Having vacated his IBF belt in favor of rising in weight, THE RING’s No. 2-rated bantamweight, Abner Mares, will face Eric Morel on April 21 for the WBC’s junior featherweight crown previously owned by Toshiaki Nishioka.
According to WBC Secretary General Mauricio Sulaiman, the decision comes in the wake of the long-dominant 35-year-old Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 knockouts) citing personal issues as his reason for not being able to immediately defend his title.
In addition, Sulaiman has confirmed reports that a Showtime-televised July 28 clash between RING No. 2-rated lightweight Robert Guerrero (29-1-1, 18 KOs), a five-belt winner over the course of three divisions, and Germany’s unbeaten Selcuk Aydin (23-0, 17 KOs) will be for the WBC’s interim belt.
Aydin holds the WBC’s silver title, and Guerrero is a two-time IBF featherweight and one-time IBF junior lightweight beltholder who has won 13 consecutive fights with nine stoppages during that run.
Sulaiman said that the Aydin-Guerrero situation developed as a result of titleholder Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (42-0, 26 KOs) rising in weight to pursue his eighth title belt against WBA junior middleweight beltholder Miguel Cotto on May 5. In addition, Mayweather is scheduled to begin serving jail time on June 1.
“Nishioka will be named Champion Emeritus because he is waiting and can not defend the title right now. So the Mares-Morel fight will be for the WBC championship. We will do this during the next week,” said Sulaiman of Mares (23-0-1, 13 KOs) versus Morel (46-2, 23 KOs), which will take place at the Don Haskins Convention Center, El Paso, Texas.
“Nishioka has a personal situation, and he has asked the WBC to consider it for him. He has a voluntary defense that has been allowed by the WBC, but he will not freeze the division because he can not fight in a certain amount of time. So instead of freezing the division, we are giving other fighters the chance to fight for the championship, and then, he will come back whenever he is ready to fight.”
Sulaiman also addressed the Mayweather situation.
“The WBC champion is Floyd Mayweather, and he’s fighting on May 5, and then he has a commitment that he has to attend to. The WBC has always and will always be in his support,” said Sulaiman.
“So the WBC has agreed to sanction Aydin-Guerrero for the interim WBC championship.”
WHAT ABOUT DEVON ALEXANDER?
With Aydin and Guerrero facing off for the WBC’s welterweight belt, the duo has basically leap-frogged over the organization’s No. 1-ranked contender, former WBC/IBF junior welterweight titleholder Devon Alexander (23-1, 13 KOs).
Alexander is coming off last month’s one-sided, unanimous decision over Marcos Maidana (31-3, 28 KOs) in his welterweight debut, this after citing extreme weight-loss as a reason for a series of lackluster performances at lightweight.
“When Devon Alexander moved up in weight, he was put in the highest position in the rankings,” said Sulaiman. “Alexander just competed in a fight, and he’s a former champion, and he has always been supported by the WBC as well, so Alexander is right there.”
Asked if it would be Alexander or the Aydin-Guerrero winner who would have the first shot at Mayweather should the unbeaten titlewinner return to the division, Sulaiman would not hazard a guess.
“We will not speculate, because we have done so in the past, and many things can happen. The figtht could be delayed, the fight might not happen, Floyd might not go to jail. So many things can happen that we would rather not speculate,” said Sulaiman.
“The ruling is that the WBC will support Floyd, and he has a fight scheduled and a legal situation, so the WBC has agreed on the interim championship, and we will be addressing issues as the come afterward.”
Ortiz-Berto II will take place on June 23 at either the MGM Grand in Las Vegas or the Staples Center in Los Angeles, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who plans to “have Devon back in late July or August, or something like that.”
MORE ON MARES
Mares earned the IBF title last August from Joseph Agbeko, and his only defense was a mandated return bout following the controversy over referee Russell Mora’s failure to penalize Mares for low blows in the first fight. Mares won the rematch by unanimous decision.
Mares giving up the belt opened the door for South Africa’s Vusi Malinga (20-3-1, 12 KOs) to face A.J. Banal (26-1-1, 19 KOs) of the Philippines for the vacant title.
Over a 20-month span, Mares, who is 26, has beaten Agbeko twice, former titleholder Vic Darchinyan once, and battled to a draw with ex-beltholder Yonnhy Perez. In May of 2010, Mares fought to a draw with the then-unbeaten Perez in a failed attempt to earn the IBF belt before defeating Darchinyan by a split decision in December of that same year.
His opponent, Morel, is a Puerto Rican-born Madison, Wis., resident and former 1996 Olympian nicknamed “Little Hands Of Steel.” He has won his past 11 fights, five of them by knockout.
Morel won the WBA flyweight belt by unanimous decision over Sornpichai Kratingdaenggym in August of 2000 and defended that crown five times — twice by knockout– before losing it by unanimous decision to Lorenzo Parra in December of 2003.
In March of 2005, Morel lost his bid for the WBA’s junior bantamweight title by unanimous decision to Martin Castillo, and was subsequently convicted and imprisoned for three years for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.
Morel returned to the ring with an eight-round, unanimous decision over Felipe Almanza in February of 2008 to begin his current winning streak.
A LOOK AT NISHIOKA’S DOMINANCE
Nishioka has not tasted defeat in over eight years, last being out-pointed by long-reigning WBC bantamweight titleholder and Thai legend Veeraphol Sahaprom in March of 2004.
Nishioka has a 16-bout winning streak that includes 10 knockouts, and a 12th-round stoppage of Genaro Garcia in January of 2009 that was the first defense of the belt he earned with a unanimous decision over Napapol Sor Rungvisai in September of 2008.
Nishioka is the last man to defeat WBC featherweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez (51-7, 45 KOs), of Mexico City, who scored his 11th straight knockout against Roniet Caballero in December. Nishioka rose from a first-round knockdown to both drop and stop Gonzalez in the third round of their fight in May of 2009.
JAPAN’S CHARLIE OTA COMES ‘HOME’ TO NEW YORK ON SATURDAY
The circuitous journey for Charlie Ota (19-1, 13 KOs), aka Charles Bellamy, comes full circle Saturday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden as the 30-year-old junior middleweight makes his American debut, ironically, in the city in which he was born, nearly 6,800 miles from where he lives in Tokyo.
Ota faces veteran Gundrick King (16-7, 11 KOs) in an eight-round bout on the Martinez’s middleweight bout against Matthew Macklin.
Top photo by Tom Casino-Showtime.
Photo by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Chris Farina / Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com