Junior featherweight world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux was stripped of one of his 122-pound title belts Wednesday because of inactivity.
The WBO world championship committee voted unanimously at its 28th annual convention, which is taking place in Orlando, Florida, this week, to vacate the belt, rejecting Rigondeaux's plea in a "show cause" letter the organization had asked him to provide stating his case to remain champion.
Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs), 35, is a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist who defected and now lives in Miami. He won the WBO's version of the title when he outpointed Nonito Donaire to unify it with his WBA belt in April 2013. But Rigondeaux has only fought three times since. He has not boxed since Dec. 31 in Japan, where he was knocked down twice in the seventh round by unknown Japanese challenger Hisashi Amagasa before rallying for an 11th-round knockout victory.
The WBO sent Rigondeaux and his promoter, Caribe Promotions, a letter Oct. 7 directing them to "show cause" as to why he should not be stripped of his title because, under WBO rules, it has the unilateral discretion to vacate a title "if the champion fails to defend his title within a nine-month period."
With Rigondeaux idle for 10 months and nothing in the works, the WBO followed its rules and stripped him of the title. To fill the vacant title, the WBO will order on Thursday a fight between Mexico's Cesar Juarez (17-3, 13 KOs), No. 1 in the organization's ratings, and No. 2 Donaire (35-3, 23 KOs).
Top Rank, which promotes Donaire and used to co-promote Rigondeaux, is making plans to put Juarez-Donaire on its truTV-televised card Dec. 11 at a site to be determined.
In the Rigondeaux/Caribe response to the WBO "show cause" order, they argued in an Oct.16 letter that Rigondeaux should be granted an exception because of a "lack of appropriate available opponents willing to fight" and that "it would be an abuse of discretion to vacate because Mr. Rigondeaux has never failed to defend against the mandatory challenger."
In its ruling, the WBO said it was "not moved to consider the reasons contained therein to constitute 'cause' for Mr. Rigondeaux's failure to comply with our regulations for world championship contests."
The WBO further said in its ruling that "this committee shares Team Rigondeaux's opinion that he is a fighter of utmost skill and pedigree, a gifted athlete that is not only perhaps the greatest amateur boxer ever, but also one of the top pound-for-pound professionals in the world, and we also recognize that Mr. Rigondeaux's talent, record of accomplishment and complicated style, invariably pose difficulties securing premium fights on the top-tier stage. But that it is the boxing promoter's paramount responsibility -- not ours or that of any sanctioning organization for that matter -- to secure, organize, and produce such fights."