The World Boxing Association are set to order Aleksandr Usyk to fight Denis Lebedev putting another massive public-interest fight in doubt.
Usyk has been in talks to face Tony Bellew in a huge UK Pay-Per-View encounter this November but weeks of negotiations are now in jeopardy.
Just a couple of months after ruling Anthony Joshua to battle Alexander Povetkin, a decision which partly cost fight fans a huge unification with Deontay Wilder, the WBA are pushing for Usyk to battle ‘Champion in Recess’ Lebedev instead.
Veteran Lebedev returns to action on Friday night against Hizni Altunkaya, and provided he’s victorious, the Russian can claim his right to challenge the champion under the WBA’s current regulations.
This means Usyk will have to address his mandatory with Lebedev unless he can gain an exception to battle Bellew from President Gilberto Mendoza.
It’s a sorry situation once again and leaves big question marks against the integrity of the WBA, who don’t seem to follow the same model as the World Boxing Council.
WBC Head Mauricio Sulaiman puts any mandatory on hold for the sake of a fight in the interest of the fans, giving every chance for Joshua v Wilder to be made and putting number one contender Dominic Breazeale on the backburner until discussions collapsed.
Mendoza doesn’t seem to be as accommodating as Sulaiman, though, as the leader of the Panama-based organization proved when ordering Joshua v Povetkin just hours before a signed contract was due to be sent from Wilder to promoter Eddie Hearn (provided a rematch was agreed).
Boxing now looks set to miss out on seeing Bellew in a swansong grudge match with Usyk for all the cruiserweight marbles, and unless the Ukrainian decides to vacate one or all of his titles, the Briton may be forced to wait or scrap the fight altogether.
With a heavyweight move in his future plans, Usyk could be best-served moving up immediately if the fight is to go ahead in 2018 as planned.