When Does the WBO Belt Become Vacant at Heavyweight?
By: Shane Willoughby
As we all know both the IBF and WBO have waiting mandatory challengers for the winner of the Ruiz vs Joshua rematch.
There were fears earlier this year after the first bout, that Andy Ruiz might be stripped of the IBF belt, especially due to their strict standards. But they reassured the public that the WBO mandatory comes first.
Then both Governing bodies decided to sanction the rematch between Ruiz and AJ which meant that both belts will be on the line for the rematch. However, the winner of that fight will have heavy mandatory obligations; obligations that will be nearly impossible to uphold.
Currently, Oleksandr Usyk is mandatory for the WBO and Kubrat Pulev is mandatory for the IBF. Once the rematch takes place both governing bodies will enforce mandatories within a short period of time. Probably within a matter of months.
The reason why is because both the WBO and IBF haven’t had a mandatory defence since 2017, so by the time AJ and Ruiz rematch it will be almost 3 years since a mandatory has been faced for these sanctioning bodies.
By most governing bodies rules a champion should face a mandatory once a year depending on the situation. With it being such a long time since the belts have been defended, it is no surprise that both governing bodies are desperate to enforce mandatory fights.
The chances of the winner of fight between Ruiz and Joshua being stripped or vacating is extremely likely. As they will probably be asked to fight two fights within an unrealistic time period.
A similar scenario to this is when Fury defeated at the time unified champion Vladimir Klitschko. Once Fury collected all the straps, he was instantly stripped from the IBF belt due to him not fulfilling his mandatory obligations.
In this situation it will be the WBO as there mandatory is up next. However, unlike Fury, the most likely scenario is the WBO belt getting vacated. For many reasons.
One reason is because it will be impossible to fight both mandatories in such close proximity, so more than likely the winner will have to choose which between fighting Pulev and fighting Usyk. Many fighters will see Pulev as the easier opponent so they may look for the easier option.
If Ruiz beats Joshua again, with him being with Al Haymon it is likely they vacate the WBO anyway as PBC do not consider the governing bodies as a legitimate belt.
Whereas if AJ wins I’m almost certain he will vacate the WBO. The main reason is, with Usyk being signed to Matchroom, vacating the WBO will mean the belt stays in house, whereas if he was to vacate the IBF belt the chances of regaining the belt from Pulev and Top Rank will be near impossible.
It will be extremely likely that Eddie Hearn will advise him to vacate the WBO. In addition to that AJ has spoken about getting an easy opponent after the Ruiz rematch and as stated earlier Usyk is seen amongst boxing fans as a tricky opponent.