Light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera pulled out of his world title elimination fight with Artur Beterbiev scheduled for April 21 on Thursday.
Barrera did not give a reason for the withdrawal from the fight, which was supposed to take place at a venue to be determined in Barrera's hometown of Miami, Florida.
The winner would have become one of the mandatory challengers for unified world titleholder Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), who scored a one-sided decision win against Barrera in a nontitle bout in March 2016.
Beterbiev promoter Yvon Michel and the IBF, the organization sanctioning the fight, both told ESPN that Barrera withdrew. Barrera said on social media the fight was off but did not say why he pulled out.
Michel won a purse bid on Feb. 2 to gain promotional rights to the bout, offering $251,000 to beat Main Events, Barrera's promoter and the only other bidder, which offered $181,000. Based on a 75-25 split in Beterbiev's favor, he was entitled to $188,250 with Barrera getting $62,750.
However, Barrera declined to go through with the bout, even though Michel was planning to put the fight on in Miami because the 34-year-old Barrera (18-1, 13 KOs), a Cuban defector, does not have a visa to travel to Canada. Beterbiev, 32, a two-time Russian Olympian, now lives in Montreal, where he fights regularly.
"Barrera never signed his contract to fight Beterbiev and we know now never intended to fight Beterbiev," Michel told ESPN. "He is the latest of a long list of contenders who turned down an opportunity to fight Beterbiev for the IBF mandatory position. After we have won the purse bid, Barrera kept pretending on social media he was preparing to fight Beterbiev but refused to sign the IBF contract. Then they requested a Florida state contract. He got it and never signed it either. He could find any kind of excuses in the world, but the truth is he refused to fight for his share of the bid, the risk being too high for the compensation. If he would have believed he could beat Artur, he would have taken the fight."
Barrera likely will be stripped of his position by the IBF, which would then either go down its rankings to find a fighter willing to step into the elimination fight or it could simply award Beterbiev the mandatory position.
"I don't believe any of the IBF contenders will volunteer to face Beterbiev for the mandatory position, so I will petition the IBF to name Artur the mandatory contender by default," Michel said. "It's really too bad [the fight is off] because I really had targeted Barrera for Beterbiev. I know he has some credibility, and a KO win by Artur would have made a good shock wave in the division. To make sure Barrera was going to take the fight, I even had promised to Main Events and the IBF I was not going to do the fight in Canada since Barrera has no passport and cannot enter the country. We were doing the fight in his own backyard."
This is the second time a title elimination fight between Beterbiev and Barrera has been cancelled. They were due to meet in late 2015 but it never came off for various reasons, including a shoulder injury to Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs), who wound up having surgery that forced him to sit out the second half of 2015 to the first half of 2016.