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Badou Jack vacates WBA belt, won’t fight Bivol


By Jeff Aranow: WBA World light heavyweight champion Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) has decided to vacate his WBA title rather than face WBA interim champion Dmitry Bivol (11-0, 9 KOs), according to Fight News.

The World Boxing Association had recently scheduled a purse bid for the Jack vs. Bivol fight on September 25. But with Jack vacating his WBA title, he no longer is required to face the hard hitting Russian fighter.

What’s unknown is why Jack would vacate his WBA title. Did Jack not fancy the fight against the powerful Bivol? Jack recently won the WBA ‘regular’ 175 lb. title in stopping champion Nathan Cleverly in the 5th round on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor card at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jack looked good beating Cleverly, but he also didn’t have to worry about getting hit hard the way he would be if he had kept his WBA title and defended it against Bivol. That would have been one of those grueling affairs where Jack would have had to take some incredibly powerful shots from Bivol, who is like a light heavyweight version of Gennady Golovkin.

I would favor Bivol to beat Jack if that fight had taken place. When you think of the risk that Jack would have had in fighting a young lion like Bivol, it makes all the sense in the world that he would elect to vacate his WBA title rather than face the unbeaten Russian knockout artist. That’s the problem with the light heavyweight division. It’s filled with knockouts everywhere you look. It’s a virtual minefield for aging fighters like Badou Jack and Andre Ward. Some boxing fans think Ward retired to avoid having to fight Beterbiev, who is one of the best inside fighters in the 175 lb. division today. To be sure, Ward would have had his hands full if he had to mix it up with Beterbiev.

With Andre “SOG” Ward announcing his retirement this week, it opens up his IBF, WBA and WBO titles for him. It could be that Jack has his eyes on going after one of those soon to be vacated titles. It likely won’t be he IBF belt, because that one would mean that Jack would need to mix it up with Artur Beterbiev. He’s a very dangerous along the same lines as Bivol, but possibly even more dangerous.

Former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev is ranked No.1 in the World Boxing Organization’s top 15 rankings. If Jack could get a fight against Kovalev, he would get a nice payday, and he might even beat him if he attacked his body the way Ward did in his 2 wins over the Russian fighter.

Jack isn’t ranked in the WBO’s top 15 rankings at this time. The WBO belt is the only one that makes sense for Jack to go after. There would be no point in Jack giving up his WBA title if he wanted to fight Stevenson, because he could have gotten that fight while still the WBA champ. Jack might not have fancied the idea of taking a dangerous fight against Dmitry Bivol, who is younger than him at 26, and is arguably a bigger puncher.

Jack would have been at a real risk of losing to Bivol if he had taken that fight. Going after the WBO title would seem to be the only reason why Jack would vacate his WBA belt. There’s likely more money in fighting Kovalev than there would be in facing Bivol. It would still be a very hard fight for Jack due to Kovalev’s punching power, and his rangy way of fighting.

Jack would have a hard time holding onto the WBO belt even if he did beat Kovalev. He would have to defend it against the likes of Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Sullivan Barrera and possibly even Beterbiev. Hopefully wouldn’t be another situation where Jack vacates again when ordered to face a dangerous contender.

Jack has talked of wanting to fight a unification match against WBC heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. But with Jack vacating his WBA title, he lost his main bargaining chip to get the fight against the Canadian based Stevenson. It’s highly unlikely that Stevenson will bother fighting Jack now, because if he does that, the World Boxing Council will likely strip him of his title due to him failing to defend against #1 WBC mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez. It’s unlikely that Stevenson will fight Jack now that he’s given up his title.

If Badou Jack is going to remain at light heavyweight, he’s going to need to be able to fight the likes of Bivol, Beterbiev, Gvozdyk, and Sullivan Barrera if he wants to find any real lasting success in this weight class. There are too many good fighters in the division to play hop scotch in vacating titles, and going after weaker belt holders. Cleverly was the only weak guy there. The best thing that could happen to Jack is if the WBO gives him a high ranking so he can fight Kovalev for the vacant WBO belt. That’s definitely a winnable fight for Jack. It’s not an easy fight. Kovalev is dangerous, and he’s clearly a level above James DeGale in talent. Jack had all he could handle in his fight with DeGale.

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