Alycia Baumgardner made a surprise appearance during the Mandatories portion of the annual WBC convention, to ensure that her stablemate would not be cheated out of such a fight.
The heroic efforts put forth by the women’s lineal/WBC/IBF/WBO junior lightweight queen were significant in the WBC ordering a final eliminator between Sebastian Fundora and former titlist Tony Harrison. Such a fight will determine the WBC mandatory challenger for undisputed 154-pound king Jermell Charlo, who next faces WBO number-one contender Tim Tszyu likely on January 28 in Las Vegas.
Fundora (20-0-1, 13KOs) presently holds the interim WBC title, while Harrison (29-3-1, 21KOs) is a former full title claimant and the current number-one ranked contender.
The fight—which was formally ordered Wednesday afternoon—was nearly bypassed due to information passed along with Sampson Lewkowicz, Fundora’s promoter who lobbied for the sanctioning body to grant a voluntary title defense for his fighter’s next outing.
“Sebastian Fundora is something very special for how humble he is,” Lewkowicz stated in addressing the WBC Board of Governors. “As humble as he is, we request to fight the champion. We are scheduled to fight in February or March to fight someone that be in the top ten. Tony Harrison looks like he is not available. We will fight one more time, an interim fight. At that same time, Charlo is fighting his (WBO) mandatory. After that, we request to be absolutely the mandatory for Charlo.
“He will fight, most likely… I will say, March. We don’t have the (opponent) yet. We offered it to Tony Harrison. It doesn’t look like he has decided to fight. I don’t know the reason, though.”
The confusion, as it turns out, stems from misinformation.
“I’m speaking on behalf of Tony Harrison, who is my trainer,” Baumgardner said in her surprise appearance during this portion of the convention. “I’m saying that he is prepared to fight. I think it’s great to have Tony Harrison back on the scene and to make this fight happen… and to give the 154-pound division the fight that it deserves.”
The correction helped get Fundora’s team back on track.
“You tell Tony that we have the fight in March,” Lewkowicz told Baumgardner.
Harrison has played an integral role in Baumgardner’s rapid rise to the junior lightweight throne. The former WBC junior middleweight titlist assumed head trainer duties following the passing of his father, Ali Salaam, in 2020 due to Covid-related complications. Baumgardner claimed the WBC title with an emphatic fourth-round knockout of Terri Harper last November in Sheffield, England.
Baumgardner was accompanied by Harrison and the rest of the team for her pair of decision wins this year over Edith Soledad Matthysse and Mikaela Mayer, both of which also took place in the UK. The win over Mayer on October 15 in London saw Baumgarder defend her WBC title and claim the IBF/WBO belts while establishing true championship lineage.
Baumgardner’s win over Matthysse came one week after Harrison advanced to the number-one position in the WBC 154-pound rankings following a decisive points win over Sergio Garcia. The fight took place on April 9 in Las Vegas, as part of a Showtime telecast headlined by Fundora’s ninth-round stoppage of Erickson Lubin to win the vacant interim WBC junior middleweight title in a leading Fight of the Year candidate.
Harrison previously held the WBC junior middleweight title which he claimed in a December 2018 points win over Charlo in Brooklyn, New York. His reign lasted exactly 52 weeks, extended by an injury which pushed back a rematch with Charlo to December 2019 from June of that same year. A nip-and-tuck affair saw Charlo rally from behind to drop and stop Harrison in the 11th round to regain his title and avenge his lone career defeat.
Harrison has fought just twice since then. He was held to a twelve-round draw with Bryant Perrella last April 17 in Los Angeles, before returning with the aforementioned win over Garcia (33-2, 14KOs) earlier this year. One more win will put him in line for a potential rubber match with Charlo, whether next or down the road.
“Tony Harrison is a very dear former champion of the WBC,” stated Mauricio Sulaiman, longtime WBC president. “He lost his father at the beginning of the pandemic to Covid-19. He has always been very close to us. Please send him our best regards. I am happy for this resolution.”
The now-sanctioned bout is targeted for March, providing both sides can come to terms in lieu of the attempt to bypass Harrison. The victor will be one of three mandatory challengers in waiting, despite the convention ruling that the Charlo-Tszyu winner will have to next face the WBC’s leading contender.
Bakhram Murtazaliev (20-0, 15KOs) is technically first in line as the IBF mandatory since November 2019 but who is already prepared to step aside for a fourth time to allow Charlo-Tszyu to proceed. Uzbekistan’s Israil Madrimov (8-0-1, 6KOs) is the WBA mandatory, with his status and next fight to be confirmed at the WBA’s annual convention this December in Orlando, Florida.
Should Harrison defeat Fundora, he can take comfort in knowing that he has a support system behind him to always stand tall and plead his case.
“I think it’s important to get him back in there, to have the fight and get the fight back to where it needs to be,” noted Baumgardner.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
ADD COMMENT VIEW COMMENTS (20)