The WBA, sticking to its promise to reduce the number of titles it sanctions in each division, on Wednesday denied a petition from welterweight “super” titleholder Yordenis Ugas for an exception to his mandatory fight in order to face Errol Spence Jr. in a three-belt title unification bout.
“The special permit request by Yordenis Ugas is denied,” Carlos Chavez, the chairman of the WBA championship committee, wrote in the resolution, which was obtained by World Boxing News. “Currently, we are in special circumstances to resolve extraordinary situations, such as the champion reduction in every division to have only one champion. Thus in the welterweight division, elimination tournaments are being ordered instead of the mandatory fights.
“Unification bouts are highly attractive for the sport, but one champion per division policy has been considered a high priority in current times. To grant a special permit, regardless of any other consideration, is radically opposed to the process of having one champion, which undoubtedly affects this difficult reduction process underway because it would paralyze it.
“Therefore, this is not about evaluating the significance of the bout requested, nor minimizing the eventual probable profits of the parties, this is about strengthening the WBA, its presence, its credibility and not simply sanctioning a title for the mere fact or interest mentioned above.”
The resolution concluded by giving Ugas and mandatory challenger Eimantas Stanionis 30 days from the issuance of the resolution to negotiate the bout. If they do not make a deal, the fight would go to a purse bid.
A month ago, the WBA ordered a four-man box-off in the welterweight division meant to conclude with one titleholder at 147 pounds.
Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs), 35, a Cuba native fighting out of Miami, who is coming off an upset decision win on short notice in the first defense of his “super” title against legend Manny Pacquiao on Aug. 21 in Las Vegas, was ordered to face Stanionis (13-0, 9 KOs), 27, a 2016 Olympian from Lithuania, in one bout. That fight must take place by Jan. 15, the WBA said.
In the other bout, “regular” titlist Jamal James (27-1, 12 KOs), 33, of Minneapolis, was ordered to face mandatory challenger Radzhab Butaev (13-0, 10 KOs), 27, a New York-based Russia native. They are scheduled to fight in a Showtime-televised main event on Oct. 30 at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The James-Butaev winner and the Ugas-Stanionis winner are then supposed to meet, with the winner emerging as the WBA’s singular welterweight champion.
But after his big win over Pacquiao, Ugas was hoping to meet IBF/WBC welterweight titlist Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), 31, a southpaw from Desoto, Texas, early next year to unify titles. Spence was originally supposed to fight Pacquiao in the Fox Sports pay-per-view main event on Aug. 21 but was forced to withdraw less than two weeks before the fight when he was diagnosed with a torn retina during a routine pre-fight medical exam. He had surgery days later and is recovering, although he has not yet been cleared to train or fight.
Ugas was slated to fight on the undercard in a defense against Fabian Maidana, but when Maidana suffered a cut in training around the same time as Spence’s eye injury was discovered, it left Pacquiao and Ugas without opponents. So, to save the show, they agreed to face each other instead.
It was on Aug. 25, days after Ugas’ win over Pacquiao, that the WBA — finally bowing to intense fan and media pressure — announced it would cease having multiple world titles in the same division.
On Sept. 15, it ordered the welterweight four-man box-off. The next day, the WBA said in its resolution that TGB Promotions president Tom Brown, on behalf of Ugas, requested a special permit to sanction a unification bout between Ugas and Spence on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas.
The WBA said it then notified Stanionis promoter Richard Schaefer and manager Shelly Finkel of the request and that they were opposed to allowing it.
Then, on Monday, the sides held a meeting via Zoom video conference to discuss the issue. According to a source with direct knowledge of the call, Ugas, manager Luis DeCubas Jr., and Brown made their case for Ugas to get the exception in order to fight Spence. However, Stanionis, Finkel, and Schaefer made their case that the WBA should stick to its mandatory order. Chavez and WBA chief of staff Gary Shaw listened to the arguments from each side and made their ruling on Wednesday.
Ugas, in recent days, had been highly critical of the WBA for not allowing him to have an optional defense coming off such a big win over Pacquiao.
On Tuesday, he posted a video to Instagram and also wrote, “It is disrespectful for the WBA to have a tournament to define their champion, when I am the super champion,” Ugas wrote. “I just beat a legend and I have a victory over regular champion Jamal James. WBA mandatory fights are always to fight for the regular title. I fought Abel (Ramos for the vacant ‘regular’ title in September 2020) and got promoted when Pacquiao was out of the sport. I have three questions for the WBA.
“Which super champion in history has had a mandatory fight for the WBA super champion title? With everything and the reduction of the titles that the WBA has, what super champion has a mandatory fight imposed? Even though he’s on his way to a three-championship unification.”
Ugas then cited various WBA “super” champions he said had not made mandatory defenses.
“I respect all the fighters,” Ugas continued. “But what has Stanionis done in 13 fights? … His biggest victory was against (Thomas) Dulorme (in April) that I (beat) 5 years ago. … The dream of every fighter is to be a champion, then to unify, and that is my intention that I think I have earned. I am excited to be the first Cuban fighter to fight for three championships in one night. #SpenceUgas — a three-championship fight between two of the world’s best welterweights is what fans want to see.”
That may be the case, but the WBA is sticking to its rules, and it won’t be the next fight for Ugas.