Our sources in Africa have informed us that the team behind Namibian fighter Bethuel Ushona (32-2-1, 9), the WBO #1 ranked Welterweight, will be making a stand and will pursue his right to challenge WBO world champion Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38).
This past weekend saw Pacquiao's nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40) defeat Mike Alvarado (34-3, 23). It was expected that Marquez, as the winner of that bout, would be facing Pacquiao in a 5th meeting between the two future hall of famers. That bout is now in some doubt however and if Ushona's team decide to play hard-ball they could throw a real spanner in to the works by effectively forcing the WBO to play by their own rules and enforce the mandatory defence or stripping Pacquiao.
Ushona's team have mentioned recent examples of fighters being forced their mandatory challengers rather than facing more notable opponents. They have mentioned the recent WBO Heavyweight title fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Alex Leapai and have also mentioned the fact WBC Heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne has been ordered to fight Deontay Wilder as opposed to being allowed to unify with Klitschko.
Although the words and threats from Ushona's team have been strong we can't help but feel they are just being difficult in an attempt to get a big "step aside" payment. If they aren't just looking for a big payday but are serious in pursuing the Pacquiao bout then they really could give both the WBO and Top Rank some headaches. The WBO will risk losing face by not forcing the mandatory or risk taking a financial hit by stripping Pacquiao, a huge money fighter in comparison to Ushona.
Ushona actually took the WBO #1 ranking after Manny Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley for the title back in April. Prior to that Ushona had been the #2 ranked fighter and although he is relatively unknown he has been in the top 2 ranked WBO fighters all year and will feel, rightly or wrongly, that he deserves his chance at the big time.
Part of the reason why Ushona is ranked so highly is the fact he currently holds the WBO Africa title and another reason is that he has been defeating a series of credible, though sub-world class opponents, including Isaac Hlatshwayo and Kaizer Mabuza. Though some do suspect that the WBO are trying to open new doors in Africa, especially in Namibia with the country having 4 ranked fighters, Vikapita Meroro (#2 at Cruiserweight), Ushona (#1 at Welterweight), Paulus Moses (#2 at Lightweight) and Paulus Ambunda (#5 at Bantamweight).
A political can of worms could be about to open if a lot of money doesn't change hands for Bob Arum to have the fight he, and US TV audiences are demanding regarding the Filipino superstar.
(Image courtesy of the WBO)
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