Middleweight contender Avtandil Khurtsidze will not appeal the WBO's decision this week to bypass him as the mandatory challenger for world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders. Instead, the WBO gave the mandatory position to superstar Canelo Alvarez.
Khurtsidze was in the mandatory position and Saunders, who won the title in December 2015, did not defend it until earlier this month in an optional defense against Artur Akavov. WBO rules give a world titleholder nine months to make a mandatory defense, and Saunders was overdue.
On Dec. 8, Khurtsidze promoter Lou DiBella wrote to the organization, pressing the case for the WBO to order Khurtsidze against Saunders. Two days later, Golden Boy Promotions, Alvarez's promoter, also wrote to the WBO and asked it to appoint Alvarez as Saunders' mandatory challenger.
The WBO made its decision Tuesday, appointing Alvarez as the mandatory challenger, a move that was well within its rules and could see Alvarez challenge Saunders on May 6. Saunders is one of a variety of options Alvarez is considering for that date.
The WBO said it ruled in favor of Alvarez "in the best interest of boxing," essentially saying it went with Alvarez is because he is one of boxing's biggest stars and is good for business.
In issuing its ruling in favor of Mexico's Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs), the WBO also gave Khurtsidze (32-2-2, 21 KOs), a native of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, 10 days to appeal. But Khurtsidze, a resident of New York City, has elected not to.
"(DiBella Entertainment) declines to appeal the decision and accepts Mr. Alvarez's designation as mandatory challenger to Mr. Saunders," DiBella Entertainment attorney Alex Dombroff wrote to the WBO on Thursday on Khurtsidze's behalf. "However, DBE does ask the WBO to continue monitoring the middleweight division as it pertains to Mr. Alvarez's availability and Mr. Khurtsidze's status."
Dombroff further wrote, "DBE asks the WBO for a subsequent ruling that Mr. Khurtsidze will be immediately inserted as mandatory challenger in the event Mr. Alvarez chooses to fight someone other than Mr. Saunders in his next bout. There has been talk of Mr. Alvarez fighting Julio Cesar Chavez Jr."
Because Alvarez has not committed to pursuing the mandatory bout with Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs), of England, Dombroff asked the WBO to "formally rule that if Mr. Alvarez does not pursue the middleweight championship, Mr. Khurtsidze will be named mandatory without subsequent applications or letter-writing.
"If Mr. Alvarez does wish to pursue a bout with Mr. Saunders, as is his right, Mr. Khurtsidze will remain active in order to keep his ranking and status with the WBO.
"If Mr. Khurtsidze continues to win, DBE asks that, following any bout between Mr. Saunders and Mr. Alvarez, that he be declared the next mandatory and that the winner be instructed to fight Mr. Khurtsidze no more than nine months later."