Sulaiman explains four-headed WBC lightweight title situation

831446486.jpg.0 - Sulaiman explains four-headed WBC lightweight title situationPhoto by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Championships shouldn’t have “situations” that need this much “explanation,” but it’s boxing.

WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman wants you to know that his organization’s absurd lightweight title situation isn’t about plucking loads of sanctioning fees out of fighters and creating a variety of nonsense “world titles.”

No, it’s to reward you, The Fans, with Great Fights:

“I choose the way of giving fans, millions of fans, great fights, which is what the sport is all about. If that will have a few not happy, a few confused, so be it. But I prefer to take the great activity in the ring to give millions of fans great fights.”

Here’s the situation with the WBC lightweight scene:

  • Last summer, Top Rank lobbied to get WBA/WBO titleholder Vasiliy Lomachenko a fight with mandatory challenger Luke Campbell for the vacant WBC belt. Lomachenko went to London and won a clear decision, unifying three titles.
  • Ridiculously, the WBC also scheduled an “interim” title fight between Devin Haney and Zaur Abdullaev about two weeks after Lomachenko-Campbell. Haney smashed Abdullaev with ease to win an interim title that had no reason to exist.
  • About a month after the Haney-Abdullaev fight, Lomachenko was “promoted” to the latest completely made-up championship status in boxing, the WBC’s “franchise champion” designation. This move also bumped Haney from interim to full world champion under the WBC banner.
  • Haney made an easy defense in November, but was injured and needed shoulder surgery. With that, the WBC named Haney “champion-in-recess,” and ordered a vacant title fight between Luke Campbell and Javier Fortuna.
  • When COVID-19 shut down the sport, Haney had time to recover before Campbell-Fortuna could happen. This meant Haney was very unhappy about being “champion-in-recess,” and he made several incorrect claims that he was “stripped,” which he wasn’t; he would have simply had to fight the Campbell-Fortuna winner upon his return. Eventually, Haney was “reinstated” as WBC champion.
  • This now means Campbell and Fortuna will fight for an interim belt, which once again does not need to exist.

At some point, allegedly, we’ll be getting Great Fights out of this. It seems certain that Campbell and Fortuna will fight. It is less certain the winner will actually face Haney, and it is even less certain any of them will face Lomachenko, who is slated to face IBF titleholder Teofimo Lopez this fall. Maybe all these Great Fights will happen, but it’s boxing, so don’t hold your breath. And end of the day, it’s still a needlessly confusing situation, something that has been part of dragging down boxing’s appeal to potential new fans for a long time.

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