Emmanuel Tagoe’s dream of fighting for the World Boxing Organization lightweight title is forced to be placed on hold.

The San Juan, Puerto Rico-headquartered sanctioning body made waves in a number of ways on Monday, beginning with its first ratings update since the start of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Interesting, there didn’t exist any movement in the lightweight division, where the two highest rated contenders—Lee Selby and Ryan Garcia—are actively pursuing title opportunities with other sanctioning bodies in lieu of entering a WBO-sanctioned final eliminator.

Garcia and Tagoe—ranked number-two-and number-three, respectively—were previously ordered by the WBO to enter talks for a bout to have determined the mandatory challenger to reigning WBO/WBA titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko. Hope for such a bout lasted all of three days, when Garcia—through Golden Boy Promotions—informed the sanctioning body that he was instead pursuing a potential clash with England’s Luke Campbell for the WBC interim lightweight title.

Rather than move on to the next contender in line—Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk, who was receptive to facing Tagoe—the WBO decided to shut down the process altogether.

“The present ruling stems from this Committee’s WBO Lightweight Division Elimination Contest negotiation order between participants Ryan Garcia and Emmanuel Tagoe, as notified on Monday, July [6], 2020,” Luis Batista Salas, Esq., chairman of the WBO Championship Committee stated on Monday. “The parties were duly advised via electronic email and granted twenty (20) days upon receipt of the referenced letter to reach an agreement or a “Purse Bid” would be ordered per WBO Regulations of World Championship Contests. On Thursday, July 9, 2020, this Committee received email communication… confirming that [Garcia] would pursue participation for another recognized sanctioning organization and therefore, not participate in the WBO Lightweight Division Elimination Bout against Emmanuel Tagoe accordingly.

“Conversely, public press reports have confirmed dramatic surges of positive COVID19 cases within the United States of America and other jurisdictions, which have prevented the resume of boxing activities in general. These constant and uncertain circumstances have directly affected the sport, particularly the lack of activity in each weight division.”

Tagoe (31-1, 15KOs) remains hard at work in his native Ghana, while manager Peter Kahn—a 2019 BWAA Manager of the Year nominee—plans to bring him to the United States at the first available moment, where he will live and train in the greater Miami prior to his next ring assignment. 

Such efforts might prove futile.

The WBO was initially prepared to order a four-man box-off between the four highest rated available contenders, either to establish a mandatory challenger or—should the title become vacant by that point—a new lightweight champion. Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcárcel, president of the WBO announced as much on July 10, shortly after Garcia (20-0, 17KOs) decided to take his career in a different direction.

In the week that has since followed, it appears that such a tournament likely won’t come into play until the global health crisis shows signs of slowing down to where it doesn’t affect travel and sports in general.

“At this time, it is highly unknown when will international fighters such as Emmanuel Tagoe, which this Committee has been advised is currently in Africa, will be allowed entry within the United States of America, and whether domestic fighters be restricted from international travel, or even in those jurisdictions where boxing activity has partially begun refrain from competition as a result of the pandemic,” notes Batista. “Lastly, in light of the facts stated herein, this Committee has yet to rule definitively on whether it will only grant sanction approval of one (1) or two (2) WBO Lightweight Elimination Contests to determine a WBO Mandatory Challenger in the referenced division.

“Therefore, having this Committee examined the above-mentioned facts, having reviewed our WBO Rules and Regulations, their applicability, and enforcement in this matter, and having the power, authority, rights and ample discretion conferred by our rules, it is hereby determined as follows:

1. In accordance with the powers, authority, rights and ample discretion conferred by the WBO Rules and Regulations of World Championship Contests, this committee hereby reverses any and all past, present or future rulings, regarding sanction approval of one (1) or more WBO Championship Elimination Contests in the WBO Lightweight Division until further notice, effective immediately.

2. This “Resolution” is hereby final, definitive and enforceable.

“This is a final decision of the WBO Championship Committee.”

Per WBO rules, Tagoe and other contenders under consideration have the option to appeal the decision with the WBO Complaint and Grievance Committee. Such process must be submitted in writing within 14 days of the final ruling.

Representatives for Tagoe declined comment as this goes to publish.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox