The WBC has abandoned its prior attempt to determine a mandatory challenger for the heavyweight title. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
A previously ordered Deontay Wilder-Andy Ruiz title eliminator is no longer required, the sanctioning body ruled Friday. The fight never had a chance to take place given recent events, including ongoing efforts for Wilder to next face fellow former heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua likely early next year in the Middle East.
“The WBC Board of governors has ruled to cancel the order which was issued during the last annual convention calling for a final elimination bout between Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz jr to determine the mandatory challenger of the division,” the WBC announced in a general statement. “The WBC will evaluate the current situation in the division in order to review the viable options and if necessary, issue a new ruling during the WBC annual convention to be held in Uzbekistan in November.”
With the ruling, the WBC will now go all of 2023 without a sanctioned heavyweight fight. Reigning lineal/WBC king Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24KOs) has not defended the title since a tenth-round stoppage of countryman Derek Chisora in their all-British trilogy clash last December 3 in North London.
The unbeaten heavyweight champion from Manchester—who now lives and trains in Morecambe—is due to next face former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. Their crossover boxing event will headline an October 28 ESPN+ and TNT Sport Pay-Per-View event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Fury’s heavyweight title will not be at stake for what will serve as his lone ring appearance on the year.
Previous efforts—sincere or otherwise—proved futile to secure an undisputed championship with unified WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk. The two sides were reportedly in talks seemingly from the moments immediately after Fury-Chisora III, but officially broke off in April.
At that time, the WBC remained hopeful of a Wilder-Ruiz eliminator that was ordered during its annual convention last November. Wilder (43-2-1, 42KOs) and Ruiz (35-2, 22KOs) won separate semifinal eliminators atop Fox Sports Pay-Per-View events six weeks apart designed to set up a head-on collision.
Ruiz outlasted Luis Ortiz to earn a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory last September 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. Wilder had a much quicker night at the office when he knocked out Robert Helenius with a single punch near the end of the first round of their October 15 clash at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
No movement was made in getting the fight over the line, as both have unsuccessfully shopped other offers. Ruiz even attempted to directly negotiate with Fury but reportedly priced himself out of what would have been a summertime title fight.
Ruiz does not have a fight lined up nor any solid leads on a planned return.
Wilder opted to sit out for the balance of 2023, though original plans called for a fight versus England’s Joshua (26-3, 23KOs) in December. Wilder-Joshua was teased to be packaged with a Fury-Usyk undisputed clash as part of one blockbuster event in the Middle East as financed by Skills Challenge Promotions.
For now, it appears that just Wilder-Joshua will move forward, though more likely to take place in January once they are able to finalize terms. Given their current placement in the WBC rankings, Wilder-Joshua could serve as a final eliminator, which would alleviate any concern on the part of the sanctioning body to name a new mandatory challenger. Wilder remains number-one while Joshua is number-three but could move up since his seventh-round knockout of Helenius on August 12 occurred two days after the WBC’s most recent update.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox