The third time’s a charm for the WBA, although an industry celebration is hardly expected to come from its latest ruling.
The now vacant WBA “World” heavyweight title is officially at stake for Friday’s bout between Trevor Bryan and Bermane Stiverne, the sanctioning body revealed in its final decision on the lingering matter. The winner will be forced to next face prior title claimant Mahmoud (Manuel) Charr, who has been demoted to “Champion in Recess” while he attempts to resolve any lingering visa issues currently preventing him from fighting outside of Germany.
“This is for the big one,” Bryan told BoxingScene.com upon learning the news. “I’m just so happy to be back in the ring and now fighting for the “World” heavyweight title.”
Their scheduled 12-round bout tops a three-fight Pay-Per-View show, airing live from behind closed doors at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Under the terms of the agreement—a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com—the winner of the vacant title fight will be immediately ordered to next face Charr. That bout much take place by no later than May 30, 2021.
Strangely, it’s the same decision that was reached and submitted to all involved parties on Friday morning, before the decision was immediately rescinded by Gilberto Mendoza Jr., longtime president of the WBA. Final confirmation was provided hours later, much to the dismay of Charr whose legal team is already preparing to file an official protest, BoxingScene.com has learned.
The show originally began as a title consolidation clash between Charr as the WBA “World” heavyweight titlist and Bryan as its interim titlist. The fight was ordered by the WBA in 2019 and again in 2020, with the matter going to a purse bid hearing last March. Hall of Fame promoter Don King—who has Bryan under contract—won the rights to the fight by submitting a $2,000,000 bid. The bout was intended to take place last May, only for such plans to be ruined by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As the months went by without resolution, the WBA intervened and called for the fight to take place by no later than Jan. 29th, 2021. The deadline prompted King to put together the show due to take place Friday evening, which originally carried two WBA-branded title fight.
The show is down to one, with inactive WBA cruiserweight titlist Beibut Shumenov having long withdrawn from his scheduled bout versus Raphael Murphy.
Charr was never as quiet about his removal from the card, pleading with King to send over a signed contract in order to complete his P1 visa application which would have permitted him to travel from Cologne, Germany to the United States in order to fight. Evidence exists in the form of documentation obtained by BoxingScene.com, offering weeks of attempted correspondence between Charr’s team and King, only to be met with stall tactics and misinformation.
Nevertheless, the WBA sided with King and Bryan, citing Charr’s inactivity since winning the title in a 12-round decision over Alexander Ustinov in Nov. 2017.
“Based upon the [WBA] Rules, which Charr is presumed to know, a champion must regularly defend his title, remain active, and follow the WBA's instructions regarding title defenses,” Carlos Chavez, chairman of WBA Championship Committee stated to all parties via official letter, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Charr has not defended his title in over three (3) years. While we understand Mahmoud Charr is willing to comply his obligations and did every effort possible to box under the decision of the previous resolution, avoid inactivity, pursue his career, a cause beyond the reasonable control affected his participation on January 29th, 2021.
“Thus, this committee finds sufficient facts and conditions to declare Mahmoud Charr Champion in Recess, in order to extend and solve, all legal and business pending matters or request remedies to solve his unavailability. Don King Productions request will be granted to box for WBA Heavyweight championship between interim title holder Trevor Bryan and ex-champion Bermane Stiverne in Hollywood, Florida next January 29, 2021.”
Interestingly, the ruling was dated Jan. 26th, two days after King’s filing and three days before it was distributed to all parties on Friday.
Ironically, Charr’s inactivity is punished while Bryan also has not fought since collecting his interim WBA title via 4th round knockout of BJ Flores in Aug. 2018. Of course, Bryan is not at fault for his time away from the ring as all he has wanted to do is fight.
He finally gets his wish on Friday and with an upgrade to boot.
“All these people are supporting me, knowing that something great is going happen,” insists Bryan.
Charr’s unresolved visa status established a path for Stiverne (25-4-1, 21KOs) to advance from the undercard—where he remained without an opponent after Christopher Lovejoy (19-0, 19KOs) broke contract and withdrew—to main event. His placement in a title fight of any kind comes under curious circumstances, as he hasn’t won a fight since Nov. 2015 and has suffered knockout losses in each of his last two starts.
Still, he comes in as a former WBC heavyweight titlist, which factored into his being eligible to fight for this version of the WBA title.
“The championships committee finds former champion Bermane Stiverne eligible to fight Trevor Bryant [sic] and has requested the Ratings committee his inclusion in the ratings,” noted Chavez.
Charr will remain next in line to fight for his old title, assuming a forthcoming protest from his team doesn’t prompt the WBA to return his belt beforehand. The winner of Friday’s bout will be required to immediately begin negotiations. Should the fight end in a draw, the WBA will re-order a title fight between Bryan and Charr.
As for the $2,000,000 pot which Charr and Bryan expected to split (75/25 in Charr’s favor), the terms of that purse bid have officially vanished much like a fart in the wind.
“The purse bid procedure held on 2020 will be declared void finding neither party liable in its failure,” insists Chavez. “The affected boxers or any other interested party may request later amendments to this resolution if the circumstances present at the time warrant consideration. This resolution is subject to the provisions of the revised rules regarding request for reconsideration and appeals.
“This resolution supersedes any previous resolution solely dealing with this subject.”
It terms of proper hierarchy, England’s Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22KOs) remains the recognized WBA “Super” heavyweight titlist, along with owning the IBF, WBO and IBO belts. The two-tour unified titlist is in advanced talks for an undisputed heavyweight championship superlight with countryman and recognized lineal/WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs).
The winner of Friday’s bout will be recognized as a mandatory challenger of sorts to Joshua’s version of the title. However, said victor will not be within immediate reach of an upgraded title fight given the current rotation. Former undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk (19-0, 13KOs) remains next in line as the WBO mandatory heavyweight contender.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox