By Daniel Sharman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
News came through earlier today that the WBC have officially rescinded Luis Nery's status as mandatory challenger to bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali. Until recently, a decision made at the WBC's 2019 annual convention had put Nery in line to get a shot at whoever was holding the green belt following a consolidation bout between Oubaali and interim titlist Takuma Inoue. Although assured a position as mandatory, Nery put himself forward to fight a final eliminator against recently dethroned, former IBF bantamweight champion, Emmanuel Rodriguez.
An issue arose when Nery scaled 1lb over the 118lb bantamweight limit, missing weight for at least the fourth time in his career (the most infamous occasion being when Nery weighed in at an egregious 123lb during his 2018 rematch with Shinsuke Yamanaka). However, rather than attempt to lose the weight (presumably because Nery felt he could go no lighter), Nery and his team made the questionable move of offering $25,000 worth of compensation to Rodriguez for the bout to go ahead. In an act of great integrity, Rodriguez refused the offer, and the bout was cancelled, with neither fighter receiving any payment whatsoever.
This courageous act of Rodriguez's seems to have been the straw which has broken the proverbial camel's back, and has set in motion a chain of events which might finally see Nery properly reprimanded for his continued misdemeanours and lack of professionalism. It seems that this latest incident has lead the WBC to finally withdraw its sustained support for Nery as a bantamweight: not only has the WBC rescinded Nery's mandatory status, the WBC's president Mauricio Sulaiman has gone a far to declare that “[Nery] can no longer campaign at bantamweight”, and that “it is [the WBC's] recommendation that he fights at (122 pounds) or even featherweight.”
Whilst this turn of events is somewhat surprising given the fact that the WBC have seemingly carried water for Nery over the past couple of years, it seems that Nery's continued errors are becoming a source of embarrassment even for them. Nevertheless, it is a very welcome outcome, and the just one given the circumstances.
More importantly, this occurrence could have a number of interesting ramifications for the bantamweight division. Whilst his being stripped of his mandatory position does not necessarily mean Nery will move up in weight, it is likely given that the only other sanctioning body he holds a ranking within is the WBA (no. 5), and it wouldn't be surprising if the WBC installed him high up in their rankings at super bantamweight, especially given that Rigondeaux, who most recently won a WBC final eliminator at super bantamweight, is moving down to fight for the vacant WBA regular bantamweight title this December. In this connection, it should be seriously noted that Rigondeaux, like Nery, is a PBC fighter, and it would be entirely unsurprising if Nery in his next fight challenged Rigondeaux for that title. The WBA has shown a complete willingness to facilitate PBC's isolationism through the use of its 'regular' titles, allowing exclusively in-house fights to have the veneer of being 'world championship' bouts.
However, putting these issues to one side, and assuming that Nery will be exiting the bantam division due to an inability to make weight, let us assess the situation how his absence may affect the issue of the vacant bantamweight lineal or 'world' championship, that is, the fighter who can truly claim to be the best in a given weight class.
In the last year of so, the general consensus has formed that Naoya Inoue and Luis Nery respectively represent no. 1 and no. 2 in the bantamweight division. For instance (current as of 28/11/2019):
The Ring has Inoue as their champion, and Nery as their no. 1 contender;
Boxing Monthly has Inoue at 1, Nery at 2;
TBRB has Inoue at 1, Nery at 2;
ESPN has Inoue at 1, Nery at 2;
Boxrec has Inoue at 1 (650 pts), Nery at 2 (443.6 pts).
This has lead to the formation of a further consensus that in order for a new lineal to be crowned, Inoue and Nery must face off against one another.
This is problematic for at least two reasons. First, Nery fights under the banner of American promotional outfit PBC, whereas Inoue has recently signed a co-promotional deal with Bob Arum's Top Rank. As mentioned above, the PBC has voiced an express desire to be an isolated 'island' putting on only in-house fights, it was a serious question as to whether a fight between Inoue and Nery could ever be made, even if both fighters hypothetically wanted it (see, for comparison, the situation between Top Rank's Crawford and PBC's Errol Spence).
Second, as a consequence of his various misdemeanours in his fights against Yamanaka, Nery is serving a lifetime ban from the Japanese Boxing Commission. This would have prevented Nery fighting Inoue in Japan, and, more importantly, may have damaged Inoue's reputation if he was seen to be facilitating a fighter who had been legitimately banned by the commission of his own country.
However, given this recent news, we can now speculate as to how a fight for the lineal title may come about in Nery's absence. It is undeniable, and agreed by all, that Inoue holds the spot of number one bantamweight; the real question is who is deserving of the number two spot in the absence of Nery, and who would have to face Inoue in order to crown a new lineal champion.
There are two obvious candidates: WBC champion Nordine Oubaali, and WBO champion Zolani Tete. Both champions are undoubtedly within the top five at bantamweight, and it is likely that a consensus will form around one of them as being deserving of the number two spot.
As it currently stands (again, as of 28/11/2019):
The Ring ranks Tete as its no. 2 contender, with Oubaali at no. 4;
Boxing Monthly has Oubaali at 4, and Tete at 7;
TBRB has Oubaali at 3, and Tete at 4;
ESPN has Oubaali at 3, and Tete at 4;
Boxrec has Oubaali at 3 (372.4 pts) and Tete listed as inactive (343.3 pts prior to his injury).
Whilst these rankings are obviously not the same as a general consensus, they are all more or less respected within the boxing community (except perhaps Boxrec), and they all seem to be converging on roughly the same rank ordering. Indeed, further light will be shed on the situation after this Saturday's bout between Tete and interim WBO titlist John Riel Casimero: how Tete looks in that performance should go a long way to helping determine whether he deserves to be placed ahead of Oubaali or not.
What's more, a very interesting scenario can be envisaged. If Tete is successful this Saturday, both he and Oubaali will have satisfied their outstanding mandatory obligations. In theory, this leaves them both open to fight a WBO-WBC unification bout between each other in the first quarter of 2020, which would allow Inoue time to perhaps fight his own IBF mandatory (Michael Dasmarinas) as a coming out fight as part of his new Top Rank deal. This would hopefully achieve two things: it would help determine who was the superior fighter was between Tete and Oubaali, and it would set up a huge showdown with Inoue at a later date for the undisputed, lineal bantamweight championship. We can only dream!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.