The Fates of the Vacant WBO & WBA Titles
The WBO and WBA heavyweight championships now no longer have a champion attached to them, thanks to Tyson Fury voluntarily giving them up due to his battle with cocaine, alcohol and depression. But now, this has left the boxing organizations needing to figure out how to fill these vacancies.
Wladimir Klitschko, who is ranked No. 2 in the WBO heavyweight rankings and was scheduled to face off with Fury later this month, is now in talks for a title bout with IBF champion Anthony Joshua. If this is the case, the top two available ranked fighters to potentially compete for the vacant WBO title would be No. 1 Joseph Parker and No. 3 Andy Ruiz Jr.
"We’re talking to the WBO about making it for the vacant title," said Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who represents Ruiz. "If they go along we told them Andy would be happy to fight Joe in New Zealand. I’ve never been to New Zealand so I’m looking forward to it."
Parker is the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s IBF title; however, that bout would not be until early next year. Parker said he’d rather fight for the vacant title in New Zealand, his home country, if given the opportunity.
"We are happy to fight anyone," Parker said. "I see Ruiz as a fighter who has a lot of experience and will take this opportunity very serious. He’s a dangerous fighter. With fighting good fighters it brings out the best in me. If we do fight for a world title and hold it in New Zealand it’ll be a historic moment for myself, family and country."
The two parties reportedly have already gotten to the point of discussing possible dates for the fight. Arum has said a January fight might be better for Ruiz because he recently joined the camp of Abel Sanchez. Sanchez has been working with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin for a Dec. 10 title defense against Daniel Jacobs, so, Arum said, a January bout would give Sanchez and Ruiz more time to work together.
WBO President Francisco Valcarcel told ESPN on Wednesday night he was planning a four-man box-off for the vacant title. The top four in the WBO heavyweight rankings, in order, right now are Parker, Klitschko, Ruiz and No. 4 David Haye, so the mini-tournament could feature these four, although that is not a guarantee depending on who would and would not sign on for this. A final decision will be made at the WBO’s annual convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico next week.
The WBA has not announced any plans to fill their vacant title as of Thursday evening.
UPDATE (10/13/16, 9:30 p.m.): According to a report from U.K. publication The Daily Mirror, promoter Eddie Hearn is hoping that the potential bout between Klitschko and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will determine the new WBA heavyweight champion. Hearn says the two parties have not finalized a deal, but are in good talks, and the WBA would need to give its blessing for the vacant title to be on the line.
Fight Sports will continue to update this story as the news progresses.