Does anyone else want to fight for the IBF's vacant middleweight title?
Mandatory challenger Hassan N'Dam does and it will be his next fight. But who will it be against? That remains to be seen.
Jermain Taylor was recently stripped of the belt because his legal issues were going to prevent him from making a due mandatory defense against N'Dam. That left former titlist N'Dam (31-1, 18 KOs) to face the IBF's next ranked contender, former four-time titleholder Felix Sturm (39-4-3, 18 KOs). But Sturm, who is moving up to super middleweight, turned down the opportunity to participate in the bout.
So the organization went down its list to its next ranked contender, England's Bill Joe Saunders (21-0, 11 KOs). He had until Thursday to notify the IBF of his intentions and he did just that, also passing on the opportunity to fight N'Dam for the vacant belt.
Saunders is also the mandatory challenger for the WBO version of the title held by Andy Lee. Saunders promoter Frank Warren recently completed a step-aside deal with Lee and his promoter, Lou DiBella, so Lee could make an optional defense against former titleholder Peter Quillin on April 11. Saunders will get a six-figure payment and an intervening bout with the contractual promise that the Lee-Quillin winner must fight him in the next defense.
Saunders decided to continue down the path to face the Lee-Quillin winner rather than void the step-aside deal and face N'Dam in what is clearly a lesser-profile bout.
"I was honored to be asked to fight for the IBF world title, which has been held by some of the greatest fighters in the sport's history, and it was not an easy decision to make," Saunders said. "But I have a signed contract with the WBO to fight the winner out of Lee and Quillin and I want to go down that route. I'm in boxing to prove that I'm great and bring more world titles back to Britain so I hope that the IBF title is one the I can challenge for in the future in some big unification fights."
According to the IBF's latest rankings the next man on the clock who will be offered the chance to fight N'Dam is Montreal slugger David Lemieux (33-2, 31 KOs).