The WBO is prepared to crown its next 140-pound champion.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the Puerto Rico-headquartered sanctioning body has ordered a fight between top contenders Arnold Barboza Jr. and Jose Ramirez. The next 24 hours will determine whether such a fight will be for the vacant WBO junior welterweight title—or if the belt is, in fact, up for grabs.
“Please be advised that the WBO World Championship Committee is hereby ordering the commencement of negotiations for the subject matter bout,” WBO Championship Committee chairman Luis Batista-Salas said of the ordered Barboza-Ramirez fight in an official ruling obtained by BoxingScene.com. “The parties herein are granted 20 days upon notice of this order to reach an agreement or purse bid proceedings will be ordered pursuant to WBO Regulations of World Championship Contests.
“Notwithstanding the above, on June 10, 2023, Teofimo Lopez, Jr., won the WBO Jr. Welterweight Championship via unanimous decision against former “Undisputed” and “Lineal” WBO Jr. Welterweight Champion Josh Taylor. Immediately thereafter, Teofimo Lopez, Jr., manifested publicly and to the WBO President, his desire of relinquishing the WBO Jr. Welterweight Championship.
“Now, if this Committee determines to declare the WBO Jr. Welterweight Championship “Vacant,” and the Barboza, Jr./Ramirez, Jr., bout is conducted, but Teofimo Lopez, Jr., decides to fight, considering the peculiar circumstances surrounding his decision as well as his personal affairs, we are recommending to the WBO Executive Committee Members that based on his extraordinary professional accomplishments that he shall have the right to fight as the Mandatory Challenger in the Jr. Welterweight division regardless of any “Undisputed Champion” who wishes to fight for the WBO Jr. Welterweight Championship1 in a period no greater than 12 months from the date the Barboza, Jr./Ramirez, Jr. bout takes place.”
However, there are several stipulations in place.
Teofimo Lopez (19-1, 13KOs) claimed the WBO and lineal junior welterweight championship in a twelve-round win over Scotland’s Josh Taylor on June 10 in New York City. Five days later, WBO president Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel confirmed that contact was made by Lopez to confirm that he was vacating the belt as part of his planned retirement from the sport as a two-division lineal champion at just 25 years of age.
The sanctioning body accepted the contact but its Executive Committee has called for something more official.
Lopez is now on the clock to confirm his status.
“Teofimo Lopez, Jr., personally, has 24 hours upon issuance of this notice to confirm in writing to the WBO Championship Committee whether he retains his WBO Jr. Welterweight Championship,” noted Batista-Salas. “If the WBO Championship Committee does not receive such confirmation in writing within the term stated herein or having the 24 hour term elapsed without no confirmation, on behalf of Teofimo Lopez, Jr., it will be understood that the WBO Jr. Welterweight Championship is declared Vacant.
“if Teofimo Lopez, Jr., personally, confirms in writing that he is retaining his WBO Jr. Welterweight Championship, the Barboza, Jr./Ramirez, Jr., negotiation order is terminated “Ipso Facto.”
Barboza (28-0, 10KOs) is the number-one ranked WBO contender, with Ramirez (28-1, 18KOs)—a former WBC/WBO 140-pound titlist—one spot below. Both are promoted by Top Rank and managed by Rick Mirigian.
Top Rank has also promoted Brooklyn’s Lopez throughout his seven-year pro career.
Another wild card that could disrupt the ordered fight and its title status is the potential arrival of Devin Haney (30-0, 15KOs).
Much has been made about the undisputed lightweight champion moving up in weight. BoxingScene.com has confirmed that contact was made by Matchroom Boxing, who represents WBC titlist Regis Prograis for a potential title defense versus Haney.
Given his standing as undisputed champion, there is room for Haney to immediately challenge for the WBO title—though it would have to come versus Barboza if the belt is declared vacant; or versus Lopez in the event the current champ immediately walks back his retirement claim.
“Haney, personally, has 24 hours upon issuance of this notice to confirm in writing to the WBO Championship Committee whether he will move up to Jr. Welterweight Division to face Arnold Barboza, Jr.,” the ruling stated. “If the WBO Championship Committee does not receive such confirmation in writing within the term stated herein or having the 24 hour term elapsed without no confirmation, on behalf of Haney, it will be understood that he will stay in the Lightweight Division. If Haney, personally, confirms in writing to moving up to the Jr. Welterweight division, the Barboza, Jr./Ramirez, Jr., negotiation order is terminated “Ipso Facto.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox