A final four has been established to fill the light heavyweight void left behind by Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.
Less than 12 hours after BoxingScene.com reported the confusion surrounding the World Boxing Organization (WBO) light heavyweight title, the Puerto Rico-based sanctioning body has ordered a pair of elimination contests. Representatives for the top four contenders—Gilberto Ramirez, Umar Salamov, Maksim Vlasov and Eleider Alvarez—were contacted by the WBO and required to respond within 24 hours whether the boxers are ready to participate in the assigned elimination contests.
Mexico's Ramirez (40-0, 26KOs) has been ordered to face Eleider Alvarez (25-1, 13KOs), a Colombia-born boxer based out of Canada in a pairing of former titlists. On the other side of the bracket is a final eliminator between Umar Salamov (25-1, 19KOs)—a Russian knockout artist who now lives and trains in Las Vegas—and Russian-born and bred Maksim Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs).
Ramirez and Alvarez are both promoted by Top Rank, although the WBO letter was sent to Ramirez's manager, David Suh in light of the boxer's estranged relationship with the Las Vegas-based promotional outfit which has left the super middleweight titlist out of the ring since last April. Top Rank was the contact of choice for Alvarez, who is coming off of a highlight reel knockout of Michael Seals last Saturday live on ESPN from Verona, New York.
Alvarez's win came one week after another ESPN-televised light heavyweight affair, where Joe Smith scored an upset 10-round win over Jesse Hart, who was previously ranked #3 by the sanctioning body and—with a win—would have been in prime position to challenge for the vacant title. The loss sent the former two-time title challenger out of the top five, with Smith entering the mix at #5—just far enough out of reach to command a title shot, despite false industry whispers that a straight away fight with Alvarez would be for the vacant title.
Tuesday's news keeps Alvarez very much in the mix to regain the title he claimed in an August 2018 knockout win over Sergey Kovalev, only to drop a 12-round decision to the Russian boxer in their rematch last February.
Far less problematic is the pairing of Salamov and Vlasov. In a perfect world, the two would fight Ramirez and Alvarez, respectively, as to not provide headaches for their shared manager, Oleg Bogdanov. Of course, it also makes it that much easier to get both parties on board.
“They both want a WBO title fight,” Oleg Bogdanov, manager for both Salamov and Vlasov confirmed to BoxingScene.com. “We are just waiting on a decision from the WBO.”
Bogdanov was contacted directly by the WBO on behalf of Vlasov, while Salamov is officially represented by promoter and former contender Dmitriy Salita in the eyes of the WBO.
Salamov—who is now based in the greater Las Vegas area—has won five straight since his lone career loss more than two years, with his last four fight starts coming with a WBO regional title at stake.
Vlasov—a 33-year old who hails from Samara, Russia—is riding a three-fight win streak, all at light heavyweight following a 12-round loss to Krzysztof Glowacki in an October 2018 interim WBO cruiserweight title fight. The bout was the last of a 13-fight stretch at the weight, all following a January 2015 points loss to Ramirez when both were still campaigning at super middleweight.
The WBO was vacated by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (no relation to Eleider) late last year, less than two months after his 11th round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to become a three-division titlist and also capturing 2019 Fighter of the Year honors in the process. The knockout win ended Kovalev’s third title reign–and functionally, Alvarez's as well given his decision to abandon his title in favor of a likely return to the super middleweight division.
Should all parties accept the WBO invitation within the allotted 24-hour time frame, they will then have another fifteen (15) days to reach terms to avoid a purse bid hearing. Both bouts carry a minimum purse bid offering of $300,000, with the session open to all WBO-registered promoters.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox