A few days ago, at the Japanese boxing awards, Inoue said that he was wanting to fight the #1 fighter in the division. At the time that seemed to suggest that he wanted to fight his mandatory challenger McJoe Arroyo (16-0, 8) of Puerto Rico. It was a bout that looked interesting and deserved some attention. Further pointing towards that bout was an e-mail the WBO sent out regarding the bout informing both parties that they had 15 days to from January 23rd to agree a deal for the fight or that purse bids would be called with a minimum bid of $100,000.00, as can be seen in the letter opposite.
The information we were sent from @Boxinglegion however came in to question that as the WBO, on their twitter, informed the public that the negotiating period was called off, on January 27th, after complaints regarding Arroyo's ranking had emerged form Inoue's team.
On the basis of it it looks like a champion, or rather their team, complaining about an opponent and trying to avoid a mandatory situation, however digging a little deeper it may well be that the complain from Inoue's side does hold some weight.
In the WBO rankings dated December 15th 2014 Arroyo was ranked #12. Just a few days after those rankings were released he fought Filipino fighter Mark Anthony Geraldo in a bout sanctioned as an IBF title eliminator, in fact it was Arroyo's second successive IBF eliminator. Geraldo had entered that bout ranked #11 by the WBO.
In January, when the WBO issued their updated rankings, dated January 10th 2015, Arroyo had suddenly jumped to #1 whilst Geraldo was gone from the rankings. Effectively those updated rankings had showed Arroyo jumping 11 places for his win over a now unranked opponent. In turn Arroyo had leap frogged over the unbeaten Arthur Villanueva, who had previously been #1, dating back to at least October 19th 2014. Incidentally a month prior to Villanueva being moved to the #1 position Narvaez had actually taken care of his mandatory obligations, defeating Felipe Orucuta for the second time on September 19th in what would by Narvaez's final successful defence of the title.
The WBO rules state-
- Each WBO World Champion except in the Heavyweight Division shall defend his title at intervals not greater than nine (9) months counting from the date of the acquisition thereof or from the last compulsory defense
Whilst it's easy to accuse the WBO of doing a botch job on their own rules, and questioning their ranking committee, we should also accept that Inoue's team may be completely in the wrong. They may indeed be trying to avoid an untimely mandatory though looking through Inoue's record it's clear he's not avoiding Arroyo to take on the equivalent of Rod Salka. Could it be that Mr Ohashi is attempting to secure a more interesting fight than the Arroyo one, possible a unification bout or even the much spoken about lower weight super fight with Roman Gonzalez (41-0, 35)? We know Inoue is out there to make a name for himself and it may be that he feels the only way to do that is to do something special. A win over Arroyo would be impressive but a win over Gonzalez or unifying world titles in fight #9 would be something a bit special.
Whilst there is no world from the Japanese media, as to how this story has come about, as of yet it does seem an odd position for the WBO to be in, cancelling a negotiating period just days after it had ordered one. Thankfully the WBO will reach a resolution on Friday, which we suspect will keep Arroyo as the #1 contender though make him wait until the mandatory is due, giving Inoue time to make a voluntary defense of his belt, as the WBO rules themselves would actually allow. Hopefully the resolution will be made public and will be clear though of course with this being boxing we can only wonder what will actually come of any resolution.
(Image courtesy of http://www.wboboxing.com)
[For illustrative purposes we have included the rankings mentioned below in PDF formats relating to the 3 dates used]