Welterweight contender Eimantas Stanionis will soon have to decide for himself how his career will pan out in the early part of 2023, says his promoter Richard Schaefer.
Stanionis currently holds the WBA ‘World’ 147-pound title, a lesser version of the one currently held by Errol Spence Jr., who also has the IBF and WBC titles to his name. Stanionis has recently pressed the sanctioning body to enforce his status as mandatory challenger to Spence's title immediately after it was revealed last month that talks for an undisputed welterweight championship between Spence and WBO titlist Terence Crawford fell through. Sanctioning bodies generally allow unification fights to take precedence over mandatory defenses.
Stanionis, a 2016 Olympian for Lithuania, has already stepped aside once. He did so earlier this year, allowing then WBA ‘Super’ Champion Yordenis Ugas to take on Spence in a three-belt 147-pound unification. Spence wound up stopping Ugas in the 10th round of their 12-round bout on April 16 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Schaefer, the head of Probellum, recently explained that he will play a limited role in what his Lithuanian charge ends up doing.
“If the fighter is going to say, no, I’m not going to step aside, I want to fight next, then that’s the position that we’ll legally enforce against the relevant sanctioning organizations,” Schaefer told Tha Boxing Voice. “But if the fighter, in this particular case Stanionis, would say, ‘Look, what would be the step aside, what is the deal, who would I fight, when would I fight?’ And if something can be worked out then ultimately that is not to me, it is up to the fighter.
“My job is … to move my fighters into those positions. Once they are in those positions, it’s going to be up to them, do they want to fight, do they want to wait, do they want to step aside. That’s up to the fighter, not up to me.”
After Spence-Crawford talks broke down, Stanionis made it clear on his social media that he does not plan to step aside and suggested Spence would either have to fight him or vacate the WBA ‘Super’ belt. “I have the first right to fight with Spence,” Stanionis wrote. “If he does not fight or forfeit the WBA Super Champion title, there will be no WBA Super Duper Champion and only the one I have will remain.”
However, it is widely expected that Spence will take on former titlist Keith Thurman early next year. (Crawford, on the other hand, is slated to face David Avanesyan on Dec. 10 in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska). Schaefer said that Spence would have to get Stanionis’ approval first before he can move forward with a Thurman fight. Stanionis has fought under Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions for most of his professional career. Both Spence and Thurman are also longtime PBC fighters.
“Spence’s team (Haymon) certainly has to communicate with us what they want to do,” Schaefer said. “They can’t just go and announce a Thurman fight. They can’t, because we have written verifications and letters that Eimantas Staninois is next, so they can’t just ignore it. As a matter of fact, if they would just ignore it — which I know they won’t because they’re respectful people — that would be very disrespectful to Eimantas Stanionis.
“We have to see,” Schaefer continued. “This whole thing has to play out … Is he (Spence) going to fight Thurman? I don’t know. Is he going to move up (to 154)? I don’t know. Or is he going to do what he really should do and fight Eimantas Stanionis who has been the mandatory for over a year, has been patiently waiting, and in addition to that made the right thing for Spence by allowing him to fight Ugas.
"So will Spence be returning that favor that Eimantas did or is he just going to step all over Eimantas? And if he does that it will be up to Eimantas, does he want to fight it or is he going to step aside. That’s not going to be up to me.”