The heavyweight champion who won’t defend the ‘title’ for three years

World Boxing News finds it an astonishing fact that a heavyweight champion can win the ‘title’ and yet not defend it for more than two years. 

That’s what has happened in the curious case of Mahmoud ‘Manuel’ Charr – the WBA regular belt holder.

Charr claimed the strap on November 25th of 2017, defeating Alexander Ustinov via a twelve-round unanimous decision in Oberhausen, Germany.

By lifting the little-regarded crown at the Koenig Pilsener Arena, Charr put himself in the frame for some big challenges to come.

But the sad fact is Charr hasn’t fought since.

Opponent Ustinov has even competed three times in the interim as Charr’s career stalls due to an impending and ordered fight against mandatory Trevor Bryan.

Prior to the 2019 Bryan order, Charr was locked in talks with Fres Oquendo. A former number contender who won a court case to fight for the WBA ‘regular’ belt despite being out of action since 2014.

Legal battles eventually took Oquendo an age in his pursuit. And by the time the fight could happen, ‘The Big O’ was too old. He’s now 47.

Therefore, the WBA moved on to stipulate Charr must face Bryan. Finally, a deal was struck for 2020 despite Oquendo previously challenging that ruling too.

Don King paid an eye-watering $2 million dollars at a Panama purse bid to stage the contest.

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Trevor Bryan Manuel Charr
???? Esther Lin / Team Charr

As the boxing world held their breath that Charr would put his strap on the line once and for all, the coronavirus struck and put the breaks on again.

This means Charr faces the real possibility he could not fight until the end of the year. A full three-year absence since winning the title.

It seems the Oquendo curse has passed on to Charr and keeps the WBA ‘regular’ crown out of commission. If you asked the vast majority of fans, though, they’d probably see this as a good thing.

The second top division crown was created in 2011 when David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko fought for the ‘super’ version for the first time. Alexander Povetkin was then recognized as the maiden holder of the regular belt.


Since Povetkin, the WBA has faced an uphill battle in persuading anyone that the ‘regular’ title is a bonafide championship. Not many in the sport are having any of it.

It was assumed that the WBA would push the ‘regular’ holder to an eventual meeting with the ‘super’ champion, like a stepping stone to the main title. But since Povetkin lost to Klitschko and the WBA declared the ‘regular’ vacant, the champion has not once been lead to believe they’d get a full shot.

Splitting the sanctioning fees for heavyweight bouts is a lucrative business for the WBA, but leaving champions on the shelf for two years is no way to make any money.

It’s hoped the mess will be sorted out once and for all once boxing resumes. Hopefully, with the disbandment of the title altogether.

Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. An Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay