By Vadim Pushkin
Vadim Kornilov, who manages WBA/IBF cruiserweight word champion Denis Lebedev (29-2, 22KOs), explained why his boxer refused to stake both world titles against Murat Gassiev (23-0, 17KOs) on Saturday night at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia.
Gassiev is the mandatory challenger under the IBF, which is a title Lebedev captured in a second round knockout of Victor Ramirez in their unification bout this past May.
Lebedev's handlers submitted a request to the WBA to recognized the fight with Gassiev as a "non-title" encounter. The WBA had no issue with approving their application, because Gassiev is not a mandatory challenger to the WBA title.
Because of the WBA's approval, it means Lebedev - win or lose on Saturday - will walk away as the World Boxing Association champion. And, Lebedev will also be bound to make a mandatory defense against the winner of the upcoming final eliminator between "regular" titlist Beibut Shumenov and "interim" beltholder Yunier Dorticos.
Kornilov explains that both sides were debating back and forth in negotiations over the WBA title and it became a very sticky situation, because Lebedev - if he staked the WBA belt - would be obligated to an immediate rematch. But because Gassiev was the mandatory under the IBF, he was not under any obligated to agree to any type of rematch clause.
"The WBA decided that they would give us permission not to put the title on the line in this fight, because Gassiev is the mandatory challenger only for the IBF. The reason why we didn't announce this earlier, is because we were in the process of negotiations and we waiting for confirmation of something and there was some fear of speaking prematurely. After all, if we put up the WBA title - then we would have an option for a rematch - and in this situation it can't happen because Gassiev is the mandatory challenger in principle. It is not quite a normal situation," Kornilov said.