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WBO strips Demetrius Andrade of junior middleweight title due to inactivity

Demetrius Andrade was stripped of his junior middleweight world title by the WBO on Friday because he was inactive, having not fought for the past 14 months.

The WBO warned Andrade and co-promoters Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions and Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing two weeks ago that Andrade was at risk of being stripped unless he could "show cause" why he shouldn't be.

According to WBO rules, the organization has the unilateral discretion to vacate a title "if the champion fails to defend his title within a nine-month period."

Andrade (21-0, 14 KOs), 27, of Providence, Rhode Island, who was a 2008 U.S. Olympian, won the 154-pound belt by decision against Vanes Martirosyan in November 2013. He made one defense, a one-sided seventh-round knockout of British mandatory challenger Brian Rose on June 14, 2014.

But Andrade has not fought since, in large part because he turned down a career-high $550,000 purse offered to him to defend the belt against Jermell Charlo on Dec. 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight would have kicked off a three-fight contract with Showtime.

On Thursday, Pelullo and DeGuardia sued Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports for $20 million plus punitive damages in New York Supreme Court, alleging that Roc Nation Sports executives interfered with their exclusive promotional contract with Andrade by promising to sign him after negotiating a buyout of his deal with Banner Promotions and Star Boxing. According to the suit, when Andrade was going to accept the Showtime deal Pelullo and DeGuardia negotiated on his behalf, Roc Nation executives promised to pay him $550,000 to refuse to participate in the Charlo bout, and Andrade rejected the Showtime deal.

Before the lawsuit was filed, Pelullo and DeGuardia smoothed things over with Andrade and have been working on various possible title defenses, including one in Connecticut later this month, one against Anthony Mundine in Australia (also later this month) and one against Liam Smith in the early fall. But none of them were finalized, and without having a fight set, the WBO vacated the title.

"It's disheartening that the WBO had to strip him with all the things going on and everything that has happened in the last six months," Pelullo told ESPN.com. "It's directly related to the things outlined in the lawsuit with Roc Nation, which is why he's been so inactive. It's unfortunate, but our job will be to get him another title fight, and that's what we will do."

Said DeGuardia: "I'm obviously extremely disappointed that they decided to strip him of his title. It's very important for us to retain that championship. We had all worked so hard to achieve it, particularly Demetrius. But we look forward to him recapturing a championship in the future."

Andrade did not respond to a message from ESPN.com seeking comment.

The WBO said in its ruling that it considered the allegations in the lawsuit, but "we are not moved to consider the reasons contained therein to constitute 'just cause' for Mr. Andrade's failure to comply with our regulations of world championship contests. ... The WBO has been more than lenient with Mr. Andrade, but he has clearly been inactive" and he "has defended his title only once -- against Brian Rose -- since first obtaining it 19 months ago."

The WBO added in its resolution that it "recognizes Mr. Andrade's potential as a professional fighter, his ability to be a champion for a long time, and that he may, in fact, have been misadvised during his WBO championship reign, (but) we are invariably bound by and must enforce our rules and regulations."

Andrade has two weeks to file an appeal of the decision, although it is unlikely he would win a reversal if he does.