A fight is brewing over the WBA junior welterweight title. And it won’t be in the ring.
Dmitry Salita is the Panama-based sanctioning body’s No. 1-ranked 140-pounder, which his handlers say means he’ll face the winner of the June 27 fight between titleholder Andreas Kotelnik and Amir Khan. They say they have it writing from the WBA.
At the same time, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions says the winner of the Victor Ortiz-Marcos Maidana fight for the interim WBA belt on the same date in Los Angeles will face the Kotelnik-Khan winner. He, too, says he has it writing.
The WBA’s top executives are out of the country and unavailable for comment, according to an employee, but it appears as if the organization’s championship committee will have to make a decision. Or lawyers will have to get involved.
“That’s not what the WBA told us,” said John Wirt, CEO of Square Ring Promotions, Salita’s promoter, referring to Schaefer’s contention. “I hope that’s not accurate. We fight the winner of Khan and Kotelnik. They’re [Golden Boy] after us.”
Salita says he’s the mandatory challenger for Kotelnik’s title but Kotelnik, who had just beaten then-mandatory challenger Maidana in February, was allowed the option of fighting Khan in a more-lucrative matchup before facing his next mandatory.
The WBA then apparently OK’d a fight between Ortiz, ranked No. 3, and Salita for the interim title but Salita declined to take part. Salita said he might’ve of considered the offer but HBO refused to televise it and the purse wasn’t big enough. More important, he felt as the No. 1 contender he had no obligation to fight No. 3.
Golden Boy, Ortiz’s promoter, then offered the fight to No. 2 Maidana and the Argentine accepted.
Thus, this is the situation: Two competing parties claim the right to face the winner of Khan-Kotelnik late this year. And neither seems willing to budge.
“The fact is Maidana and Ortiz are fighting for the interim title,” Schaefer said. “It’s a fight that is officially sanctioned by the WBA. The promoter has paid a sanctioning fee. We received a communication from the WBA stating the winner of those two fights will face each other within 90 days, or some time frame like that.
“I think the winner of Khan and Kotelnik and the winner of Ortiz and Maidana are deserving of fighting each other because both participated in officially sanctioned WBA fights. I don’t think the same can be said of Dmitry Salita.”
Schaefer also questioned how Salita got to be No. 1 in the first place.
“They’re saying that some promoters have too much pull in this sport,” he said. “Well, I can’t get one of my fighters who hasn’t fought a WBA eliminator or an interim title or even a Top 10 WBA contender into the mandatory position. In fact, they must have a lot of pull.”
Salita argues that he’s the No. 1 contender – bottom line.
The 27-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., said that Kotelnik-Khan shouldn’t be happening because he’s the mandatory challenger. And he said that Ortiz-Maidana definitely shouldn’t be happening while he’s No. 1.
He’s extremely upset over the prospect that he could lose what would be his first title shot.
“They’re a big company,” he said of Golden Boy. “They’re trying to bend the rules. They’re trying to kick everyone to the side and get their way, rules or no rules. When Oscar De La Hoya formed Golden Boy, he said he wanted to change boxing, to bring honor to the sport. This isn’t the honorable thing to do.
“This isn’t good for boxing. … This isn’t justice. This goes against the right to pursue happiness, which is why my family immigrated to this country (from Ukraine) and why I’ve worked so hard. We’ll see what happens.”
Schaefer acknowledged that Salita, a pro for eight years who has never lost a fight, deserves a shot at a world title and believes he will get it.
“I’m not disputing that,” Schaefer said. “It’s just not going to happen right now. It he waits, I’m sure something will work out within a matter of a few fights. You don’t know how all this will evolve. If Khan and Ortiz win, I really don’t think Khan is going to want to fight Ortiz. He might vacate (the title) and then Salita might fight Victor.
“Anyway, I’ll go on record and say that (Salita) will get his shot. We’ll work this whole mess out.”
Salita doesn’t like the consolation prize.
“They bully me and then tell me I’ll still have an opportunity?” he said. “That’s B.S. How can that happen?”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at RingTVeditor@yahoo.com