International Boxing Organization President Ed Levine has explained the current situation regarding the recent super-middleweight title clash between now former IBO champion Chris Eubank Jr. and WBA ruler George Groves.
Eubank Jr. and Groves battled it out in Manchester on February 17 for a place in the World Boxing Super Series final in what was initially billed as a unification for both championships.
After Groves won the contest on points, the Londoner was subsequently announced as the new WBA and IBO champion, although as Levine cleared up in a tweet days after, ‘The Saint’ was never sanctioned after failing to agree terms with the IBO.
We could not come to an agreement with Groves on sanction fees.
The IBO super-middleweight title is now vacant.
Thank you. https://t.co/gheZeWM8UE
— Ed Levine (@EdLevineIBO) February 21, 2018
Since then, there’s been a huge assumption the currently injured Groves vacated the belt, rather than defend it after initially being crowned, something Levine was keen to confirm was never the case.
“The Groves vs. Eubank Jr. sanction issues were very unexpected,” Mr. Levine exclusively informed World Boxing News on Monday. “It is very unusual for the challenger to not be sanctioned when the IBO champion is defending his title.
“On the rare occasions when this occurs the IBO is typically informed well in advance and on almost every occasion the challenger has lost and there is no subsequent confusion.
“In 2008 for example, Ricky Hatton was defending his IBO title vs. Paulie Malignaggi even though Malignaggi was not sanctioned and eventually lost. In 2014, Khabib Allakhverdiev was defending his IBO title and his WBA title against Jessie Vargas. We also were informed well in advance by the promoter that Vargas would not be requesting IBO sanction.
“Vargas won the fight and unfortunately the ring announcer announced him as the new WBA and IBO Champion. Apparently, the promoter did not notify the ring announcer or Vargas that he wasn’t fighting for the IBO title. This led to confusion after the fight and disappointment expressed by Vargas as well as a subsequent request from him for the title which we, unfortunately, could not accommodate.
“In the case of Chris Eubank Jr. vs. George Groves, the subject of IBO sanction for Groves was up in the air and being negotiated until one week before the fight. Money apparently being the key issue.
“We were then notified that Groves would not be requesting sanction. However, this information was not passed on to the ring announcer who therefore announced Groves as the new WBA and IBO world champion.
“A few subsequent stories that stated that Groves won the IBO title and then relinquished or vacated it are simply just inaccurate,” he stated.
With the title now available for sanction again, Levine moved to rubberstamp Eubank Jr. as the number one contender in response to WBN asking if the ex-title holder would be considered in his very next fight.
“We have the present situation in which the IBO title is vacant. Pursuant to our championship rules, we will sanction a fight for our title to the two leading available contenders in our rankings,” said the President.
“Is Chris Eubank Jr. now eligible to contest for our now vacant super middleweight world title? A quick glance at the BoxRec ratings gives the answer – ABSOLUTELY YES.
“Chris Eubank Jr. now stands at no. 1 as a challenger not holding a world title. He therefore, would be given consideration to regain that title against a high ranked opponent.
“I also firmly believe that he can redeem himself with a proper victory over a high ranked opponent,” predicted Levine.
Eubank is yet to make it clear whether he will be moving back down to the middleweight limit, a division which sees Gennady Golovkin defending the title against Canelo Alvarez on May 5 in Las Vegas.
‘NXT GEN’ may be better served opting to remain at the 168 pound limit, where clashes against the likes of Jessie Hart, Hadillah Mohoumadi or even ex-WBSS competitor Nieky Holzken are possibilities for the presently vacant championship.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay