After pulling out of a title defense for the second time in two months because of illness, Richar Abril was stripped of his lightweight world title and interim titlist Darleys Perez elevated to full titleholder on Friday.
The move by the WBA also cleared the way for Derry Mathews (37-9-2, 20 KOs) to face southpaw Ismael Barroso (17-0-2, 16 KOs) for the now-vacant interim belt on April 18 at the Echo Arena in Mathews' hometown of Liverpool, England. Mathews was due to challenge Abril on that card before Abril withdrew.
Abril (19-3-1, 8 KOs) was originally supposed to make his third title defense against Mathews on March 6, but he pulled out of that fight also because he was ill with dengue fever, supposedly from a mosquito bite, and unable to train.
Abril, 32, a native of Cuba living in Miami, suffered a relapse and was again unable to train, according to Mathews promoter Frank Warren. The WBA named Abril a titleholder "in recess," meaning when he is healthy he can elect to face the Perez for the title.
"It's unfortunate that Abril's pulled out again, but things in life happen for a reason and I'm delighted to still be fighting for a version of the WBA world title and I'm headlining the Echo Arena in front of my home fans," Mathews said. "I've seen some footage of (Barroso). He's strong with big right hands and left hooks and can take you clean out, but I'm not going to be in a position to let him do that to me.
"Barroso's a very dangerous fighter and a massive, massive puncher. Just look at his record. He's banging people out left, right and center and it makes frightening reading, but when I saw it I said straight away I'll have this guy because I know that I can beat him."
The 31-year-old Mathews is a former British and Commonwealth champion who has won three bouts in a row. He believes his experience will trump Barroso's power.
"I've been in this sport for over 10 years," Mathews said. "I've had more knockouts than he's had fights -- (more than) twice as many fights as him. In terms of experience he's not on my level and I can use all of my experience to my advantage,"
After spending his entire career fighting in South America and Central America, Barroso, 31, of Venezuela, fought his last fight in Westbury, New York, knocking out Issouf Kinda in the sixth round on May 13.