By Gav Duthie: Last weekend saw an interesting heavyweight scrap between Daniel Dubois and Kevin Lerena for the WBA regular heavyweight title. Dubois retained the title, and this week the organization has ordered a bout between Dubois and full WBA heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
The WBA has been looking to reduce the number of champions on their roster in the last year or so. The interim titles have been completely scrapped, and could the regular title be next?
The WBA is the only organization of the big four that has a regular title. Anyone who wins it has the right to call themselves a world champion. There are some great fighters who have won this title, including Canelo Alvarez, David Haye, Manny Pacquiao, Evander Holyfield, and currently, Gervonta Davis owns won at Jnr Welterweight. The problem is there is always a full champion of the same organization above you. So many fans and the media often question the legitimacy of the title.
The WBC has recently been criticized for the mess of the franchise champion and the confusion it caused. It seems to be a thing of the past, and possibly the WBA regular title will be the same.
Nothing sums up the confusion and comedy of the WBA regular title more than in the heavyweight division. In 2014, Ruslan Chagaev was the champion defeating Fres Oquendo by a majority decision. ‘Fast’ Fres managed to contractually get another shot due to promotional loopholes, a shot he was still waiting for as late as 2020; he hasn’t fought at all since 2014.
Chagaev lost to Lucas Browne in 2016, but Browne failed a drug test, they tried to give the title back to Chagaev, but he didn’t even want it and retired instead. They then tried to make Browne and Oquendo for the vacant title, but Browne failed another drug test.
Then it was Shannon Briggs v Fres Oquendo. 2 purse bids, but no promoter would front up the minimum 1 million pounds retainer for a WBA title fight. Eventually, it was on, but Briggs failed a drug test this time. Oquendo v Jarrel Miller was mooted, but Oquendo said sufficient drug testing wasn’t in place, so the now 43-year-old declined.
Miller thought he was fighting Bogdan Dinu for it, but it was changed. In 2017 randomly, the vacant title was contested between Mahmoud Charr and Alexander Ustinov. Charr won it but didn’t defend it at all and didn’t fight again until 2021.
Again fights with Oquendo didn’t materialize, and his case was then thrown out. In 2021 Charr was supposed to fight WBA interim champion Trevor Bryan. As if this couldn’t get any more ridiculous in steps Don King. He wins the Charr v Bryan purse bid but had no intention of paying the million or letting Charr fight.
He didn’t supply a contract to Charr, meaning he couldn’t get a work visa to fight in America. Somehow King managed to make a vacant title match between Bryan and Bermane Stiverne, another fighter he promoted.
Note this fight happened in 2021; Stiverne hadn’t won a fight since 2015. The same happened the year after; no contract for Charr, so Bryan then fought Jonathan Guidry, who mysteriously came in at #13 with the WBA despite Boxrec not having him in the top 200 heavyweights.
Both times King managed to not pay the bid he made because of the change of opponent. Finally, Daniel Dubois was next, a legitimate prospect. King won the bid again, and Dubois struggled to get paid, but he destroyed Bryan as expected.
Finally, the WBA had a decent regular champion, and now, after all this and one defense against Kevin Lerena, they are looking to get rid of it by ordering Usyk v Dubois.
Current WBA regular champions
Of the 17 divisions in boxing, there are only 6 WBA regular champions. There were 7, but as of this week, Leo Santa Cruz gave up the full featherweight title, something he should have done two years ago, so Leigh Wood was elevated to full champion. 6 out of 17 can’t be an accident. It’s just over a 3rd, so it looks to me like they might be putting the Super and regular titles together.
Heavyweight -Daniel Dubois
Super middleweight – David Morrell
Middleweight – Erislandy Lara
Welterweight – Eimantas Stannionis
Jnr Welterweight – Gervonta Davis
Minimumweight – Erick Rosa
At heavyweight main champion, Oleksandr Usyk and Dubois have been ordered, and Gennadiy Golovkin v Erislandy Lara ordered at middleweight. Eimantas Stannionis and Vergil Ortiz Jr have been mandated at welterweight and then most likely, Errol Spence v Stannionis/Ortiz or the winner is elevated to full champion if Spence Jnr moves up.
It is entirely possible that we may see the last of this belt in a couple of years as the WBA tidy up their act. For me, this would definitely be a positive move and something that I really hope happens. We need to know who our champions are; boxing is complicated enough as it is.