The search has begun to establish a mandatory challenger for boxing’s newest titleholder.
It could get off to a rocky start.
BoxingScene.com has learned that the IBF has submitted an invitation to the teams for Luis Nery and Ra’eese Aleem to determine their availability for a planned junior featherweight title eliminator. The promoters for both boxers were contacted on Wednesday and have until the weekend to either accept or decline the offer to enter negotiations for such a fight.
“Be advised that # 3 rated, Luis Nery and # 4 rated Ra’eese Aleem are the 2 highest ranked available contenders in the IBF Jr. Featherweight division,” IBF Championship Committee chairman Carlos Ortiz informed the teams for both boxers in an official letter obtained by Boxing Scene. “In an effort to determine who the mandatory challenger will be, the IBF is ordering an elimination bout between Luis Nery and Ra’eese Aleem for the number 1 position. The winner will be #1 and the mandatory challenger.
“Within 3 days of April 12, 2023 or no later than April 15, 2023 you should contact this office in writing advising your availability. In the event we do not hear from you in writing by 5 PM EST on April 15, 2023 we will assume that you do not wish to participate in this eliminator process and proceed down the list of rankings to the next available contender.”
The end result of such a process is to solidify a number-one contender in the IBF 122-pound division. The reigning titlist is Philippines’ Marlon Tapales (37-3, 19KOs), who recently dethroned previously unbeaten Murodjon Akhmadaliev via split decision in their April 8 WBA/IBF unified title fight in San Antonio, Texas.
Nery is represented by Zanfer Boxing, while Aleem is promoted by Marshall Kauffman’s King Promotions.
Ironically, both boxers are already on course to go the WBC route, though they will use the allotted time to determine the best course of action.
Tijuana’s Nery (34-1, 26KOs) became the WBC mandatory challenger following his thrilling eleventh-round knockout of Azat Hovhannisyan on February 18 in Pomona, California. Their title eliminator remains the leading candidate for 2023 Fight of the Year. The fight was ordered by the WBC during its convention last November, to determine the primary mandatory challenger for unified WBC/WBO titlist Stephen Fulton (21-0, 8KOs).
There is a wait to enforce that status.
Philadelphia’s Fulton is due to next face Japan’s Naoya Inoue (24-0, 21KOs) in a pound-for-pound showdown on July 25 in Tokyo. Inoue suffered a training camp injury which delayed their previously scheduled May 7 clash by more than eleven weeks, thus leaving the WBC participants in limbo.
The delay also affects Aleem (20-0, 12KO), a 32-year-old top contender who is currently awaiting a fight date to face Mexico’s Alan David Picasso (24-0-1, 13KOs). Their ordered eliminator—to determine the second mandatory challenger for the WBC junior featherweight title—recently went to a purse bid hearing which was won by Zanfer, Picasso’s promoter who is finalizing plans for the bout which will likely land on a July date in Mexico.
An IBF-ordered Nery-Aleem fight would shorten the wait for the winner to fight Tapales for what would still be a two-belt title shot.
Should either party decline—or simply not respond to—the invitation, they will be dropped below the top ten for a minimum of six month, per IBF Rule 9.C. Depending on the outcome of this current process, the IBF will then contact the ranked contenders in order to determine the next available boxer to participate in the sanctioned title eliminator.
Tapales entered his fight with Akhmadaliev (11-1, 8KOs) as the mandatory challenger. The two-division and reigning unified titlist will be granted a voluntary title defense during this process.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox