At least one sanctioning body title won’t be made available for the next few months.
The World Boxing Organization (WBO) has formally withdrawn sanctioning from any fights scheduled through the spring, in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Amidst the current situation worldwide caused by Covid-19 the WBO has postponed all boxing events through June 2020,” the San Juan, Puerto Rico-headquartered organization announced Monday overnight. “We will update accordingly.”
Several bouts involving WBO titles were already postponed in recent days by event organizers. Newark, New Jersey-bred 2016 Olympic Silver medalist Shakur Stevenson was due to make the first defense of his WBO featherweight title versus Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga atop a March 14 show at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City. The same venue was due to host Belfast’s Michael Conlan in his fourth consecutive St. Patrick’s Day headliner, where he was to face Belmar Preciado in the fourth defense of his WBO Inter-Continental featherweight title.
Preliminary plans to stage both events behind closed doors would have come without the on-site involvement of the WBO, who by that point had already vowed to remain in Puerto Rico in light of travel issues and health concerns.
The April 25 bantamweight title unification clash between WBA and IBF titlist Naoya Inoue and WBO claimant John Riel Casimero was among the slate of boxing events postponed by Top Rank, who was also due to have presented the aforementioned March shows.
The announcement from the WBO also impacts the currently scheduled a May 9 show to air on ESPN. Unified 140-pound titlist Jose Ramirez was due to defend his titles versus WBC mandatory contender Viktor Postol. Ramirez claimed the WBC belt in a March 2018 points win over Amir Imam, picking up the WBO strap following a 6th round stoppage of previously unbeaten Maurice Hooker in their unification clash last July.
Unbeaten and undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor is due to defend all of her 135-pound hardware versus record-setting seven division titlist Amanda Serrano on a May 2 show still scheduled to take place at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
The same date is the unofficial landing point for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s pursuit of a fourth divisional title, as the pound-for-pound entrant has long agreed to terms for a crack at unbeaten WBO super middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders. The bout was never formally announced due to the ongoing health crisis and remained very much in doubt of seeing the May 2 date hold up. Industry sources have indicated a more realistic scenario of the event being pushed back to June.
Two WBO-sanctioned title fights remain on the schedule for June, though just one has come with a confirmed date.
Unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua remains on course for his first fight in his native England since September 2018, as he’s due to face IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev on June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Joshua currently holds the IBF, WBO, WBA “Super” and IBO titles.
The mandatory challenger for the WBO heavyweight title, Oleksandr Usyk is still scheduled to face England’s Derek Chisora in a May 23 non-title fight at London’s The O2. The bout came with the blessing of the WBO at the time, although no official title was at stake.
Contingency plans remain in place for Joshua-Pulev, Usyk-Chisora and the May 2 show housing Taylor-Serrano (headlined by Dillian Whyte’s interim WBC heavyweight title defense versus Alexander Povetkin). All three events are presented by Matchroom Boxing, whose managing director Eddie Hearn is one of the few promoters who has publicly remained ahead of the curve in preparing for best- and worst-case scenarios.
Jamel Herring is chomping at the bit for the opportunity to travel to the Belfast hometown of former two-division titlist Carl Frampton in the second defense of his WBO 130-pound title fight. Their bout carried a targeted date of June 13, although event promoter Frank Warren stopped well short of declaring an official date and location for the fight which will air on an ESPN platform in the United States.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox