming it actually takes place. Given the history of both boxers, it stands to reason that the May date will come and go without either of them making their way to the ring.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox