A fine mess
A couple of weeks ago, the WBC announced it would be sanctioning a bout between its light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson and former super middleweight titlist Badou Jack. At the same time, it had also ordered its Top 2 contenders Eleider Alvarez and Oleksandr Gvozdyk to meet in what was being billed as a final eliminator.
By all accounts, both are attractive match-ups and it set up a scenario in which the winners of these bouts would then face one another.
In early December, the WBC came up with this decree and, by December 22, an email was sent to all four parties that read, “All four boxers have confirmed to the WBC the acceptance of the ruling and will proceed as such.” Those who received this missive were Top Rank (Gvozdyk’s promoter), Mayweather Promotions (which handles Jack), Al Haymon (who advises Stevenson and Alvarez), Yvon Michel (the promoter of record for Stevenson and Alvarez) and Egis Klimas (who manages Gvozdyk) and his attorney David Berlin.
But last week, a few days before the WBC purse bid for Alvarez-Gvozdyk on January 12, Alvarez and his side notified the sanctioning body that they would not be participating in the process and they questioned why, once again, they had to participate in another “elimination bout.”
Alvarez earned his No. 1 ranking (and the WBC silver light heavyweight title) by defeating Isaac Chilemba, back in late November of 2015. But as the calendar has turned to 2018, he had yet to enforce what eventually became his mandatory position on Stevenson. It’s not clear why it was never enforced by the WBC and why Alvarez did not press his position but it has to be noted that both boxers here, in this case, are represented by the same promoter (Michel) and adviser (Haymon).
Meanwhile, during this stretch of time, Gvozdyk was moved quickly up the ladder, facing Nadjib Mohammedi in this 10th professional bout for the vacant NABF title (which is associated with the WBC and earns a high ranking), in April of 2016. He then followed that win a few months later by stopping Tommy Karpency and completed the year by halting the aforementioned Chilemba in eight rounds. Then last April, he stopped Yunieski Gonzalez in three and picked up the vacant NABO title (which is affiliated with the WBO) in the process.
Currently, “The Nail” is rated second by the WBC, third by the WBA and first by the WBO. With the WBO belt held by Sergey Kovalev, who is still a formidable fighter and perhaps, more importantly, also managed by Klimas, for the time being, going after the WBC title was the most convenient move for the Ukrainian and his management.
During the past year or so, Joe Smith Jr., then Marcus Browne and now Alvarez have turned down opportunities to face Gvozdyk in WBC eliminators, for one reason or another.
Meanwhile in 2016, Alvarez took on the duo of Robert Berridge and Norbert Dabrowski. This past year he faced Lucien Bute and Jean Pascal, while never really pressing the issue on a Stevenson bout. (And to be fair, he may have never had a say in the process). Michel has told this reporter and other outlets that, while they have stepped aside only once for Stevenson, they never received any money for doing so.
(This then begs the question: Why not? Who was looking out for Alvarez’s fiduciary interest here?)
While Alvarez held his position in the WBC, Stevenson – who last made a mandatory WBC defense in 2013, when he clubbed Tony Bellew in six rounds – faced Thomas Williams Jr. in 2016 and, in his lone appearance last year, was paired against Andrzej Fonfara in a rather pointless rematch, that resulted in a second round blowout.
One WBC official specifically remembers that Michel himself requested the Bute fight (a bout the promoter says is one of the eliminators) for Alvarez, arguing that it was a “big money” fight.
Another question is very simple: Why didn’t Michel or Haymon fight on behalf for Alvarez to face Stevenson? And from the time of the WBC order in December, why did they then suddenly back out of this four-man scrum?
Also, why did the WBC keep allowing Stevenson to keep skirting his mandatory defense?
It’s a fine mess here and WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman is making it clear that this is on those who represent Alvarez but it could also be stated that the WBC has played ball with those very same people in charge of both Alvarez and Stevenson and have helped facilitate this situation.
They are absolutely complicit in this.
It’s says here that, if Alvarez were paired with a much easier foe than the highly regarded Gvozdyk, his handlers would’ve been fine with this scenario laid out by Sir Sulaiman. But with it being a difficult match-up and, just as importantly, against a boxer who isn’t aligned with Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions but Top Rank (who had designs on winning the purse bid, taking this fight over to ESPN, then positioning themselves to fight for the WBC title), this possible scenario was squelched.
What was taking place with the WBC 175-pound title sure seemed like collusion by those who controlled it.
Moving forward, perhaps the WBC will find the next highest available contender at 175 to face Gvozdyk next or just simply name him the interim titlist and make him the immediate mandatory challenger to the winner of Stevenson-Jack. Going into the future, the WBC – and all sanctioning bodies, for that matter – should be more vigilant in making sure their champions face their mandatory challengers in reasonable time. And that top-rated challengers get just one opportunity to “step aside” – whether they are paid for it or not – before they fight for the title.
When contacted late last week about the current situation, Sulaiman told UCNLive.com (via email), “Today we were notified, so the WBC has canceled the purse bid ceremony scheduled for Friday. I have informed the WBC Board and a resolution will be outlined in a few days.”
One way or the other, this mess will be cleaned up and Gvozdyk will eventually get his chance to earn his shot at the title.
Through it all, Gvozdyk has acted like a prizefighter. Alvarez has been used as a pawn.
“Mr. KO Tickets” Jim Boone joined Gabriel Montoya and me on this week’s episode of “The Next Round” (a full two-hour show).
BELTS MATTER FLURRIES
Tickets for the March 10 bout, at the StubHub Center, between WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez and Scott Quigg go on sale today and are priced at $206, $104, $53 and $27.50. They can be purchased at AXS.com and the StubHub Center box-office…An ESPN/Top Rank press release has announced that they will have shows on the following dates, in the first half of 2018: February 3, February 16, March 10, March 17, April 28, May 12, June 15, June 30, July 7 and July 14…”Crashing” is off to a good start on its new season on HBO…Caught up with “Snowfall” on FX and I enjoyed the first season…Nice and warm out there in Southern California. It’s great…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.