Only a travel visa stands in the way of a heavyweight pairing more than two years in the making.
Manuel Charr is on target to make the first defense of his secondary WBA heavyweight belt, as he is due to face interim WBA titlist Trevor Bryan in a long-overdue title consolidation match. The fight is tentatively scheduled to take place January 29 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, marking the first event with Hall of Fame promoter Don King as the lead since August 2015.
Representatives from the Florida State Boxing Commission have confirmed to BoxingScene.com that the proper steps have been taken in order to proceed with the event. However, it’s also worth noting that Don King Productions has been down this road several times before in the past few years—including with this very fight—only for such shows to never materialize.
One major hurdle to overcome is having Charr arrive to the United States in time for the fight to take place within the WBA-imposed deadline. The 36-year old Lebanon-born heavyweight is now based out of Cologne, Germany where he awaits word on a travel visa.
Erol Ceylan, Charr’s promoter has otherwise indicated to BoxingScene.com that their side is ready to go. Of course, there is also concern about traveling to the U.S. during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Germany remains in lockdown through January 31, although there is a workaround extended to parties deemed “essential personnel”—a status which has been regularly afforded to world-class athletes.
Charr’s current position as a reigning titlist would—theoretically—qualify under such circumstances. That said, the 16-year ring pro is running short on available time to make the trip abroad.
Charr has not fought since a 12-round decision over Alexander Ustinov to win the vacant title in Nov. 2017.
Several postponements and cancellations have since come of his bizarre reign, including a planned September 2018 fight with Fres Oquendo which nearly cost him the title outside the ring. Charr tested positive for two separate banned substances, resulting in the fight being canceled and Charr initially stripped of his title in November 2018.
A successful appeal filed with the WBA helped restore his title reign in January 2019. Charr requested his “B” sample to be tested, only to later successfully argue that neither he nor any member of his team were properly notified of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited lab conducting such tests.
WADA rules state that the athlete has the right to be notified of “the scheduled date, time and place for the B-Sample analysis...” “Doping Control”, Part 1, section 7.3. They also provide that an athlete must be provided notice of “the opportunity for the Athlete and/or the Athlete’s representative to attend the B Sample opening and analysis.”
According to the final resolution offered by the WBA, the “B” sample was opened and tested without proper notification offered to Charr, who also provided proof of a clean drug test as contracted through Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) on Sept. 29th, 2018—the date of the scheduled fight. Due to the time lapse in testing between the “A” and “B” samples, the WBA begrudgingly reinstated Charr as its secondary titleholder.
In that time, the sanctioning body greenlighted an interim title fight between Bryan (20-0, 14KOs) and BJ Flores in August 2018. Bryan—an unbeaten 31-year old heavyweight from Schenectady, New York who is promoted by King—won the fight by 4th round knockout, but has spent more than two years waiting on his next ring assignment.
King won a purse bid for the fight last March, submitting a whopping bid of $2,000,000. The plans at the time called for the bout to take place no later than May 30, 2020. The ongoing pandemic shut down the sport and most of the world, providing leeway to reschedule the fight.
Typical of past behavior, too much time was taken by King, prompting the WBA to once again take the lead. A new deadline was offered, with the fight required to take place no later than January 29th, 2021, along with mandatory random drug testing administered. BoxingScene.com has learned that steps have been for both boxers to be subject to random drug testing through Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).
Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22KOs) remains the recognized WBA heavyweight champion, having regained that belt along with the IBF/WBO/IBO titles following a 12-round win over Andy Ruiz in their Dec. 2019 rematch. England’s Joshua has since defended his unified titles in a 9th round knockout of Kubrat Pulev last December at SSE Arena, Wembley.
Current plans call for the hulking Brit to next face lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs), with negotiations underway for such a superfight. In a world where rules are followed, the winner of Charr-Bryan would become a mandatory challenger to the full recognized version of the WBA title.
For now, it’s safe to say that all parties involved will merely settle for this secondary title fight to actually see the light of day.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox