Josh Taylor remains the lineal junior welterweight champion but with only one physical title in tow.
Boxingscene.com has confirmed that the unbeaten Scottish southpaw has officially vacated his IBF 140-pound title. The move follows weeks of speculation that Taylor would relinquish title, as he eyes a rematch with England’s Jack Catterall that will likely take place November 26 in Manchester or Glasgow.
The IBF will now order a fresh round of negotiations between Argentina’s Jeremias Ponce and Puerto Rico’s Subriel Matias, who were twice before in talks for fight with everchanging stakes. The two highest rated 140-pound contenders with the IBF were previously in talks for a final eliminator, and earlier this year for an interim title fight that was tabled once Taylor was ordered to honor his mandatory title defense against Ponce.
BoxingScene.com has learned that Ponce-Matias will likely take place on the Deontay Wilder-Robert Helenius undercard as part of the October 15 Fox Sports Pay-Per-View from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Taylor (19-0, 13KOs) has spent nearly all year giving up pieces of the 140-pound crown, all in the wake of his disputed twelve-round, split decision win over Catterall on February 26 in Glasgow. The fight marked his lone defense of the undisputed junior welterweight championship after he won the WBC/WBO titles while defending the IBF/WBA belts in a unanimous decision win over Jose Ramirez in their battle of unbeaten, unified titlists last May in Las Vegas.
Taylor-Ramirez was permitted on the condition that the winner next face Catterall, who was the overdue WBO mandatory challenger at the time but who agreed to first allow the undisputed fight to take place. In the wake of the Taylor-Catterall fight came widespread demand for a rematch.
Taylor was long interested in such a fight, though it required his wading through three separately ordered mandatory title fights. The 31-year-old Scotsman ran out the clock in a WBA-ordered title defense against Alberto Puello, allowing the fight to go to a purse bid before deciding to give up the belt earlier this spring. Puello claimed the title in a twelve-round win over Batyr Akhmedov on August 20 in Hollywood, Florida.
Next up was the WBC, with former two-time title challenger Jose Zepeda expecting to face Taylor. Talks went nowhere, with a purse bid hearing delayed several times before Taylor opted to give up the belt on July 1. Zepeda was then ordered to next face Ramirez in what would have been a rematch to their February 2018 clash, won by Ramirez who ultimately walked away from the vacant title fight due to personal conflict.
Zepeda remains first in line for the vacant WBC title as he is now in talks with Regis Prograis, whom Taylor defeated via majority decision in their October 2019 World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament final. Taylor claimed Prograis’ WBA title in the win, while defending the IBF belt he earned in a twelve-round win over Ivan Baranchyk for his first title victory in May 2019.
Taylor made four title defenses of the IBF belt and even flirted with the idea of moving forward with an ordered fight with Ponce (30-0, 20KOs), who became the number-one contender following a tenth-round knockout of Lewis Ritson last June in Newcastle, England. The IBF ordered the fight on July 7, then calling for a purse bid hearing which was to have taken place this past Tuesday.
The session was canceled on Monday, heightening speculation that Taylor was going to give up the belt. It was also a signal that his rematch with Catterall was moving forward, whether in a voluntary defense of his WBO title or taking place just above the 140-pound junior welterweight limit.
The IBF was unable to declare the title vacant until receiving written confirmation from Taylor and promoter Top Rank, which was provided on Wednesday.
Matias advanced to the number-two position following an eighth-round stoppage of Batyrzhan Jukembayev last May 29 in Carson, California. He has since added a ninth-round stoppage of Petros Ananyan on January 22, avenging his lone career defeat when he dropped a ten-round decision in their February 2020 clash in Las Vegas.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox