Skip to content
Home » The Cursed History of the WBA ‘Regular’ Heavyweight Title

The Cursed History of the WBA ‘Regular’ Heavyweight Title

  • by
  • 8 min read

World Boxing News outlines the WBA heavyweight title split in 2011 and the belt’s cursed past over thirteen years.

It’s no secret that WBN has closely followed the situation regarding the World Boxing Association’s heavyweight division over the years. For the most part, confusion has reigned supreme.

In 2023, the scenario sunk to a new low despite the belt being diminished in August 2023. A month later, the WBA reinstated the damaged title.

What is the WBA Regular Heavyweight Title?

In 2011, when WBN was barely a year old, David Haye fought Wladimir Klitschko amidst a frenzy from excited European boxing fans. They were finally getting the fight they wanted. And thanks to the WBA, four versions of the top division crown would be unified at the same time.

If Haye won – as the WBA belt holder- the possibility that fans could see the first three-belt heavyweight champion in ten years was real. Wladimir’s brother Vitali held the WBC strap, the only other not on the line and in his younger sibling’s possession.

Haye knew the stakes were very high. Victory over Wladimir would lead to an immediate clash with his Vitali and the chance to go for all the marbles. Sadly, after a busted toe and a misfiring performance, Klitschko added the WBA title to his IBF and WBO.

Wladimir Klitschko David Haye
Sky Sports

But the WBA surprised everyone, declaring Klitschko their new ‘super’ champion. It signified the most controversial move in the history of championships in the heavyweight ranks.

The WBA would soon give boxing fans yet another belt to further muddy the waters.

The first WBA Regular champion

Sanctioning Alexander Povetkin vs Ruslan Chagaev in late 2011 for what was eventually named the ‘WBA Regular’ title, the WBA had brought about a situation that polarized fans wholly and immediately.

Those who wanted to see Olympic star Povetkin get his shot were all for it. However, the rest of the boxing community wondered why we needed another belt in the top division.

On the face of it, the move was seen simply as a ploy to garner more sanctioning fees from fighters.

Povetkin held the ‘Regular’ until 2013, when the WBA eventually ordered a fight with Klitschko. It was immediately thought that Klitschko vs Povetkin would mean the end of the short-term title. That was a wrong assumption.

Klitschko vs. Povetkin, which just so happened to be the most lucrative heavyweight title bout since Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson and was sanctioned by the WBA under an unbelievable purse bid of $17 million, would be the only time WBA sanctioning chiefs would insist the ‘Regular’ holder gets a full shot.

It’s not hard to see why.

WBA broken promises to WBN

At this time, WBN was in constant contact with Gilberto J. Mendoza, the VP but acting President of the WBA. He told WBN that they would unlikely bring back the ‘Regular’ championship once Povetkin dropped the title. It was a promise that had not been kept.

“Any representative or promoter has not contacted us over the WBA heavyweight title,” Mendoza told World Boxing News in January 2014. “But also, the WBA super and interim titles might change. We are not sure the regular title will be approved.”

Within two months, the WBA controversially called for Fres Oquendo and Ruslan Chagaev to battle it out for the vacant title.

A mess

Looking back, I bet they wish they hadn’t bothered. The belt has seemingly been cursed ever since. It was only contested four times in the next six years.

After missing his flight, Oquendo almost didn’t make it to the Chavaev fight. They then fought out a highly controversial majority decision.

Chagaev had taken the title, but after an appeal, the WBA granted Oquendo’s request for a rematch. It never happened.

Injuries, delays, and a complete farce saw the WBA allow Chagaev to continue making defenses. He defeated Francesco Pianeta before Lucas Browne earned his mandatory shot.

Browne won the title in a shock Grozny beatdown, ending Chagaev’s career. Amazingly, Browne was then flagged for a banned substance.

Claims of Russian food tampering and a set-up followed before the Australian eventually cleared his name. But by this time, the title was vacant.

Vice President Mendoza had outlined a tournament that would be held, including the WBA ‘Regular’ and WBA ‘Super’ to crown one sole champion eventually.

Mendoza had again gone so far as to inform WBN he would phase out the ‘Regular’ belt after the completion of the competition.

Eight fighters were called up as the round-robin looked [pictured below].

Failed WBA heavyweight tournament

Included was Browne after lobbying to overturn his WBA ban. Due to ‘The Big O’ Oquendo still not being given his shot from the Chagaev mess – and continually winning rounds of legal battles to do so – they were pitted together in the semi-finals.

It represented a sort of bye through the first round.

WBA heavyweight tournament

For his part, ‘Super’ champ Klitschko was already facing Tyson Fury in November 2015. Luis Ortiz would then take on Alexander Ustinov for the interim title.

So now, there were three titles on the spinning plates propped up by the WBA sanctioning fee merry-go-round. Whoever eventually came out on top would be the sole ruler. But only one of those bouts ever took place – Klitschko vs Fury.

Breaking up the belts

As we all know, Fury won but spiraled out of control and eventually gave up all the belts following the Dusseldorf upset. But this situation killed the tournament plans stone dead.

Browne missed out, Oquendo did yet again, and the ‘Regular’ strap somehow ended up in the hands of Mahmoud’ Manuel’ Charr.

Charr defeated Alexander Ustinov in November 2017 when the WBA sanctioned the fight out of the blue. Under the terms of Browne having his name cleared, it seems Charr was never ordered to face Browne. This was due, maybe in part, to ongoing litigation by Oquendo.

How Ustinov was approved is anyone’s guess.

Eventually, a fight with Charr was stipulated with Oquendo in 2018 before Trevor Bryan claimed the interim version. But again, the WBA had three boxers holding titles. Not to stop there, the WBA then invented the WBA Gold Championship, which Joe Joyce first held. Now, they had four. To add insult to injury, the aging Oquendo still awaited his chance.

The baton passed to Charr and Bryan to fight and finally remove the interim version. The fight never happened. Charr and Bryan held a purse bid won by Don King for $2 million before Oquendo said, ‘Hold on, I won a legal challenge to that.’

Rather than fighting, Oquendo wanted to take a monetary settlement as he approached his fifties. He kept that legal action going to recoup his losses.

Interim titles abolished

Only when the WBA faced allegations of racism by a judge they finally abolished the interim titles in all divisions.

Bryan then fought Daniel Dubois, who was the interim champion. Dubois took the regular championship but was not recognized as a world titleholder due to the diluted nature of the belt.

Eventually, Dubois lost to Usyk, and the belt was supposed to be gone forever. It proved not to be the case as Charr fought legally to have himself re-coronated as secondary champion.

Mahmoud Charr vs Kubrat Pulev WBA heavyweight title
EC Boxing

He faces Kubrat Pulev on March 30 in the first defense of a title he won in 2017. Fans have grown tired of broken promises by the WBA, who have since unified several divisions but not the most lucrative.

We are still waiting for one sole champion in the heavyweight division. Unsurprisingly, it’s the weight class that by far earns the most sanctioning fees of all.

Phil Jay is an experienced boxing news writer and has been the Editor of World Boxing News since 2010.

Follow WBN:, Facebook, Instagram, Blue Sky, and Threads.