Manny Pacquiao is once again a former eight-division titlist.
A ruling made by the World Boxing Association (WBA) has left the full-time Philippines senator and legendary boxer as its “Champion in Recess”, derecognizing his previous status as WBA “Super” welterweight champion, the sanctioning body announced on Friday.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39KOs) held the belt since a 12-round decision win over unbeaten Keith Thurman (29-1, 22KOs; 2 ND) in their July 2019 title consolidation clash. The 42-year old southpaw has failed to make a single title defense since then, in part due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic though no longer ground to retain the belt during such period of inactivity.
“The WBA, according to its rule C.14, dictates that champions and their teams are required to know the WBA rules and regulations,” noted the sanctioning body in its ruling. “Rule C.22-24 states that when a champion is unable to defend the belt for medical, legal or other reasons beyond his control, he may be named champion in recess.
“The medical reasons must be documented before the WBA Medical Committee, while the legal reasons must be evidenced before the legal director and the Championships Committee. Any inconvenience that may arise in the process will be resolved under the guidelines of the WBA regulations.”
The news likely won’t force Pacquiao to break stride. The future Hall of Famer remains in talks for a fight (of sorts) with unbeaten lightweight contender Ryan García (21-0, 18KOs). Terms of the bout—including weight, location, date and whether it will be a sanctioned contest or an exhibition—have yet to be determined, although representatives from both camps have verified ongoing discussion for a targeted springtime in-ring collision.
Friday’s ruling leaves Pacquiao as a former four-time welterweight titlist, having previously held the WBO belt from Nov. 2009-June 2012, April 2014-May 2015 and from Nov. 2016-July 2017. Pacquiao has also enjoyed title and championship reigns at flyweight (WBC/Lineal), junior featherweight (IBF), featherweight (Lineal), junior lightweight (WBC/Lineal), lightweight (WBC), junior welterweight (Lineal) and junior middleweight (WBO).
Of the record breaking eight divisions in which he’s enjoyed title status, four have come without registering a single title defense. The latest reign at welterweight is the only such reign where he failed to attempt a title defense; his third WBO title reign—which began with a win over Jessie Vargas—ended with a controversial 12-round defeat to Jeff Horn in their July 2017 clash in Brisbane, Australia.
The benefactor of the move is Miami’s Yordenis Ugas (26-4, 12KOs), who was upgraded from WBA “World” to WBA “Super” welterweight titlist. The distinction is important for the 34-year old Cuban, who can now pursue a three-belt unification clash with unbeaten WBC/IBF titlist Errol Spence Jr. (27-0, 21KOs). Other sanctioning bodies do not recognize secondary WBA titles in regard to accepting title unification requests.
Jamal James (27-1, 12KOs) is in position to advance from interim to WBA “World” welterweight title, although such a move has not yet been announced as this goes to publish.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox