WBA heavyweight regular still in a cloud of controversy
By Gav Duthie: Just over two weeks ago Manuel Charr 31-4 (17) stated their would be an announcement soon regarding his return to defend his WBA regular world title. Over the last 5 years this belt has been anything but ‘regular’ as promotional, legal and drug issues with various fighters have made it the most comedic belt in the sport. Heres a run down of the situation and what to expect in the future.
The current title holder Charr has never defended his belt since he won it way back in November 2017. Apparently all his issues are behind him and he is expected to fight soon. Who his opponent will be is anyones guess but in theory the front runners should be either Trevor Bryan 20-0 (14) who is the interim champion or ‘Fast’ Fres Oquendo 37-8 (24) who is ranked #15 despite not fighting since 2014.
Failed fights for WBA regular title
The start of the WBA mess dates back to July 2014 when Ruslan Chagaev defeated Fres Oquendo by majority decision. Because of the issues surrounding the promotion of the fight and the close nature of the decision Oquendo was granted a rematch after a legal claim.
Ruslan Chagaev v Fres Oquendo 2
This fight originally didn’t happen because the Uzbek Chagaev claimed that he was going to retire. This should have put Fres in the front seat for a shot at a vacant title but Chagaev did a u-turn and was allowed to fight Italian Francesco Pianeta instead winning by knockout in the first round. Fres obviously pushed for the rematch again claiming his legal right to do so but in the meantime Chagaev faced and lost to Australian Lucas Browne in 2016. This meant Oquendo despite still being mandatory challenger hadn’t fought in two years. Post Chagaev-Browne the winner tested positive for a banned substance so the title change was put on hold. The WBA attempted to give the belt back to Chagaev to make another attempt at Chagaev v Fres but this time he actually had retired and this time has stuck to it as he has not fought since his loss to Browne. Despite the failed drug test the result of Chagaev v Browne still stands today as Browne convinced the WBA that the result was due to contaminated meat.
Lucas Browne v Shannon Briggs
In late 2016 Lucas Browne was due to defend his title against Shannon Briggs. Shannon ‘The Cannon’ was making a lot of noise having come back in 2014 after a 4 year absence. He had not been seen since a one sided beat down against Vitaly Klitschko but had won 6 low key bouts in 2014. Briggs was more known for his outgoing personality, you tube videos and #letsgochamp After a few more wins he had received a high ranking with the WBA. Tyson Fury had recently vacated his WBA super belt and Browne was allowed this defence with the winner facing Fres Oquendo. This time however Browne couldn’t cry wolf as he failed another drugs test and the bout was subsequently cancelled.
Shannon Briggs v Fres Oquendo
With the title finally being taken from Browne this got Oquendo back in the mix. In early 2017 it was announced that Shannon Briggs at 46 years of age would fight 43 year old Fres. This seemed like a fight that should have happened 10 years before and it wouldn’t have even been big then. In a hilarious turn this bout failed at purse bids. Heavyweight title bouts require a 1 million minimum investment but no promoter would come up with it. Around 400k was the most anyone was willing to pay as recouping 1 million would be difficult for a fight between two has beens in their mid 40s. Eventually the bout was on and due to take place in spring 2017. This time it was Briggs who tested positive for enhanced levels of testosterone. To his credit he admitted it rather than blaming contaminated meat or foul play. This meant that once again Fres title hopes were done. After Briggs ban he stated he would return in 2018 but now in 2020 he still hasn’t fought and at 48 years old is unlikely to do so.
Manuel Charr v Fres Oquendo
In the latter part of 2017 the vacant title was finally picked up by Manuel Charr after he defeated the big Belorussian Alexander Ustinov. Again the winner was ordered to face you guessed it Fres Oquendo. In what could almost be described as a boring storyline now Charr failed a VADA drugs test.
Jarrel Miller v Fres Oquendo
Charr’s status as champion was in limbo and there was talk that the highly ranked Jarell Miller would face Fres Oquendo for the vacant title in late 2018. The turnaround was very quick. Miller had already fought in October and the fight was to take place in November. Fres said that he would decline as there wasn’t enough time to do accurate VADA testing.
Jarrel Miller v Bogdan Dinu
This fight actually happened. When Fres declined the previously unbeaten Bogdan Dinu stepped up. Miller fought twice in 2 months only because he was lead to believe that the Dinu fight would be for the vacant WBA regular belt. In the end there was enough doubt that Charr hadn’t done anything illegal that he was allowed to hold onto his belt so this Miller-Dinu belt was demoted to the NABA title. Miller easily won in the second round.
Manuel Charr v Trevor Bryan
Once Charr’s ban had been lifted or waiting for a B-sample depending on which report you believe the Oquendo matchup was sated again for March 2019. However this time Oquendo just failed to sign the contract. By this time Oquendo is 5 years out of the ring and at least 15 years past his prime. The WBA finally removed Oquendo as mandatory but he was still making enough noises in the legal department that stopped the Charr fight happening in 2019. The undefeated Bryan won the WBA interim against BJ Flores in early 2018 but we haven’t seen him since. Tyson Fury was set to fight him but chose Schwarz as well as the failed Charr bout but its now been nearly 2 years since he fought. A lot of this is also probably due to the fact that he is promoted by Don King who is well past his sell by date in boxing by now.
The state in 2020
Yes Charr has stated their will be an announcement soon but we have heard it all before. He’s been cleared to fight for some time but with his issues, Bryan’s inactivity and Oquendo still kicking up a fuss it is quite likely this mess could continue for the foreseeable future.