Two interim title fights are now in play in lieu of a mandatory title defense.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the WBO granted approval for two-division and reigning middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade to pursue a fight at super middleweight in lieu of a mandatory title defense versus Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alikmhanuly. That decision has now come with the sanctioning body making available an interim middleweight title with its ordered fight between Alimkhanuly and Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao.
The matchup of unbeaten middleweights leaves the winner in a good place, regardless of the outcome of Andrade’s planned interim super middleweight title fight versus England’s Zach Parker.
“Please be advised that the parties herein are granted 10-days upon issuing this order to commence negotiations for the subject matter bout and reach an agreement,” Luis Batista-Salas, chairman of the WBO Championship Committee stated to all parties in similarly worded letters for both ordered fights. “If an agreement is not reached within the time prescribed, purse bid proceedings will be ordered according to WBO Regulations of World Championship Contests.”
The interim title fight between Providence’s Andrade (31-0, 19KOs) and Parker (22-0, 16KOs) brings longtime rivals Eddie Hearn and Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren to the negotiating table. Andrade fights under Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing banner, while Warren’s Queensberry Promotions represents Parker.
Alimkhanuly (11-0) 7KOs) and Falcao (29-0, 23KOs) are both promoted by Top Rank.
Andrade made the decision to move up in weight just days ahead of a rescheduled purse bid hearing to determine promotional rights for his mandatory middleweight title fight with Alimkhanuly. A fight with Parker was in play during the beginning of the negotiation period shortly after the WBO ordered Andrade-Alimkhanuly last November 30.
Too much time had elapsed without a deal in place for the super middleweight fight, leaving the sanctioning body to call a purse bid hearing for Andrade-Alimkhanuly. The session has since endured four separate delays before being tabled once Andrade-Parker was back in play.
The move doesn’t alleviate Andrade of his responsibilities at middleweight.
The idea behind both interim title fights is that the winner will be owed a shot at the full title at their respective weights. That will leave Andrade with a hard decision to make, should he beat Parker.
A win by the two-division titlist and 2008 U.S. Olympian will leave him as the leading contender for the WBO super middleweight title held by undisputed champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (57-1-2, 39KOs). However, it doesn’t guarantee that Andrade will receive a straightaway shot at the Mexican superstar.
Meanwhile, he will have ten days to decide whether to remain at 168 or return to middleweight, where he will be required to next face the Alimkhanuly-Falcao winner. If Andrade remains at super middleweight, the Alimkhanuly-Falcao winner will be upgraded to full WBO middleweight titlist.
Of course, that’s if Andrade wins. Parker will be under no such obligation as he does not campaign at middleweight nor is Andrade’s WBO middleweight title at stake in their fight.
Parker has been the WBO super middleweight mandatory contender dating back to his eleventh-round knockout of Rohan Murdock in March 2020. Three stay busy wins have followed in an active 2021 campaign, including a fourth-round knockout of Marcus Morrison in his most recent bout last November 6 in Birmingham, England.
Andrade has made five defenses of his WBO middleweight title. His most recent win came in a second-round knockout of Ireland’s Jason Quigley last November 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The feat took place one night prior to Alimkhanuly and Falcao posting separate wins on the same ESPN+ Pay-Per-View card last November 20 in Las Vegas.
Alimkhanuly earned an eighth-round stoppage of Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, his second straight win over a former secondary WBA middleweight titlist. He needed as much time to dispose of Rob Brant in dominantly one-sided fashion last June.
Falcao placed himself in a favorable position with the IBF in addition to his being in the right place at the right time in the middleweight rankings. The 2012 Olympic Silver medalist earned a technical decision win over Patrice Volny in their IBF middleweight title eliminator last November. Fighting for the interim WBO middleweight title could jeopardize that position, though a decision he will have to make in the current ten-day negotiation period.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox