On the heels of vowing to clean up its act, the World Boxing Association has taken a significant step forward.
The Panama City-based sanctioning body continues to make good on its promise to phase out the number of secondary and interim titlists it has crowned over the years. The first step came with Saturday’s edition of Showtime Championship Boxing, with the evening’s chief support—a bantamweight bout between Gary Antonio Russell and Emmanuel Rodriguez—downgraded pre-fight from a WBA interim title fight to an official eliminator.
It ultimately proved moot, as the contest ended on a clash of heads just sixteen seconds into the opening round.
The long-term effect will surface in the coming months, beginning with a pair of previously assigned interim title fights in September.
“Along with [Russell-Rodriguez], the [fights] between Ronal Batista and Alejandro Santiago on September 10th at Super Flyweight, and the one between Aidos Yerbossynuly and Lennox Alllen on September 12th at Super Middleweight will also be WBA title eliminators,” revealed Carlos Chavez, chairman of the WBA Championship Committee. “The decisions are due to the start of the WBA’s title reduction plan that will gradually come into operation and will evaluate the interim titles one by one to make decisions.”
The call for reform stems from the industry-wide outrage following the August 7 WBA interim welterweight title fight in Minneapolis, Minnesota, won by Venezuela’s Gabriel Maestre (4-0, 3KOs) via highly questionable split decision over Maryland’s Mykal Fox (22-3, 5KOs). Judges Gloria Martinez-Rizzo (117-110), John Mariano (115-112) and David Singh (114-113) were vilified for their scorecards in a fight where most viewers (the fight aired live on Fox TV) had Fox—who scored a second-round knockdown—winning with room to spare.
Judge Martinez-Rizzo was since issued an indefinite suspension, though not for job performance but due to her discovered documented history of racism which is in violation of WBA’s Code of Ethics. The other two judges have yet to be disciplined for their inexplicable scorecards, although an investigation remains ongoing along with a Maestre-Fox having been ordered at the request of King’s Promotion, Fox’s promoter who also filed an appeal with the Minnesota Office of Combative Sports.
WBA President Gilberto Jesus Mendoza also confirmed to BoxingScene.com of plans in place to begin ordering title consolidation clashes between interim and “World” titlists. The sanctioning body is prepared to order such a fight between WBA “World” junior lightweight titlist Roger Gutierrez (26-3-1, 20KOs)—who outpointed Rene Alvarado (32-10, 21KOs) in their rubber match Saturday evening in Frisco, Texas—and interim titlist Chris Colbert (16-0, 6KOs).
With the order will also come the request for confirmation from Gervonta Davis (25-0, 24KOs) and at which weight division he plans to compete.
The heavy-handed southpaw from Baltimore currently holds the WBA “Super” 130-pound title, along with secondary “World” titles at lightweight and junior welterweight. In the event Davis plans to return to junior lightweight, he will be summoned to face the winner of Gutierrez-Colbert. Should Davis opt to continue fighting outside the weight, the Gutierrez-Colbert winner will be declared the only recognized WBA junior lightweight titlist.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox