Each year the WBC and other sanctioning bodies clarify the mandatory status of their world titles at their annual conventions, but things in boxing are fluid. This week WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman issued an update on his organization's title situation in each weight class.
Keep in mind that just because a mandatory fight is due does not mean another fight might not trump it. As Sulaiman explained in his division-by-division rundown, “There is a provision in the rules that is often used by champions and mandatory challengers, which is the step-aside fee.”
That means if the titleholder and the mandatory challenger work out a payment that both sides are comfortable with the titleholder may take an optional defense first.
Of that situation, Sulaiman said it “provides the opportunity for a champion to make a voluntary defense before the mandatory by virtue of receiving acceptance from the mandatory, who has the right to challenge next.”
With that in mind, here is a look at where things stand as far as each WBC world title is concerned:
Heavyweight: Titleholder Deontay Wilder was the mandatory contender and defeated Bermane Stiverne to claim the title in 2015. Alexander Povetkin won the final-elimination bout and was due to face Wilder in May 2016 but the fight was canceled because of Povetkin’s positive drug test. Povetkin and Stiverne were later ordered to fight a final elimination bout/interim title fight to determine the mandatory, but Povetkin failed another test and the fight was canceled with Stiverne being given the mandatory spot. Wilder is supposed to fight him next -- unless they can work out a step-aside deal that would allow Wilder to pursue the fight he really wants, a unification bout with WBO counterpart Joseph Parker, assuming Parker defeats Hughie Fury on May 6.
Cruiserweight: Mairis Breidis is due to fight Marco Huck for the interim title on April 1 because titleholder Tony Bellew asked for an exemption to fight at heavyweight against David Haye, whom he stopped in the 11th round on Saturday. Bellew will soon notify the WBC of his intentions. If he returns to cruiserweight he will have to face the Breidis-Huck winner. If he stays at heavyweight the Breidis-Huck winner will become full titleholder.
Light heavyweight: Eleider Alvarez won a final-elimination bout and is the mandatory challenger for champion Adonis Stevenson. Alvarez asked for permission to fight Lucian Bute, a bout that was accepted as another final eliminator. Alvarez knocked out Bute on Feb. 24 to maintain his position and is supposed to be next. However, Alvarez and Stevenson, both with promoter Yvon Michel, likely will make a deal that will allow Stevenson to defend against Seanie Monaghan on April 29 with the winner then fighting Alvarez.
Super middleweight: Badou Jack vacated the title to move up in weight follow his draw with James DeGale in their January unification fight. Callum Smith and former titlist Anthony Dirrell will meet this spring for the vacant title. The winner must make two mandatory defenses with Avni Yildirim being first up.
Middleweight: Unified titleholder Gennady Golovkin faces Daniel Jacobs on March 18. An undetermined final-elimination fight to determine a mandatory contender will soon be ordered to face the GGG-Jacobs winner, who will also have other mandatory fights to deal with since the winner will have three titles.
Junior middleweight: Titleholder Jermell Charlo will face mandatory challenger Charles Hatley this spring in a fight postponed from March 11. The winner must face Erickson Lubin next. Vanes Martirosyan will fight Ishe Smith to earn the next mandatory position.
Welterweight:Amir Khan had the mandatory position, but eventually fought at middleweight and then was injured, so he’s out of the picture and the April 22 fight between former titlist Shawn Porter and Andre Berto was approved as a final-elimination fight to determine one of the mandatory challengers for unified titleholder Keith Thurman.
Junior welterweight: Terence Crawford will make a voluntary defense on May 20 -- opponent TBA -- and then must face mandatory challenger Amir Imam.
Lightweight: Jorge Linares, the WBA’s titleholder and the WBC’s so-called “champion in recess,” will fight Anthony Crolla in a rematch on March 25 and the winner must fight WBC titleholder Mikey Garcia -- although Linares will have the WBA title as well and very well could ignore any WBC mandate.
Junior lightweight: Miguel Berchelt won the title in January and must fight mandatory challenger Takashi Miura, who earned the position on the undercard of Berchelt’s title win.
Featherweight: Titlist Gary Russell Jr. will face interim titleholder Oscar Escandon this spring or early summer after their March 11 bout was postponed because of Escandon’s back injury.
Junior featherweight: Rey Vargas won the vacant title by majority decision against Gavin McDonnell on Feb. 25 and must make two mandatory defenses -- the WBC’s rule when a fighter wins a vacant belt. Julio Ceja will fight Anselmo Moreno to determine the first mandatory and the other one will involve Hugo Ruiz against an opponent to be determined.
Bantamweight: On Saturday, Luis Nery will fight Jesus Martinez in a final-elimination bout to earn the mandatory fight against titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka.
Junior bantamweight: Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez will fight former titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on March 18 with the winner obligated to fight former titlist and mandatory challenger Carlos Cuadras.
Flyweight: Juan Hernandez Navarrete won a vacant title on March 4 and must make two mandatory defenses, the first one being against Daigo Higa.
Junior flyweight: Ganigan Lopez holds the title and a final-elimination bout is due to be ordered to produce the next mandatory.
Strawweight: A final-elimination bout has been ordered between Saul Juarez and Leroy Estrada to produce the mandatory challenger for titleholder Wanheng Menayothin.