By Jake Donovan
McJoe Arroyo and his handlers are officially on the clock to provide medical proof of a previously sustained injury as his upcoming title defense versus Jerwin Ancajas is officially in jeopardy.
The unbeaten super flyweight titlist was due to make his mandatory defense this weekend in Bacoor City, Philippines. However, a developed lesion on his left hand at a crucial point in training has brought the promotion to a grinding halt while all parties involved await answers.
The International Boxing Federation (IBF) – whose members only learned of Arroyo’s injury through a previously published story on BoxingScene.com – has delivered an ultimatum to the defending champion and his promoter, Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotion (PRBBP). A deadline is in place for medical documents from separate visits last Thursday and Friday to make its way to the IBF’s office by end of business Tuesday, to determine whether Arroyo can be granted a medical exemption, or if he will be stripped of the title.
“At this point, we’re just waiting on the paperwork from PRBBP and can’t make any determination until such time,” IBF Championships Chairman Lindsey Tucker informed BoxingScene.com on Monday when asked whether or not the bout will be postponed. “We expect the information we need to be received by the end of tomorrow, at which point we can make a decision on this title fight.”
Troubling to the IBF – as well as to Ancajas’ promoter, Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions – is the fact that Arroyo’s team failed to disclose the injury beyond local media in Puerto Rico. That announcement came only to notify media members of a canceled workout session in light of the injury.
Inquiries of status updates have since been made on the part of MP Promotions and the IBF, as plane tickets and hotel rooms still need to be secured. Normally such matters are handled in advance. However, there was growing concern that Arroyo wouldn’t be making the trip, leaving everyone involved to play the waiting game.
Should Arroyo provide the necessary proof to indicate he cannot go through with the fight due to injury, he is entitled to apply for a medical exemption in order to retain his title status.
“The IBF found out last Thursday through Boxing Scene that IBF Jr. Bantamweight Champion McJoe Arroyo was injured,” Tucker informed PRBBP and its legal team, in a letter of which a copy has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Under the Rules a Champion can get a Medical Extension for up to 60 days if he/she is injured.
10.F. Notification of Scheduled Bout/Obligations to Comply
5. Limitation on Request for Exception; Unavailability after Purse Bid due to Illness or Injury No Exception to Regulation can be requested once the IBF/USBA has sent out the notice of the date of the purse bid or a contract has been signed for a mandatory bout. In the event the Challenger becomes unavailable due to injury or illness after the purse bid has been held, the Champion will be ordered to begin negotiations under this rule with the next highest leading available contender. In the event the Champion becomes unavailable due to injury or illness after the purse bid has been held, and such disability has been proven to and accepted by a physician approved by the President of the IBF/USBA, he may be granted a medical extension not to exceed sixty (60) days. If it is determined by the physician that the Champion will be disabled for a period to exceed sixty (60) days, the Championships Committee, with the approval of the Board of Directors, may vacate the title.
Tucker continued: “So far the IBF has not received anything from PR Best Boxing to indicate the nature of the injury and the amount of time to recover. I was told that Arroyo went to a Doctor last Friday. If we don’t receive a note from the Doctor by close of business tomorrow, we will proceed according to the rules.”
Arroyo (17-0, 8KOs) is due to make the first defense of the 115 lb. belt he acquired in a technical decision win over Arthur Villanueva last July in El Paso, Texas. The bout was his first under the advisory banner of Al Haymon, taking place on the Showtime portion of a full day/evening event that was split between the American cable giant and its free-to-air affiliate CBS, which hosted live boxing action earlier that day.
The hope on Arroyo's side was that Haymon would financially assist in securing a favorable location for his upcoming clash with Ancajas (24-1-1, 16KOs). Any discussed plans came and went without a public whisper, as Samson Lewkowicz was the lone bidder at the February 12 purse bid hearing. Lewkowicz - on behalf of Manny Pacquiao's MP Promotions - won the rights to the title fight with a paltry sum of $25,000.
Arroyo - who along with twin brother McWilliams represented Puerto Rico in the 2008 Beijing Olympics - is entitled to the favorable end of an 85/15 split. That puts his take at $21,250 to travel around the world and defend his belt on the road. PRBBP brass created confusion upon the announcement of the fight location in Bacoor City, continually insisting that the hosting city was still in discussion and that they planned to discuss with Haymon plans to provide a neutral setting for the event. That was never on the table, however, as Pacquiao's company had full control over the staging of the contest.
However legitimate is Arroyo’s injury, any postponement or cancellation will be met with raised eyebrows given recent events. His promotional stablemate and fellow islander Roman 'Rocky' Martinez withdrew roughly one week prior to his scheduled March 12 super featherweight title defense versus Mexico's Miguel Berchelt. Martinez wound up suffering an untimely injury mere days before he was due to travel to Merida, Mexico.
As a result, Berchelt fought for and won the vacant title, on the condition that he would face a healthy and ready-to-return Martinez in his first title defense. That fight is highly unlikely to materialize, however, as Martinez is the leading candidate to face Vasyl Lomachenko this June in New York City.
Arroyo’s team plans to have in place a full medical report within the next day, highlighting the extent of the injury and full doctor’s orders on how to proceed. A withdrawal from the fight coupled with an approved exemption will mean that he will get to retain his title status providing he defends versus Ancajas within the next 60 days.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox