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Sulaiman says Lomachenko CAN become undisputed as ‘Franchise’ champion

Vasiliy Lomachenko

By Chris Williams:  WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman was grilled by the media on Thursday about how Vasiliy Lomachenko can become the undisputed lightweight champion now that he’s been elevated to ‘Franchise’ champion by the sanctioning body. Under the heat of the questions about Lomachenko’s Franchise champion status, Sulaiman finally said, “I’m done.” The way that Sulaiman ended the interview, it was as if he couldn’t be bothered with trying to explain the process about the Franchise champion.

The argument against Lomachenko becoming the undisputed champion is he holds a title [Franchise] that CAN’T be lost under any circumstances.

Lomachenko is free to fight whoever he wants

Sulaiman’s main rationale for making Lomachenko the WBC’s Franchise champion is that it frees him up to make the important fights against other fighters at lightweight and other divisions. That’s obviously a positive. However, what boxing fans have a problem with is how the Franchise is able to ignore the top guys without being forced to fight them.

In Lomachenko’s case, he isn’t required to face newly elevated WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney. Lomachenko is instead looking to face the winner of the Richard Commey vs. Teofimo Lopez fight to become the undisputed lightweight champion. Sulaiman says Lomachenko can still become the undisputed champion at lightweight, even though his Franchise title CAN’T be lost. It’s a crazy concept for some boxing fans to wrap their head around because it goes against the norm in sports. How does a fighter stay the Franchise champion after they lose?

Sulaiman didn’t make any sense at all in saying that Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) can become the undisputed champion despite being the Franchise champion, which is a title that is “non-transferable.” In other words, it’s a title that CAN’T be lost by Lomachenko. Even if Loma loses, he’ll still be the WBC Franchise champion. At the same time, Sulaiman says Devin Haney is the WBC champion. Unlike Lomachenko, Haney’s WBC title can be lost. If Haney loses to someone, then he’s no longer the WBC champion. But in Lomachenko’s, he keeps his WBC Franchise title, win or lose.

Sulaiman says Lomachenko is in category all by himself

“He’s the WBC champion. He defeated Campbell,” said Sulaiman about Lomachenko. “It is a new concept, the Franchise champion, which was created to have a boxer with outstanding merits to go do the fights whether in that division or other divisions against other champions.

“It is not limiting a boxer with particular characteristics like Lomachenko and like Canelo, to go and make the best fights possible. Lomachenko is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, three division world champion, and pound-for-pound recognized all over the world as #1. So Lomachenko is in a category all by himself.

“The WBC had a process in the lightweight division when Mikey Garcia vacated the title, which included Devin Haney, Abdullaev, and another fighter from the Dominican Republic [Javier Fortuna], who is going to fight an eliminator and is going to fight the winner of Haney and his next defense,” said Sulaiman.

It’s interesting that Lomachenko isn’t resisting his new classification with the World Boxing Council. Lomachenko won’t be given credit if becomes undisputed champion, because the WBC Franchise title is a belt that CAN’T be lost. Sulaiman still hasn’t fully explained the benefits of a fighter being given the Franchise tag.

Yeah, Sulaiman says that it frees the champion up to take on the biggest challenges, but it also weakens him because he’s not required to face his #1 contenders or the champion with the WBC. In this case, Lomachenko doesn’t have to fight WBC lightweight champion Haney. It doesn’t look like Lomachenko has any intention of facing the highly skilled Haney. You can’t blame Lomanchenko doesn’t fight Haney, because he could lose and the WBC isn’t requiring that he faces him.

Lomachenko can still become undisputed champion

“He [Lomachenko] is undisputed because the Franchise champion represents the WBC,” said Sulaiman. “He is the world champion of the WBC. It is a non-transferable situation. It is undisputed. Look, it is confusing. I don’t want to get into it, because you have your mind completely set on something. Can you believe there’s instant replay in football. 20 years-ago there was a tremendous move against anything to do with technology.

“You have to move on with the times. People want to see the best fights happen. Lomachenko wants to fight the best challenges possible, and we are permitting with the Franchise champion to go and fight other champions and go and fight in other divisions to go and take on whatever the biggest challenge. It’s the same with Canelo,” said Sulaiman.

The WBC has created a belt that has put Lomachenko in category where he can do what he pleases as the Franchise champion. It’s hard to recognize Loma as a REAL champion when he holds a belt that can’t be lost. The WBC needs to consider making the Franchise title transferable, because their champions will at least be seen as legit.

Sulaiman says Haney CAN fight Lomachenko

“They CAN fight the champion,” said Sulaiman when told that the #1, Devin Haney, can’t fight the champion Lomachenko. “Haney is the champion of the WBC. He won the title against [Zaur] Abdullaev. We’re going to get nowhere. I’m done,” said Sulaiman in letting the media member know that he won’t be answering anymore of his questions.

Sulaiman is correct that Haney CAN fight Lomachenko in theory, but what he’s not saying is there’s no longer a mechanism in place to where the fight be forced on Loma. If Lomachenko says, ‘I prefer not to fight Haney,’ then there’s no way of making him take that fight. With the Franchise title, Lomachenko can ignore Haney permanently. Obviously, Lomachenko is likely going to vacate all of his lightweight titles if/when he beats the Commey-Lopez.

It’s still disappointing for boxing fans that they won’t get a chance to see Lomachenko fight Haney before he vacates his lightweight titles and moves back down to super featherweight. That’s the fight the fans want to see. They don’t care about watching Lomachenko beat up on Commey and Lopez, because those guys are clearly badly flawed.

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