Hours before a rematch to hopefully crown boxing’s next undisputed champion, one has been removed from the mix.
Josh Taylor has been forced to relinquish his WBA junior welterweight title for failure to comply with an ordered mandatory title defense versus Dominican Republic’s Alberto Puello. Scotland’s Taylor (19-0, 13KOs) was given 20 days from the April 22 purse bid hearing—won by TGB Promotions—to contractually agree to the fight to avoid being stripped, instead ignoring the order altogether and forcing the sanctioning body to take action.
“The World Boxing Association (WBA) Championships Committee, in accordance with the organization's rules, has decided that the Super Lightweight title, which was held by the Scottish Josh Taylor, is vacant,” Carlos Chavez, chairman of the WBA Championship Committee, confirmed Saturday afternoon.
Puello (20-0, 10KOs) will now await the order to face the next highest-ranked available contender for the vacant WBA junior welterweight title. Venezuela’s Ismael Barroso (23-3-2, 21KOs) is currently the number-two contender; his representatives have confirmed to BoxingScene.com its plans to pursue the fight once his number is called.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, Taylor-Puello was officially ordered March 8 and with a 30-day negotiation period assigned to the mandatory title fight. The deadline came and went without a deal in place, resulting in a purse bid hearing. TGB Promotions claimed the rights to the fight for $200,000 as the lone bidder during the April 22 purse bid. Because of Puello’s prior status as an interim titlist, the Dominican southpaw was entitled to 45% of the amount, or $90,000. Taylor was due the remaining 55%, or $110,000, though he would have earned at least his guaranteed minimum through promoter Top Rank had he gone through with the fight.
Puello—who is promoted by Shuan Boxing—immediately agreed to all terms but was forced to wait out the 20-day period and beyond as Taylor never signed the contract for the fight. As reported by BoxingScene.com on Thursday, Taylor understood the consequences that would come with not accepting the fight though he remained intent on holding onto the title until the WBA came to collect.
That day has now arrived, leaving the sport with one less undisputed champion. The move comes hours before the junior middleweight championship rematch between lineal/WBC/WBA/IBF champ Jermell Charlo (34-1-1, 18KOs) and WBO titlist Brian Castano (17-0-2, 12KOs) meet Saturday evening on Showtime in hopes of fully unifying the division on the second try.
Taylor has held at least one major title since winning the IBF belt in a May 2019 unanimous decision win over Ivan Baranchyk. He then claimed the WBA belt in a twelve-round, majority decision victory over Regis Prograis in October 2019 to unify the titles along with winning the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament.
Three more fights have followed, including Taylor's close but clear points win over Jose Ramirez in their four-belt undisputed championship clash last May 22 in Las Vegas.
Taylor remains the lineal/WBC/IBF/WBO junior welterweight champion. However, the Scottish southpaw is currently on the clock for a WBC mandatory title defense versus former title challenger Jose ‘Chon’ Zepeda (35-2, 27KOs) that was ordered on April 28. The fight will likely head to a May 24 purse bid hearing absent a deal being reached in the next ten days.
Puello won the now-defunct interim WBA junior welterweight title in a twelve-round win over Jonathan Alonso in July 2019. Two defenses of the secondary belt followed while waiting out fights with Taylor or for the WBA ‘World’ junior welterweight title held by Mario Barrios and then Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis.
None of the fights materialized prior to Puello having his interim title status removed once the WBA removed the belt from circulation last August. Puello was installed as the mandatory challenger, at which point he called for a fight with Davis who instead dropped back down to lightweight for a fight with Rolando Romero who in turn was replaced by Isaac Cruz (23-2-1, 16KOs). Davis was permitted to hold onto his secondary WBA titles at 135- and 140-pounds through the December 5 fight with Cruz, which he won by unanimous decision before agreeing to relinquish the 140-pound title.
Puello then had to wait out Taylor’s WBO mandatory title defense versus England’s Jack Catterall (26-1, 13KOs), which he won by disputed split decision on February 26 in Glasgow. The fight was delayed by more than two months due to Taylor suffering a training camp injury last October in postponing their December 18 date. The development further stalled Puello’s overdue title shot, though he was always on board to face Taylor for all of the belts rather than anyone else for just one title.
“We wanted the Taylor fight,” Belgica Pena, Puello’s promoter and head of Shuan Boxing, told BoxingScene.com earlier in the week while awaiting a firm update from the WBA. “But the important thing is that our fighter receives what he deserves.”
Puello will now receive just that, while Taylor figures out what to do with his remaining titles.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox