The WBC stripped lineal champion Miguel Cotto of his middleweight belt Tuesday, just four days before his megafight against former unified junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas.
While Cotto remains the lineal champion -- the man who beat the man who beat the man, etc. -- he was relieved of the green-and-gold belt for what the WBC called noncompliance with the organization's rules and regulations.
Sources involved in the fight say Cotto refused to pay the WBC a $300,000 sanctioning fee to have the title on the line.
"The World Boxing Council worked tirelessly through a process that began over two years ago to secure the celebration of the highly anticipated fight between Miguel Cotto and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez. The WBC is proud of that accomplishment that is giving boxing fans around the world a very important fight to see," the WBC said in a statement. "After several weeks of communications, countless attempts and good faith time extensions trying to preserve the fight as a WBC world championship, Miguel Cotto and his promotion [Roc Nation Sports] did not agree to comply with the WBC rules and regulations, while Saul Alvarez has agreed to do so. Accordingly, the WBC must rule on the matter prior to the fight.
"The WBC hereby announces that effective immediately it has withdrawn recognition of Miguel Cotto as WBC world middleweight champion."
The WBC also announced that if Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) wins Saturday's fight, he will claim the vacant WBC belt. Alvarez would also displace Cotto as lineal champion. If Cotto wins he will remain lineal champion but WBC interim titleholder Gennady Golovkin will be elevated to full WBC titlist.
The WBC did not announce any details regarding what rules or regulations Cotto failed to comply with, but sources said Cotto's title was withdrawn because he refused to pay a $300,000 sanctioning fee to the WBC.
Fighters are required to pay sanctioning fees in title fights, but according to a source, Cotto, who was willing to pay a six-figure fee, felt $300,000 was too steep.
Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) could not be reached for comment, and representatives from Roc Nation Sports declined to comment.
In addition to seeking $300,000 from each fighter in sanctioning fees, the WBC also required $25,000 apiece from the two promoters, Roc Nation Sports and Golden Boy Promotions. When the fight was made part of the deal was that Cotto and Roc Nation had to agree to pay Golovkin - Cotto's mandatory challenger - step-aside money to allow the fight to go through.
According to a source with knowledge of that agreement, Golovkin was paid $800,000, and after having already paid a portion of the step-aside fee, Cotto felt that having to pay another $300,000 to have the WBC sanction the fight was too much.
According to one of the sources, the WBC declined to negotiate a lower sanctioning fee -- something it has often done in megafights involving superstars such as Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya.
Cotto was given a Monday-night deadline to agree to pay the sanctioning fee. According to a source, he spoke to WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman on the telephone to reiterate his position and was then stripped of the title.
"The WBC's decision is premised on the fact that Miguel Cotto and his camp are not willing to abide by the governing WBC rules and regulations, and the specific conditions the WBC established to sanction the fight," the WBC said. "Simply put: they are not willing to respect the very same rules and conditions which applied to Cotto becoming WBC champion. The WBC wishes Miguel Cotto the best of luck as we truly regret the course of action which led to them taking such decision. ... The WBC wishes the promotion great success and we are satisfied that this great fight for boxing will be enjoyed by millions of fans around the world."