By Jake Donovan
After spending most of the past year creating a mess, the World Boxing Council has done its best to clear up the middleweight muddle.
Somehow, they have only created more confusion in the process.
The WBC unanimously approved Golden Boy Promotions’ official request for middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez to make a voluntary defense in his next fight. The decision came Wednesday during the “Mandatories” session of the annual WBC Convention in Kiev, Ukraine.
Alvarez regained his title in a 12-round win over Gennady Golovkin in their high-profile rematch on September 15 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event was rescheduled from its original May 5 date, which was scratched after Alvarez tested positive for Clenbuterol for which he received a six-month suspension.
The delay in staging the rematch to their highly controversial Sept. ’17 draw raised questions as to when Jermall Charlo would get his due title shot. The unbeaten middleweight from Houston became the mandatory challenger after claiming the sanctioning body’s interim title following his knockout win over Hugo Centeno this past April.
Much to his dismay, Charlo was told to sit and wait out the Alvarez-Golovkin rematch before learning his fate. It now seems he will have to take one more fight in order to remain eligible for a crack at the WBC belt.
A compromise offered by the WBC in approving an Alvarez voluntary defense—which will likely come versus former IBF beltholder David Lemieux, as both are promoted by Golden Boy Promotions—was to have Charlo and Golovkin meet in a final eliminator, with the winners to be ordered to a straight-away championship clash.
The latter proposal was the WBC’s counteroffer to a protest filed by Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler in hopes of securing an immediate return go versus Alvarez. The basis of the complaint stemmed from what their side deems as controversial scoring, as the majority of viewers saw the rematch as either a draw or a close win for Alvarez.
While Golovkin’s team has gained sympathy from the media over the manner in which his record-tying title reign ended, there remained little chance of it serving as sufficient grounds to field such a protest. Far greater controversy stemmed from their first fight, in which most viewers saw Golovkin as a clear winner only to have to settle for a controversial draw.
That said, the WBC did provisionally approve an immediate rematch on the supporting conditions of Alvarez not taking a voluntary fight and a Charlo-Golovkin clash failing to materialize.
Confused? You’re not alone.
What has yet to be clarified is the terms that would satisfy a Charlo-Golovkin clash not taking place—specifically which side would have to not accept in order for the WBC to grant Golovkin a clear path to a third fight.
For the moment, Charlo is keen on a bout with either Alvarez or Golovkin, and for good reason. Each represent by far the most lucrative options in and around the middleweight division. However, he’s also rumored to return to the ring in December, either on the preliminary portion of the December 1 Showtime Pay-Per-View headliner between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury or as part of the first show under the restructured Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox primetime boxing series.
Golovkin will likely not fight again in 2018, and even if so it won’t come on either of those two cards. Nor is it clear which network would house his next ring appearance. The former unified titlist—who made a divisional record-tying 20 title defenses of at least one alphabet title before being dethroned by Alvarez in September—has served as a staple of HBO’s boxing series since his stateside debut in 2012.
That will obviously not be the next case for his or Alvarez’ next fight, as HBO announced in late September its intentions to cease live boxing coverage in 2019 and likely well beyond.
The announcement leaves Golovkin and Alvarez as the sport’s most high-profile network free agents. Several outlets—including Showtime (and functionally Fox, as both are tied to PBC), ESPN and new streaming kid on the (U.S.) block DAZN—are already prepared to aggressively bid for their services.
Charlo is aligned with Showtime and Fox, as is the case with all boxers under the PBC umbrella.