New year, same old Don King.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, Manuel Charr still awaits a travel visa for a planned secondary WBA heavyweight title defense versus Trevor Bryan. The bout is tentatively scheduled to take place January 29th, which just so happens to be the deadline imposed by the sanctioning body in order for King to retain promotional rights to the fight.
The Florida State Boxing Commission previously confirmed that a request has been submitted to promote an event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. A request has been placed for the bout to carry random drug testing through Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency, a mandated requirement per a WBA ruling from the previous purse bid hearing last March. However, the event has yet to evolve beyond paperwork submitted, with the clock ticking and things not looking good for the Hall of Fame promoter who has fallen back into old habits.
“We are hearing rumors that the fight is not booked,” Erol Ceylan, Charr’s promoter told BoxingScene.com. “Hard Rock Hotel has no reservation for that date for an event without an audience. [Unbeaten heavyweight Christopher] Lovejoy [claims to] not know that he’s fighting [former heavyweight titlist Bermane] Stiverne.
“We take this fight very serious and try to make sure everything is done professionally in order for us to fight in [the greater Miami area]. I never do business the way they are doing things because nothing looks serious.”
Charr (31-4, 17KOs) has not fought since Nov. 2017, when the Germany-based Syrian heavyweight outboxed Alexander Ustinov to win his secondary WBA heavyweight title. The extended title reign has yet to include a successful title defense, though complete with plenty of delays and scandals. Charr tested positive for two separate banned substances surrounding an eventually canceled Sept. 2018 title fight with Fres Oquendo, the infraction for which he initially stripped of his title in November 2018.
A testing loophole involving the opening of his “B” sample allowed for the restoration of Charr’s title reign, though on the condition that he submit to mandatory random drug testing. Soon thereafter came plans to defend versus Bryan (20-0, 14KOs), who has not fought since a knockout win over BJ Flores to win the interim WBA title in Aug. 2018.
King won a purse bid hearing last March, submitting $2,000,000 to claim promotional rights to a bout he initially planned—on paper, anyway—to stage last May. The initial wave of the ongoing coronavirus shut down those plans, with the WBA providing leeway to a point before establishing an absolute deadline for the bout to take place by no later than Jan. 29, 2021 before taking matters into its own hands.
From there came a last-minute scramble to secure a date with the Florida commission, although every other aspect of the card remains in limbo—par for the course for any Don King Productions-branded event for at least the past ten years. Christopher Lovejoy missed out on a chance to face fellow fringe heavyweight Dave Allen last November due to remaining under contract with King, with event promoter Eddie Hearn immediately pulling the plug on the fight once made aware of the development.
Lovejoy has since taken to social media to trash King at every turn, including his learning through social media of the alleged fight with Stiverne. The same approach has since been adopted the planned headliner.
“What a mean, nasty game by Don King,” Charr stated on his verified Instagram account on Sunday. “[Bryan] don't want to fight me. Don King tries to force me to sign with him, which I definitely won't do! I have a boxing promoter myself: Erol Ceylan. We have already put our lawyers on all points. Don King won't get away like this! No matter what happens: I'm 200% fit and ready to fight. The title stays with us in Germany. I filled out all of the WBA's forms, adhered to the legal guidelines and signed all of the WBA's contracts several times.
“I also signed the DKP contract under protest! The game with Don King has been going on for two years. We boxers are neither promoters nor organizers. I would like to defend my title every three months! It's all up to Don King that I haven't been able to fight for two years. Allah is the greatest he will give me the power and passion!! I will be ready for you and every challenge.”
Charr remains in Germany without a returned signed contract or any indication of a travel visa in place to bring him abroad. King has yet to submit deposits to secure the venue or drug testing, with the alleged event now less than three weeks away.
Even with the fight freeing up should King once again default, it still means further delays in the careers of at least two fighters if not everyone reportedly due to fight on the card. Among those stuck in the holding pattern are inactive cruiserweight titlist Beibut Shumenov (18-2, 12KOs) and scheduled challenger Raphael Murphy (14-1, 11KOs). Shumenov has not fought since claiming the WBA title in a 9th round knockout of Hizni Altunkaya in July 2018.
Charr remains the bearer of the longest inactive streak of anyone on the alleged show, though he and his team are prepared to take matters into their own hands.
“I await from partner to give us information that we can promote also the event. We don’t know the broadcaster, we cannot help to sell tv rights [in Germany],” notes Ceylan. “Also, which gloves will be used by us and by Bryan? So many things have to be organized to be sure that the fight happens.
“That is very unprofessional from Don King . I think WBA will notice this and must follow the rules to make the right decision.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox