By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Eddie Hearn was somewhat relieved when Fres Oquendo turned down his offer to fight Jarrell Miller on November 17.
The British promoter was concerned that the 45-year-old Oquendo would be denied a license, particularly when the card was supposed to take place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Romania’s Bogdan Dinu happily accepted Hearn’s offer to meet Miller and the show since has been shifted to Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas (DAZN).
The WBA is legally obligated to give Oquendo a shot at its “world” heavyweight title because he successfully sued to enforce a rematch clause he contractually was owed following a majority-decision defeat to then-champion Ruslan Chagaev, who has retired since he defeated Oquendo in July 2014.
Oquendo (37-8, 24 KOs), who hasn’t fought since Chagaev beat him, turned down $500,000 to meet Miller (22-0-1, 19 KOs) in a fight that likely will be sanctioned for the WBA’s world heavyweight title once the WBA strips Manuel Charr.
“Actually, I think the WBA might have to say now, ‘You need to fight,’ ” Hearn told BoxingScene.com regarding Oquendo. “Because I was also worried. Like, if you were in Britain, I don’t think they’d sanction Oquendo after being out the ring for four years. And I was worried about that with [Atlantic City] as well. You know, you get to a situation where they go, ‘No, we can’t sanction him. He ain’t boxed in four years.’ I mean, I saw him in Chicago [on October 6] – a lovely man. But I didn’t even know it was him.”
Chicago’s Oquendo declined Hearn’s offer because he didn’t think three weeks’ notice was enough time to properly prepare for a difficult fight against the unbeaten Miller. Oquendo also reportedly wants Voluntary Anti-Doping Association testing in place for an extended period when he eventually receives his WBA title shot.
That’s an understandable demand, considering Oquendo’s past two scheduled fights for the WBA title were canceled because his opponents – first Shannon Briggs and recently Charr – failed VADA tests for performance-enhancing drugs.
The Charr-Oquendo fight, scheduled for July 29 in Cologne, Germany, was canceled on short notice once Charr tested positive for two anabolic steroids, drostanolone and trenbolone. Those failed tests are expected to cost Charr (31-4, 17 KOs) his title this week.
Oquendo previously was supposed to box Brooklyn’s Shannon Briggs in June 2017. That bout was canceled on short notice once VADA determined Briggs (60-6-1, 53 KOs, 1 NC) had dramatically elevated levels of testosterone in his system.
Oquendo’s obvious concerns aside, Hearn questions whether the aged contender actually still wants the title shot he is owed.
“[This tells me] that he don’t wanna fight, and he shouldn’t fight,” Hearn said. “Actually, I’m so pleased that it’s Dinu and not Oquendo, because it’s a really awkward situation where people say to me, ‘Why are you offering him fights?’ Because I had to make him an offer, to get him to turn it down. It wasn’t like I wanna give him $500,000. I saw a report that said it was $1 million.
“No, it wasn’t. It was $500,000. It was to fight for the WBA regular title, so there is a value to that. And whatever you think about the regular title and the super title, and I would prefer one champion, but it’s there to be fought for and it will put you in a good position within that governing body.”
England’s Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), also promoted by Hearn, is the WBA’s “super” heavyweight champion.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.