WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has criticized the WBA for attempting to force unified super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor into a mandatory bout with Alberto Puello.
Subsequently, Taylor handed back the WBA title but will now face WBC mandatory challenger Jose Zepeda next.
Sulaiman said a meeting between four sanctioning bodies – WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO – in Puerto Rico at the WBO executive committee in Puerto Rico earlier in the year was used to discuss how best to treat unified champions in order for the weight classes to have one recognized champion.
“It went very well, but things happen,” lamented Sulaiman to BoxingScene.com. “Very regrettably the situation has taken a turn in this way so there’s no more unified champion at super-lightweight and we move on and we will see what happens. Taylor deserves recognition. He has been a tremendous fighter, a warrior and we are very proud of Josh Taylor, our champion and we have the fight against Jose Zepeda coming up and we will wait for the time to address that fight. It's very unfortunate because that’s what everyone talks about. Everyone wants to have one champion for each division. The reality is there are four organizations, each one with different rules, different procedures, and we had what I thought was a very good meeting with the four presidents sitting down discussing specifically the matter of unified champions and how difficult it is to maintain [them] without interfering.
"The problem comes with the mandatory fights for a champion, so if you have a champion with four belts he, in theory, would be doing mandatory after mandatory after mandatory and then that cycle all over again. We discussed a way of doing eliminations between our mandatories and having a unified mandatory for the undisputed champion, or if you have two belts or three belts, the same process, in order to keep the level of opposition as high as possible and to keep unified and undisputed champions. We sat down at the table and put out as an example the super-lightweight title and it was perfectly agreed that the WBO challenger [Jack] Catterall was next, that the WBC Jose Zepeda was next, and then the IBF, so it was very clear. It was an agreement, we all understood and we shook hands on that specific situation only to find out of the blue the order comes for a fight against someone that they decided to put as a mandatory for the WBA. They conducted a purse bid, that had a $200,000 offer which, can you imagine Josh Taylor having to fight for $120,000 or something like that? So it was very unfortunate and now Josh Taylor is not undisputed.”
Sulaiman used strong words to lambast the WBA’s maneuvers, saying, “If there is no honor, no faith, no will on the decisions and proposals, it’s very difficult to administrate multiple championship fighters,” but he still will try to work with the other sanctioning bodies on unification bouts and with unified champions.
Although he put out a strong statement about the WBA, he has not reached out to Gilberto Mendoza on the Taylor issue.
“I don’t need to talk,” Sulaiman went on. “There’s no need to talk. We had an agreement. It was clear. Everybody was there, there’s no need to talk. This is not the first time they break agreements, so it’s just frustrating. I think the public deserves to understand why Josh Taylor is not an undisputed champion today.”
What many can’t understand is why boxing hasn’t got behind Jack Catterall and his request for a rematch for a fight many felt he won. The WBC moved him up in their ratings, said Sulaiman, after the Taylor fight, but the WBC still insisted on making Zepeda next.
“People want to see a rematch,” Sulaiman admitted. “It was a controversial fight. We rank Catterall highly in the WBC now he’s not WBO champion [didn’t win] but this division has many great fights.”
Many of boxing’s ills could possibly be solved by an umbrella organization. Imagine the sanctioning bodies all having to share rankings and having to work together.
“It’s very difficult,” Sulaiman continued. “It’s a dream and it’s not possible to make. Boxing is the only sport in which the organizations do not control the business-side of the sport. FIFA, UEFA, NFL, NBA, those are the leagues that other sports control the business-side. They control the franchises, they’re teams that are sold, they control the TV rights, sponsorship, so that’s how they’re able to have one scenario. But in boxing the organizations are only required for the medicals and the administrations of the divisions. The ones controlling the business are the promoters… It's a very different platform from other sports.”
One of the men at the top of the sport is the WBC’s heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who says he’s retired but many think will fight again. The WBC president will not force Fury’s hand and will give him the time he needs to settle on a decision about his future.
“There’s no specific period of time,” Sulaiman said, when asked whether how long he would give Fury. “I spoke to him this week, he’s on holiday, looking great and we’re going to talk in a few days and we are going to 100 percent support whatever is his decision. If he decides to retire from boxing, that is a dream come true, because to retire at the top with money, with health, with family, with a brilliant future doing things, that is a dream for an administrator like me. My father [Jose] always suffered to see great fighters falling into the trap of fame and glory and all that comes from that and then end up in a bad situation, so if he [Fury] makes a statement and is a role model, we will support him. If he wants to continue fighting, we will support him as well.”
Sulaiman wants Fury to be happy with a final decision, and he would also welcome him having the chance to unify the titles at heavyweight. First, Oleksandr Usyk must defend against former champion Anthony Joshua for the other belts, but with Fury recently defeating the WBC’s mandatory Dillian Whyte, the WBC won’t put pressure on him to face anyone else in the near future.
“He’s [got] no mandatory so a unification would be tremendous, to have him undisputed, that would be a great recognition to his career and that’s what matters,” said Sulaiman. “The WBC stood by him in the difficult times, we have seen him come into the glory and we are with him. I think he’s the best heavyweight. There’s no one who can get close to him at this point. He could go one fighting without a doubt for a couple of years at the top and I love to see him fight but if he decides to retire I respect that.”