A promoter and a firm deadline are in place for an oft-delayed vacant title fight.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that TGB Promotions has secured the rights to the Subriel Matias-Jeremias Ponce vacant IBF junior welterweight title fight. TGB bid $510,000 as the lone participant during the IBF purse bid hearing on Tuesday at the sanctioning body’s headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey. Each boxer will earn $255,000 per a 50/50 purse split as the top two contenders.
Per terms of the purse bid, TGB was required to submit a ten-percent deposit of the winning bid ($51,000) at the time of the session and with another ten percent to be delivered by no later than November 22. The most important deadline is the 90-day window in which the fight must take place.
“The executed contracts for this bout must be submitted to this office within 15 days of the bid or by Wednesday, November 30, 2022,” the IBF noted to TGB in an official letter, a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.com. “The fight must take place within 90 days of the Bid or by Monday, February 13, 2022.”
Matias-Ponce is expected to land on a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) show within that time frame, as PBC/TGB are in the process of finalizing its 2023 first quarter schedule.
The winner will claim a belt that has been vacant since August 23, when Josh Taylor (19-0, 13KOs) relinquished to instead focus on a rematch with England’s Jack Catterall which was since pushed back to next February.
The pairing of Matias and Ponce initially began as the final leg of a four-man box-off ordered in 2021.
Ponce (30-0, 20KOs) and Matias (18-1, 18KOs) both advanced to the top two positions in the IBF junior welterweight rankings following knockout wins in separate semifinal eliminators late last spring. Matias became the number-two position following an eighth-round stoppage of Batyrzhan Jukembayev last May 29 in Carson, California. Ponce followed suit two weeks later with a tenth-round stoppage of Lewis Ritson last June 12 in Newcastle, England.
The belief at the time was that a final eliminator would next take place, though both teams were able to reach an agreement amongst each other and with the IBF’s blessing to wait out Taylor’s then-scheduled WBO mandatory with Catterall. Scotland’s Taylor had just fully unified the division at the time, defending his WBA/IBF titles while winning the WBC/WBO belts in a twelve-round unanimous decision over Jose Ramirez in their May 22 undisputed clash between undefeated and unified titlists.
Taylor suffered a training camp injury which pushed back his fight with Catterall from last December 18 to this past February 26, furthering speculation that he would eventually vacate the IBF title. Taylor barely escaped with his unbeaten record and championship reign intact, surviving an eighth-round knockdown to claim a disputed split decision win over Catterall.
The fight outcome drew outrage and demand for an immediate rematch. To Taylor’s credit, he was always on board with facing Catterall for a second time before defending his title against anyone else in the division. That decision has led to him having to relinquish the WBA, WBC and IBF belts, in that order.
Matias has fought just once during that time, scoring a ninth-round stoppage of Petros Ananyan on January 22 in Atlantic City. The win was significant in avenging his lone career defeat when he dropped a ten-round decision in their February 2020 clash in Las Vegas, having since entered a current three-fight win streak.
Ponce has fought and won twice since becoming the IBF number-one contender at junior welterweight, earning a pair of early knockout wins in Hamburg, Germany.
The two were previously instructed to enter talks for an approved interim title fight, which lingered for months. It was believed that a deal was reached but merely waiting on a date, only for the IBF to never receive such paperwork and thus moved forward in ordering a Taylor-Ponce mandatory title fight in July. Those talks went nowhere, with a purse bid scheduled for August 23 but canceled one day prior, fueling speculation that Taylor would vacate the title.
Similarly, a fight has yet to come of what amounts to ten weeks’ worth of talks and planning despite suggestions that the bout was merely stuck in a holding pattern.
Matias-Ponce was once teased to be on course to take place on an October 15 Fox Sports Pay-Per-View undercard from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Matias’ team was led to believe this was the case, with the Puerto Rican knockout artist even revealing earlier this fall that the fight date fell through due to Argentina’s Ponce’s inability to secure a travel visa in time to appear on the card.
Such a development was never fully confirmed by the IBF, who took matters into its own hands. The New Jersey-based sanctioning body announced on November 1 its plans to hold a November 15 purse bid hearing without exception, given the number of delays already experienced in getting this fight over the line.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox