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Mickey Bey backs out of Shafikov fight, vacates lightweight world title

Although Mickey Bey signed a contract to go to Macau, China, to make a mandatory defense of his lightweight world title against Denis Shafikov on July 18, he has backed out of the fight and the title is now vacant.

Officially, Bey relinquished the 135-pound belt, but the IBF was poised to strip him anyway for failing to live up to his contractual obligation.

"The IBF informed us that Mickey Bey is no longer recognized as their lightweight champion. Besides saying thank you, my initial response was what took so long," Carl Moretti, vice president of Shafikov promoter Top Rank, told ESPN.com.

Shafikov, who will still fight on the July 18 card in a 10-round nontitle bout against an opponent to be determined, has been ordered to face former junior lightweight titlist Rances Barthelemy (23-0, 13 KOs) for the vacant belt, although Barthelemy fought June 21 at junior welterweight and it remains to be seen whether he will come back down in weight to face Shafikov. If he doesn't, the IBF will go down its list of ranked fighters at 135 pounds until the next leading available contender accepts the bout. If the Shafikov and Barthelemy camps don't make a deal by July 25, a purse bid will be ordered.

As for Bey, this is the end of a disappointing title reign. He claimed the belt by controversial split decision against Miguel Vazquez last September on the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana II undercard in one of the most critically panned title bouts in recent memory. It was an action-free snoozefest that had the crowd booing from the outset.

Bey (21-1, 10 KOs), 32, a Cleveland native living in Las Vegas, never defended the title. He was scheduled to face Shafikov on April 30 in an ESPN2 main event in Las Vegas two nights before the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao megafight.

Moretti and Leonard Ellerbe of Mayweather Promotions were even able to make a deal for the bout despite the poor relationship between the companies. However, Bey ultimately turned down a purse of about $200,000, huge money for that level of fight, and the bout was canceled on short notice.

Bey's decision to reject the offer was a major miscalculation. The bout was then put up for a purse bid, and Top Rank, the only bidder, won the promotional rights with an offer of $78,000. Since Bey had already turned down six figures from Mayweather Promotions, it did not bid.

Bey was entitled to 75 percent of the money as the titleholder and would have earned $58,500. Top Rank scheduled the fight on its July 18 card in Macau and Bey signed the contract, but then he had second thoughts about going there to fight and it cost him the belt.

"Once he decided to not accept Floyd's and Leonard's generous offer to fight on ESPN2 the week of Mayweather-Pacquiao, I knew we we're headed down this road," Moretti said. "We move forward to fight Rances Barthelemy for the vacant title, but first we appreciate the IBF letting Denis fight on July 18 in Macau because of what he has to endure through this odyssey."

Ellerbe did not return repeated messages for comment.

Shafikov (35-1-1, 19 KOs), 30, a southpaw from Russia, stopped Rustam Nugaev in the ninth round last August to earn the title shot and stayed busy with an eight-round decision win against Miguel Angel Mendoza on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Diego Chaves undercard on Dec. 13 in Las Vegas.

Shafikov will be getting his second shot at a world title. In February 2014, he lost a competitive unanimous decision to Vazquez in Macau.