By Jake Donovan

Randy Caballero will be welcomed back with open arms once ready to full make his return to the ring. One luxury the unbeaten bantamweight might not be afforded to the unbeaten bantamweight and his team, however, is in choice of opposition.

As previously reported on by site news editor Steve Kim, Caballero is being steered towards an August 8 headlining bout in his birth town of Indio, California. According to reports, an opponent has yet to be announced for what will be the first defense of the bantamweight title Caballero claimed last October.

The International Boxing Federation (IBF)—whom recognizes Caballero as its bantamweight champion—doesn’t quite agree with that claim.

As per the terms of his withdrawing from a voluntary defense and the amount of time that has since passed, the returning titlist must honor his mandatory obligations. That means he will be required to face newly crowned interim titlist Lee Haskins, who moved into the mandatory position following his 6th round knockout of Ryosuke Iwasa earlier this month in Haskins’ hometown of Bristol, England.

“Randy Caballero is not entitled to a fight before doing his mandatory,” confirmed Lindsey Tucker, championships chairman for the New Jersey-based sanctioning body. “Randy and Lee Haskins were ordered to start negotiations on June 15, 2015.”

Caballero (22-0, 13KOs) hit the road in the two fights leading to his first major title, both of which preceded a Nov. ’13 stay busy fight in Florida, his first career fight away from the West Coast. The 24-year old—who has become a regional draw at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, where the planned August 8 event will be staged—knocked out Kohei Oba in eight rounds last April on the road in Japan, his first career fight outside of the United States.

The win earned mandatory contender status, claiming the vacant title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Stuart Hall last October in Monte Carlo. The feat marked his third straight fight away from home, prompting Golden Boy Promotions to plan a triumphant homecoming for his first defense, which was to come versus Alberto Guevara in February.

However, an ankle injury forced Caballero to withdraw from the show, and the severity of the injury prompting the IBF to enforce an interim title fight between Haskins and Iwasa. While the practice of interim titlists has become commonplace with other alphabet organizations, the IBF only orders under extreme circumstances, which it was led to believe to be the case upon receiving medical updates on Caballero’s injury.

His planned summer ring return may or may not challenge that theory. Regardless, more than nine months will have passed since Caballero’s title-winning effort, which means an overdue mandatory by the time he next steps into the ring. Titlists are entitled to a voluntary defense, but it must take place no later than 60 days before the mandatory challenge is due, according to the IBF championship rules and regulations.

The planned clash with Guevara would have fit well within that window, since it was due to take place in February. Caballero’s opportunity for a voluntary defense—unless otherwise formally approved by the IBF—expired on May 25.

By law—and the IBF remains among the few sanctioning bodies who regularly honors its own rules—a defending champion must file for an exception and gain prior written approval from the IBF in the event of defending against an opponent other than the mandatory contender. The most common instance would be if a defending IBF titlist wishes to unify against a recognized beltholder from another major sanctioning body. 

That would not be the case here, nor has such a request for an exception yet been filed.

There is the possibility that Haskins could step aside and allow Caballero a voluntary defense, although the 31-year old British southpaw seems keen on facing the best while still at or relatively close to his prime years.

"I want the big fights out there and I want the big money if it's out there,” Haskins told his hometown publication Bristol Post following his career-best win over Iwasa. “I'm at that stage of my career where I need to be fighting for world titles and I'd like to try to clean up in the bantamweight division. After what I did to Iwasa, who's to say I cannot beat the other champions? I'll take them all on and be confident in my ability to do the job.”

Barring a granted exception by the IBF, Caballero will likely have to next face Haskins or run the risk of his title reign running one and done.

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Twitter: @JakeNDaBox