Ronny Rios and his handlers went into the annual World Boxing Association (WBA) convention with hopes of coming away with a shot at the junior featherweight title.
They will have to instead settle for a bid at the “interim” version of the crown.
The streaking contender from Santa Ana, California was approved to challenge for the vacant WBA “interim” 122-pound belt, against an opponent to be named as ruled during the sanctioning body’s 99th annual convention. The ruling is a consolation prize for Rios and Golden Boy Promotions, who hoped for a shot at unbeaten “Regular” titlist Brandon Figueroa.
Instead, the WBA ordered two separate fights. While an interim title fight was assigned to Rios, a voluntary defense has been afforded to Figueroa, the unbeaten titlist from Weslaco, Texas whom will next face Damien Vazquez (15-1-1, 8KOs).
Dates and locations for either bout were not made available to BoxingScene.com as this goes to publish.
Figueroa (20-0-1, 15KOs) claimed the interim version of the WBA 122-pound title with an 8th round stoppage of Yonfrez Parejo last April, lodging a successful defense in the form of a homecoming headliner in stopping Argentina’s Javier Chacon in four rounds last August in Edinburg, Texas.
Soon thereafter came an upgrade to “Regular” titlist, with Figueroa’s lone defense of that belt resulting in a 12-round draw versus former WBC title claimant Julio Ceja last November. Ceja weighed in above the featherweight limit for their bout, leaving Figueroa essentially to play with house money.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6KOs) is the WBA “Super” 122-pound champion as well as the IBF champ, earning both belts in a 12-round win over Daniel Roman this past January in a leading contender for 2020 Fight of the Year.
Vazquez comes in miserably underqualified no matter how the fight is packaged.
The 23-year old southpaw came up well short in an eight-round shutout loss to former bantamweight champion Juan Carlos Payano last March. Vazquez landed on the undercard of Figueroa’s aforementioned homecoming last August, where he was held to a six-round draw versus sub .500 Josue Morales. The Las Vegas-based prospect finally landed back in the win column, coming last November over 42-year old Alejandro Moreno who has now lost 15 straight dating back to 2011.
Rios (32-3, 16KOs) garnered strong consideration for 2019’s Comeback of the Year award, on the strength of three knockout wins. Chief among them was a 6th round stoppage of then-unbeaten Diego de la Hoya last July, before capping off the year with a 4th round stoppage of Hugo Berrio last November in Los Angeles.
The 30-year old contender came up short in his lone career title bid, dropping a competitive but clear 12-round decision to unbeaten WBC titlist Rey Vargas in August 2017.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox