The knockout performance delivered by Eleider Alvarez over the weekend was a fitting launch to what he hopes will be shot at a second light heavyweight title reign.
However, the question remains whether it will shake up the ratings enough to get him to that point.
Alvarez—a 35-year old Colombian now based out of Montreal, Canada—returned to the win column with a highlight reel 7th round knockout of Michael Seals last Saturday in Verona, New York. The now-viral moment aired live on ESPN, which one week prior served as the network host to Joe Smith Jr’s 10-round win over Jesse Hart in a battle of former title challengers.
The back-to-back showings created the perception that a matchup between the two is in the works, potentially for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) light heavyweight title. As much has been teased by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, whose Top Rank serves as the primary content provider for ESPN and which also enjoys a comfortable relationship with the WBO.
However, there are still rules in place.
At present moment, neither Alvarez (25-1, 13KOs) nor Smith (25-3, 20KOs) are in a position to claim dibs on a shot the vacant strap. Alvarez advanced from #7 to #4 in the most recent set of light heavyweight rankings released by the Puerto Rico-based sanctioning body. Smith Jr.was not in the top 15 at the time of his win over previously #3-ranked Hart, but has since advanced to number-five.
Unbeaten former super middleweight titlist Gilberto Ramirez is currently the number-one contender in the eyes of the WBO, although also in a promotional dispute with Top Rank which threatens to extend an inactive stretch which dates back to last April. Very much active and with no plans of stepping aside are a pair of Russian light heavyweights in Umar Salamov (25-1, 19KOs) and Maksim Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs), ranked #2 and #3, respectively.
“They both want a WBO title fight,” Oleg Bogdanov, manager for both Salamov and Vlasov confirmed to BoxingScene.com. “We are just waiting on a decision from the WBO.”
[Writer's note: Story was modified to reflect most recent WBO light heavyweight rankings released just as this story went to publish]
Salamov—who is now based in the greater Las Vegas area—has won five straight since his lone career loss more than two years, with his last four fight starts coming with a WBO regional title at stake.
Vlasov—a 33-year old who hails from Samara, Russia—is riding a three-fight win streak, all at light heavyweight following a 12-round loss to Krzysztof Glowacki in an October 2018 interim WBO cruiserweight title fight. The bout was the last of a 13-fight stretch at the weight, all following a January 2015 points loss to Ramirez when both were still campaigning at super middleweight.
The WBO was vacated by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (no relation to Eleider) late last year, less than two months after his 11th round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to become a three-division titlist and also capturing 2019 Fighter of the Year honors in the process. The knockout win ended Kovalev’s third title reign, the last of which began with a 12-round win over Eleider Alvarez last February to avenge a knockout loss from the prior August.
A recent stretch of catastrophic earthquakes in Puerto Rico have affected everyday life on the island, including its local establishments. The WBO offices were temporarily closed for a stretch earlier in the month, still catching up on old business—including a plan to crown a new light heavyweight king.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox