An undisputed lightweight champion will be crowned this weekend.
That is the official stance taken by the World Boxing Council (WBC), confirming that its reigning 135-pound titlist Devin Haney will not factor into the equation. Instead, Vasiliy Lomachenko—the WBA and WBO belts along with designation as WBC “Franchise” champion—remains the sanctioning body’s recognized true champion heading into his highly anticipated showdown with IBF titlist Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12KOs) this Saturday live on ESPN from The Bubble at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“This Saturday is the biggest fight of the year, particularly in relation to this state of the world,” Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the WBC noted during a Zoom conference call with an intimate number of esteemed media, including BoxingScene.com. “We are proud to have this event with all of the championships on the line.
“The concept of the Franchise (champion) is to be presented to very fighters who have specific set of attributions, like Canelo (Saul Alvarez) and Lomachenko. They have been fighting in several weight classes. The Franchise designation with Lomachenko permitted him to have this fight with Teofimo Lopez.”
Confusion over such a designation—and not a physical title—being at stake this weekend stems from the original concept that such status is non-transferrable. Alvarez became the first WBC “Franchise” champion upon the official rollout last June, with Lomachenko being named as such upon request last October.
The latter move freed up the WBC lightweight title which the three-division and reigning unified 135-pound champ claimed in a 12-round win over England’s Luke Campbell last August. In lieu of honoring a mandatory title defense versus Haney—the interim titlist at the time—Lomachenko and Top Rank petitioned to the WBC for Franchise champion honors, which is how Haney claimed the title currently in his possession.
Despite the physical transferring of the title, there remains a class system in place in terms of recognition.
“Lomachenko is the WBC lightweight champion,” confirmed Sulaiman. “He won and petitioned for the Franchise designation. The Franchise is put above any champion in the lightweight category. So, Lomachenko is in fact champion with special attributes.
“He doesn’t have to face the mandatories that normally come when you win a vacant title. He was named Franchise and he could go ahead and make this fight with Teofimo Lopez.”
A similar process was afforded Lopez during the WBC’s annual convention earlier this summer. Top Rank submitted a request for Lopez to be eligible for Franchise status should he beat Lomachenko—a first regarding this policy, and one where the WBC was proud to establish a new precedent.
“For this specific fight, we received a request from Teofimo Lopez. For this fight, the winner will be designated as the Franchise champion,” confirmed . We have previously stipulated that this is not normally put on the line.
“In this case, it is not a fighter moving up and down (like Alvarez). It is at lightweight. Therefore, the winner will be recognized as the Franchise champion.”
The winner—assuming there is one—will also gain universal recognition as the World lightweight champion.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox