Chinese promoter Longjoy Sports on Thursday defaulted on its winning purse bid to gain promotional rights to the fight between unified light heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev and mandatory challenger Meng Fanlong -- meaning Top Rank, the only other bidder in last month's auction, will now control the bout.
Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN that the plan is for the fight to headline an ESPN-televised card on March 28 in Quebec City. That takes away the prospect that Beterbiev would pull out of the fight, which Lovejoy was planning to stage in China. His team was concerned that Beterbiev, a devout Muslim, had reservations about fighting in China, given the Chinese government's treatment of more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims.
On Dec. 30, Longjoy Sports won the promotional right to the bout with a bid of $1.9 million to beat the offer of $1.315 made by Top Rank, Beterbiev's promoter. Longjoy Sports, which has worked with Meng promoter Roc Nation Sports in the past, planned to co-promote the bout with Roc Nation Sports in late March or early April in China, Meng's home country.
However, on Thursday, the IBF declared Longjoy Sports in default because it missed a deadline by which it had to put up another chunk of the winning bid. IBF president Daryl Peoples sent a letter via email to Andrew Lu of Longjoy Sports and Moretti informing them of the situation.
"Longjoy Sports submitted 10% of the bid amount at the time of the Purse Bid in the amount of $190,000.00," Peoples wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. "Longjoy Sports was required to deliver payment representing an additional $190,000.00 of the total bid within 5 business days following the bid or no later than January 6, 2020. Longjoy Sports failed to deliver payment representing an additional $190,000.00 of the total bid within 5 business days following the bid or no later than January 6, 2020.
"IBF Rule 10.D states in part: 'Failure to provide said funds will automatically void the original bid and permit the President to recognize the next highest bidder.' The IBF recognizes Top Rank Boxing as the next highest bidder pursuant to this rule."
If Beterbiev had declined to fight Meng in China, he likely would have either vacated or been stripped of his IBF belt. Beterbiev, a two-time Russian Olympian, has lived in Montreal since turning pro in 2013.
"We look forward to putting on the fight," Moretti told ESPN. "We are not totally shocked that it ended up back in our lap given various circumstances. We're happy Artur will be able to defend both of his titles against Meng and further prove that he is the best light heavyweight in the world and should be considered as a top pound-for-pound fighter."
Beterbiev is entitled to 65% of Top Rank's bid ($854,750) and Meng will get 35% ($460,250).
The 34-year-old Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs), who is one of boxing's most devastating punchers, won a 175-pound world title in 2017 and has made three successful defenses, but none bigger than in his last fight. On Oct. 18, in Philadelphia in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card, Beterbiev knocked out Oleksandr Gvozdyk in the 10th round of an action-packed fight to unify two world titles.
The southpaw Meng (16-0, 10), 31, a 2012 Olympian, won a unanimous decision against then-undefeated Adam Deines on June 1 in Macau, China, in a world title elimination bout to become Beterbiev's mandatory challenger. Meng returned for a second-round knockout of Gilberto Rubio on Oct. 5 in a stay-busy fight before his chance to fight for the world title.