Brandon Figueroa is one win away from unifying two titles in the 122-pound division.
He will have to give up one belt in the moments leading to his physically pursuing that goal.
In its continued efforts to consolidate the number of current titlists within its organization, the World Boxing Association (WBA) informed Figueroa (22-0-1, 17KOs) of its intention to strip the unbeaten Texan of the WBA “World” junior featherweight belt heading into his next bout. Figueroa is due to face Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8KOs) in a WBC/WBO title unification bout on September 18, live on Showtime from Park MGM in Las Vegas.
Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7KOs) is the current WBA “Super” 122-pound champion in addition to holding the IBF title. Akhmadaliev is the only recognized WBA title claimant at the weight according to other sanctioning bodies. Other sanctioning bodies do not recognize secondary titles as part of the unification process, leaving Figueroa to put his WBC title on the line while aiming for Fulton’s WBO title.
Figueroa won the WBC belt in a seventh-round knockout of unbeaten Luis Nery on May 15, with his WBA “World” title not at stake for that contest despite previous suggestions of the fight serving as a title unification clash. Retaining the secondary title is a luxury the 23-year-old Weslaco, Texas native is no longer afforded, as is the case with any other secondary WBA beltholder pursuing other title fights.
“The World Boxing Association (WBA) Championships Committee sent a communication to the team of the super bantamweight champion, Brandon Figueroa, to inform them that his title WBA Super Bantamweight will be vacated once he steps into the ring on September 18 in a unification fight against Stephan Fulton, as reported by the press,” the sanctioning body announced on Tuesday.
Because the upcoming fight with Fulton is not sanctioned by the WBA, Figueroa will be deemed in violation of rule C. 10 (10) covering non-sanctioned bouts as it relates to recognized WBA champions: “An Association Champion or officially recognized contender who participates in a fight without approval or sanction from the Championships Committee, may have his title or recognized status removed.”
With that, Figueroa’s two-plus year stay as a WBA title claimant will soon come to an end.
“Figueroa’s [WBA 122-pound] title will be vacant as of September 18,” confirmed the WBA.
Figueroa won an interim title in April 2019, making one defense before receiving an upgrade to “World” titlist in advance of his November 2019 draw with Julio Ceja who missed weight and was ineligible to win the title. Figueroa defended the secondary version of the title in a seventh-round stoppage of Damien Vazquez last September. The win over Nery did not have the WBA belt at stake, nor will Figueroa any longer have that option the moment he enters the ring to face Fulton in September.
Ra’eese Aleem currently holds the WBA interim junior featherweight title and is due to next face former unified titlist Danny Roman, who lost to Akhamadaliev by narrow split decision last January. Their bout is rumored to take place on the undercard of Figueroa-Fulton. Also potentially discussed for that night on a separate show is Akhmadaliev’s ordered mandatory title defense versus Ronny Rios, likely to take place in California.
The winners of Akhmadaliev-Rios and Aleem-Roman will likely be ordered to next face one another, given the WBA’s current promise to reduce its number of recognized titlists while phasing out interim and secondary titles. The movement comes in the aftermath of the controversial August 7 WBA interim welterweight title fight, where Gabriel Maestre won a highly questionable split decision over Mykal Fox in a fight that has caught worldwide attention for all of the wrong reasons.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox