In an unusual decision, the WBO has ordered two elimination bouts, after which the winners will be ordered to meet each other, in order to fill the light heavyweight world title that Canelo Alvarez vacated in mid-December.
The WBO on Monday sent letters via email to the representatives of all four boxers, ordering former super middleweight world titlist Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez and former light heavyweight world titlist Eleider "Storm" Alvarez to meet in one semifinal elimination bout, and Umar Salamov and Maxim Vlasov to meet in the other.
"These bouts will be between the first and fourth contenders and the second and third contenders, respectively. The winners will then face each other for the vacant WBO light heavyweight championship title accordingly," the WBO wrote to their representatives. Ramirez sits No. 1 in the sanctioning body's 175-pound ratings with Salamov No. 2, Vlasov No. 3 and Alvarez No. 4.
Typically, when there is a vacant world title, sanctioning organizations order their two leading available contenders to meet for the belt.
Canelo Alvarez knocked out Sergey Kovalev in the 11th round to win the belt on Nov. 2 in Las Vegas and win a world title in a fourth weight class, but he relinquished the title six weeks later to comply with the WBO's "prohibition against its champions holding titles from other sanctioning organizations in multiple weight classes." He also holds non-WBO world titles at super middleweight and middleweight.
The WBO asked that each fighter notify the organization in writing within 24 hours if "they are available, ready, willing, and able to participate in the referenced elimination bout. Further, the parties have 15 days upon receipt of this letter to reach an agreement. If an accord is not reached within the time frame set forth herein, a purse bid will be ordered."
The minimum bid is $300,000 and any of the camps may decline to negotiate and request a purse bid, which would determine the promoter of the bout.
Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs), 28, of Mexico, has not fought since last April, when he moved up to the division after vacating his super middleweight world title. He has been promoted by Top Rank but they have not been on the same page for months due to a significant difference of opinion on how much he should be paid for his fights. It could complicate any deal for a fight with Eleider Alvarez (25-1, 13 KOs), 35, of Montreal, who is co-promoted by Top Rank and Yvon Michel. Alvarez is coming off a sensational one-punch knockout of Michael Seals on Saturday night in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card.
Salamov (25-1, 19 KOs), of Russia, has won six fights in a row, five by knockout. Vlasov (45-3, 25 KOs), 33, of Russia, has won three fights in a row since a one-fight move up to the cruiserweight division and losing a decision in an interim world title bout to Krzysztof Glowacki. In 2015, Vlasov lost a 10-round decision to Ramirez.