By Jake Donovan
Staying true to its word of strictly going down its list of contenders, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) has ordered a vacant middleweight title fight between Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders.
N’Dam is ranked #1 by the IBF, and already on board to fight for a vacant title, regardless of the opponent. Saunders is ranked #4 by the same sanctioning body, and will have until business close on Thursday, February 12 to accept the fight.
Saunders entered the mix after #3 ranked Felix Sturm passed on the fight Monday morning. The former four-time titlist from Germany declared his intention to instead campaign in the super middleweight division, where he will pursue a long-awaited showdown with 168 lb. titlist Arthur Abraham.
“The IBF have ordered Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (versus) Billy Joe Saunders for the vacant middleweight world title,” Gary Hyde, N’Dam’s manager confirmed on Monday after being contacted by the IBF.
The title became vacant after Jermain Taylor was stripped for failure to honor his mandatory obligation (N’Dam) given his current incarceration. Taylor was arrested on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on a slew of charges, all of which violated the terms of the bond agreement from his shooting charges last summer.
The former two-time middleweight champ is undergoing neuropsychological examination, and will remain in custody–whether in jail or a mental health facility—until his court hearing, scheduled for Tuesday in Pulaski County, Arkansas.
Saunders is also the mandatory challenger for the WBO middleweight title, having agreed to step aside to allow Andy Lee an optional title defense. Lee—who won the vacant title with a stunning knockout win over Matt Korobov in December—will next defend April 11 against the belt’s previous claimant, undefeated Peter Quillin.
If Saunders agrees to fight N’Dam for the vacant IBF title prior to business close on Thursday, the two camps will have 30 days to negotiate terms, otherwise will be subject to a purse bid hearing, with the winning promoter earning the right to promote the fight.
N’Dam is with King Promotions (Michael King, not to be confused with the legendary Don King who heads Don King Productions); Saunders fights under Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions banner.
Should Saunders continue to wait in line for the WBO title, the IBF will proceed with its list of challengers before finding one available to contend for its vacant title. The next highest rated contender in its rankings would be Canada’s David Lemieux, who presently does not have a fight scheduled or is known to be in negotiations for a big fight.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox