Chris Algieri got whacked by a punch he didn’t see coming last Thursday, when he was made aware that the WBO had declared that the Long Island boxer would be stripped of his WBO 140 pound crown if and when he fights for the WBO’s 147 pound crown.
The move by the sanctioning body most certainly caught Algieri’s promoter, Joe DeGuardia, by surprise. The Bronx-based dealmaker was under the impression that his kid wouldn’t be giving up his junior welter strap, or have it be stripped from him, simply because he was grabbing a no-brainer opportunity and electing to take a beefy payday against Pacman, the current holder of the ‘BO ‘47 strap. That changed Thursday…
DeGuardia, an attorney who yes, knows his way around legalese, and the sometimes fluid interpretation of language and rules and regulations of boxing’s ratings and oversight organizations, told me he is disappointed in the WBO’s stated stance. DeGuardia, who was present in Las Vegas for the convention, is hoping the Puerto Rico-based WBO reconsiders and will allow the 30-year-old to keep the 140 pound bauble he lifted off of Ruslan Provodnikov this past June, in Brooklyn.
“We signed the agreement to fight for the WBO 147 pound championship versus Manny with understanding that we were going up to the next weight division for this fight and our championship at 140 would not be on the line,” DeGuardia told me. “Hence if we lost the challenge for the 147 pound title, we would not lose our title. If we won the 147 pound title, we understood we’d have to elect which one to keep — the 140 pound or 147 pound title. I stated on the record (at the convention on Thursday) that was not my understanding nor agreement and it was agreed that Paco (Valcarcel, WBO president) would look again at his records and we would (the issue) address again.”
Sharp-minded folks might recall that this issue has popped up before, and might remember that Tim Bradley did NOT have to give up the WBO 140 pound title he held when he elected to do the same thing Algieri is doing i.e. move up to welterweight to fight Pacquiao. (NOTE: The Nov. 22 Pacquiao-Algieri fight is set to be contested at a catch-weight, of 144 pounds or less.) If you recollect, Bradley won the WBO’s 140 pound title when it was up for grabs in his January 2011 fight against Devon Alexander. He defended it against Joel Casamayor and was allowed to hold on to it when he next met Pacman, in a June 9, 2012 tussle. Bradley won that fight, scoring a most controversial decision, and decided that 147 pounds was the right weight class for him, so he never looked back. A couple weeks after the win, he decided to give up the WBO’s 140 pound title.
Algieri and company would also like the same consideration afforded to Pacman, who was not stripped or asked to hand over his WBO welter crown put up for grabs against Joshua Clottey in March 2010, before gloving up in a November 2010 scrap at 154 POUNDS against Antonio Margarito. Five months later, Pacman defended that WBO 147 pound strap against Shane Mosley…the very same setup Algieri would like to enjoy…and thought he’d be afforded.
The WBO was kind enough to allow their then cruiserweight champ, Marco Huck, fight at heavyweight, and then circle back, and defend his WBO cruiser crown against Ola Afolabi three months after he lost to Alexander Povetkin.
So, all this in mind, I reached out to the WBO, and got their general secretary, Jose Izquierdo, on the line. He told me he thought quite highly of the Long Islander, and would love to have more ‘BO champs of his ilk. But, he said, he thinks the organization is doing right by Algieri. They are allowing him to hold the crown through this promotion, but yes, the belt will go up for grabs when the first round bell rings in Pacquiao-Algieri. The WBO did the same thing to Juan Manuel Marquez when he went from 140 to 147, he told me, and in past instances when a champ received an exemption, there were viable reasons for that. Like Bradley, when he was allowed to keep his 140 strap headed into his first scrap with Pacman, at welterweight. That’s because he’d held the belt for so long, and built up goodwill.
“Algieri was I think ranked No. 9 by us when he beat Provodnikov,” Izquierdo said. “Why should we give him an allowance we didn’t give Marquez, a super champion?” Marco Huck and Bradley had both taken care of WBO business, done their mandatory defenses, he said, so, since Algieri hasn’t, that does impact the decision-making at the ‘BO. Marquez, getting back to him, he beat Sergiy Fedchenko for the interim WBO 140 strap in 2012, and eight months later fought Pacman at 147. The WBO, though, was happy to elevate him from interim to “regular” 140 champ after Bradley told them he was done with 140. Marquez, though, hasn’t been to 140 since April 2012, and thus, the WBO’s 140 strap was not vied for for almost a year, when Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado clashed for the prize in March 2013. Provodnikov then beat Alvarado for the strap in October 2013, before dropping it to the New Yorker. I am certain I am missing a couple developments in who had the strap and why, but you bored yet? I am…All the title talk, and yakking about exemptions and such is silly churn, most often. But, the titles are more than symbols. The holder does indeed see their ability to command higher purses grow. So, it does merit some discussion…if not this amount of columnization….
DeGuardia isn’t giving up, by no means. He cites the WBO rulebook, in Section 5: No WBO champion may hold titles in more than one weight division. If a WBO champion wins a WBO championship in a higher or lower division, the WBO champion shall have Ten (10) days to determine which weight division the WBO champion will retain. The other weight division will be declared vacant.”
Hmm, that seems pretty clear, for boxing and even outside our red light district of sports sphere. I’d be curious to hear how and why that rule wouldn’t be adhered to….
I asked Algieri himself to weigh in. He offered this statement: “My main and only focus is beating Manny Pacquiao,” he said. “My team is working on the WBO situation and I hope to have some clarity in the next week or two.”
“Nothing against Algieri,” Izquierdo continued. “And yes, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to fight for the title, if he looks good against Pacquiao. Matthysse is ranked No. 2, and that seems like a good fight, though the promoters have to work on that. Why wouldn’t Algieri fight for the vacant title? Anyway, we want to keep that division active.”
DeGuardia told me he respects the WBO and their boss Paco, but he will continue to battle, on principle: “I believe they will do the right thing, but regardless, I’m going to protect the interests of my fighter, and the integrity of the sport.”
My take: I have to admit after sifting the evidence as I know it, I think the WBO should let Algieri keep his 140 pound crown.