The announcement of a forthcoming WBA junior flyweight title fight caught many in the industry by surprise.
Including the WBA.
Matchroom Boxing revealed elements of its upcoming fall schedule on DAZN. Included among the lot was an October 16 show topped by former four-division titlist Mikey Garcia in a showdown with Spain’s Sandor Martin. The press release also specified two junior flyweight title fights, including a clash between WBA “World” titlist Esteban Bermudez (14-3-2, 10KOs) and unbeaten contender Jesse ’Bam' Rodriguez (13-0, 9KOs).
Bermudez was previously linked to a title consolidation clash with WBA “Super” champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (15-0, 10KOs) in a bout that was ordered more than three months ago. That ordered fight remains in play, WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza informed BoxingScene.com in confirming an earlier report from ESPN Deportes’ Salvador ‘Chava’ Rodriguez.
The last update surrounding Kyoguchi-Bermudez came August 18, when a 10-day extension was granted to all involved parties and a new deadline of August 28 in place.
“With the 10-day period granted, they should reach an agreement before August 28,” Carlos Chavez, chairman of the WBA Championship Committee declared at the time.
No such update followed prior to Thursday’s news of Bermudez being linked to a voluntary title defense versus San Antonio’s Rodriguez.
Bermudez became an unlikely title claimant following a sixth-round upset of unbeaten Carlos Canizales, who returned to the ring for the May 29 bout following a two-year absence. Less than two weeks later, Bermudez was ordered to next face Japan’s Kyoguchi, a two-division and current WBA “Super” junior flyweight champion who signed with Matchroom Boxing and manager Eddy Reynoso earlier this year. Kyoguchi was hoping to enter a title unification bout with WBO junior flyweight titlist Elwin Soto (19-1, 13KOs), with such a fight given its blessing by the WBA on the condition that the WBO was also on board.
It turned out not to be the case, as Mexicali’s Soto was already ordered to enter talks for a mandatory title defense versus Puerto Rico’s Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez (24-3-1, 14KOs) prior to the request being submitted. Soto and Gonzalez are due to meet on the October 16 card in Fresno, having reached terms ahead of an eventually canceled purse bid hearing.
That development left Kyoguchi on the hook to come to terms for a fight with Bermudez. Per WBA rule C.13 addressing Bout Limitations, “within sixty (60) days of the expiration of the mandatory defense period, a World Champion may not fight a boxer who is not the Mandatory Contender, or the next highest ranked boxer (if there is no Mandatory Contender), nor may a designated contender fight during the same period for anything other than the championship.
“During the pendency of a required contract negotiation or purse bid period for a championship or eliminator fight, no champion, official contender, or boxer directly affected by the period can sign an agreement for, or participate in, a bout different than the one that is the subject of the negotiation or bid period.”
While Matchroom announced Soto-Gonzalez and Bermudez-Rodriguez, Kyoguchi has not seen his name attached to a fight of any kind other than his ordered defense versus Bermudez. The unbeaten 27-year-old from Osaka, Japan made his U.S. debut this past March 13, scoring a fifth-round injury stoppage of Axel Aragon at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The bout served in support of lineal/WBC junior bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada’s split decision win over WBA “Super” champ Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in their thrilling rematch.
The win over Aragon marked the third title defense for Kyoguchi, who became a two-division titlist after stopping Hekkie Budler after the tenth round of their New Year’s Eve 2018 title fight in Macao, China.
The ordered fight between Kyoguchi and Bermudez came two months prior to the WBA's recent commitment to reduce its number of recognized titlists. The sanctioning body came under fire this past August, on the heels of Gabriel Maestre's highly questionable split decision win over Mykal Fox on August 7 at The Armory in Minneapolis. Maestre (4-0, 3KOs) was granted the WBA "Interim" welterweight title with the win, only for the WBA to subsequently strip the unbeaten Venezuelan of the crown before abolishing all interim titles later in the month.
With its continued efforts to consolidate its titles, the WBA will seek answers as to why its long-ago ordered junior flyweight title fight has been met with other plans.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox