Lem Satterfield

WBC declares Bradley ‘champion in recess,’ Morales-Barros becomes title fight

Three-division titleholder Erik Morales will face Jorge Barrios for the WBC’s “official” junior welterweight title on the Sept. 17 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz card in Las Vegas, a move that lifts the crown from Tim Bradley, according to WBC Secretary General Mauricio Sulaiman.

“This is the official title. The WBC has abolished the interim title since last year to avoid all of the confusion that it has created,” Sulaiman said. “So it’s indeed for the official title.”

Sulaiman said that his organization has notified Bradley (27-0, 11 knockouts) as well as promoter Golden Boy of the decision. Golden Boy is promoting the Mayweather-Ortiz card.

“We sent the letters today to Golden Boy and to Timothy Bradley and to the fighters who are participating,” Sulaiman said. “We have three things to consider. No. 1, his inactivity. No. 2, the legal situation and the problems that he’s facing. And No. 3, the several comments Timothy Bradley has made about moving up in weight.”

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer confirmed that he was notified by Sulaiman.

“The WBC has decided that Timothy Bradley will be made champion in recess and once he has figured out his situation may be permitted to challenge for the title if that’s what he wants,” Schaefer said. “In the meantime,
Morales and Barrios will be fighting for the vacant title.”

Bradley displayed a surprisingly cool head in response to the latest development.

“The rule was that if I’m inactive for six months, and I’m going into litigation, then they can have Erik Morales fight for the interim title. They’re [Morales and Barriors] going to be fighting for the interim. That’s the rules,” said Bradley, whose manager, Cameron Dunkin, could not be reached for comment.

“Now if my inactivity exceeds a year, then they can take my title. Then they can strip me. But it hasn’t been a year yet. It will be six months next week. So they should be fighting for the interim title.”

Sulaiman says the uncertaintly of Bradley’s future cannot be overlooked.

“He has no schedule. We have been in communication, but we have not received his confirmation. But now it’s been six months after his fight with Devon Alexander. We have great regard for Timothy Bradley,” Sulaiman said.

Bradley was the WBO titlleholder when he took Devon Alexander’s WBC belt by a 11th-round technical decision in January. Bradley has not fought since then. He turned down an opportunity to fight WBA titleholder Amir Khan on July 23.

As a result of passing up the bout with Khan, Bradley has been sued by co-promoters Gary Shaw and Thompson Boxing Promotions.

“He is involved in some legal matters, and we hear that he is planning on moving up in weight as well,” Sulaiman said. “So the WBC has placed Timothy Bradley as champion in recess, not to hurt him, but because he has not defended his title in a timely manner.”

The 34-year-old Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) is ranked No. 3 by the WBC. No. 1 Alexander is moving up to 147 pounds, Sulaiman said.

Nigeria’s No. 2 Ajose Olusegun and No. 6 Ali Chebah of France will take part in an elimination bout for the right to challenge the Morales-Barrios winner. Ex-titlist Humberto Soto, Kendall Holt and Lucas Matthysse are rated Nos. 5, 6 and 7, respectively. Barrios (50-4-1, 35 KOs) is not ranked.

Sulaiman said the fact Barrios is a former WBO super featherweight titleholder allows him special consideration.

“Barrios is a former champion, so the rules of the WBC specify that former champions have the ability to petition that they fight for the title,” Sulaiman said. “Barrios is not currently ranked, but he will be ranked in the next ratings.”

Morales is the last man to defeat eight-division titleholder Manny Pacquiao, outpointing the Filipino in March 2005.

The Mexican is also widely known for losing two of three bouts against countryman Marco Antonio Barrera in a trilogy that has been compared to that of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

Along with Barrera, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Juan Manuel Marquez and Fernando Montiel, Morales is one of five three-division titleholders from Mexico. A victory over Barrios would allow Morales to stand alone.

“They often say that styles make fights, and I think that on paper, this can only be a great fight,” said Schaefer. “I think that it can be an entertaining fight that steals the show. These two guys are two action fighters, and it’s going to be a heck of a fight.”

Morales lost a disputed majority decision to Marcos Maidana in April, ending a winning streak at three. Still, a victory over Barrios could set up a fight with Khan in December at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Barrios, of Argentina, has won three consecutive fights, even as his career has been dogged by out-of-the-ring legal problems in Buenos Aires.

“Erik is the leading available contender, and he has a contracted fight scheduled for September,” Sulaiman said. “Erik has been a three-time WBC champion, and he has proven that he’s fit to fight when he almost defeated Maidana.”

Bradley has had a long-running feud with the WBC, which appeared to have been resolved a few days prior to his facing Alexander.

Bradley had initially refused to pay the WBC’s sanctioning fee against Alexander. That stemmed from a grudge that he has held since April of 2009, when the WBC stripped him of the belt he had earned with a split-decision over Junior Witter in 2008.

Before facing Alexander, however, Bradley agreed to pay the sanctioning fee — 3 percent of his purse — for the WBO and the WBC belts.

In January, WBC middleweight titlist Sergio Martinez was declared the organization’s Emeritus beltholder, essentially stripping the Argentinian-born fighter of the crown he earned by dethroning Kelly Pavlik in April. In addition, the WBC elevated to the status of full titleholder Sebastian Zbik. It then mandated that Zbik face Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who dethroned Zbik by unanimous decision last month.

Martinez’s status allows him to fight soon for the WBC belt, similar to when Vitali Klitschko retired as WBC titlist in November of 2005 due to injury.

Klitschko’s exit forced the cancelation of a mandated defense against top contender Hasim Rahman, but Klitschko unretired nearly four years later, was granted an immediate shot at  Nigeria’s Samuel Peter and regained the belt by by ninth-round stoppage.

Why Bradley’s situation is different from those of Martinez and Klitschko remains unclear.

“I’m still the champ,” said Bradley. “Tell them that I know the rules, and that they’ve got it twisted.”


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