Jermell Charlo remains the true junior middleweight champion but is now two belts removed from undisputed status. has confirmed that Houston’s Charlo has vacated the IBF 154-pound title, in lieu of honoring an overdue mandatory title defense versus Bakhram Murtazaliev. A purse bid hearing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled given the circumstances, an IBF spokesperson confirmed.

Russia’s Murtazaliev will likely be ordered to next face Germany’s Jack Culcay as the two highest ranked contenders in the IBF ratings. Both fighters not only anticipated such a move but previously confirmed a willingness to move forward with such a fight if it reached that point.

The development ends a fight more than three years on hold and which was overdue by at least ten months.

Murtazaliev (22-0, 15KOs) has been the mandatory challenger since November 2019. His team—which includes promoter Main Events and manager Egis Kilmas—previously worked with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) to allow Charlo to further unify the 154-pound divisional titles. Their reward was a series of step aside packages and slots on non-televised PBC undercards for his past four bouts, two of which featured Charlo in unification bouts.

That good fortune came to an end once it was time to resurface the mandatory that the IBF has agreed on multiple occasions to postpone given the cooperation of both parties. Murtazaliev’s team was prepared to stick to its guns to ensure the unbeaten contender receives his overdue title shot.

Charlo (35-2-1, 19KOs) already relinquished the WBO junior middleweight title in lieu of a previously scheduled—and ultimately canceled—clash versus Australia’s Tim Tszyu. He instead moved up two weight divisions and was permitted to enter the ring as undisputed champion for a far more lucrative fight versus fully unified super middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (60-2-2, 39KOs). 

The fight was blessed by the WBO with the understanding that Charlo would be announced as the recognized undisputed champion before the WBO would strip him of the title. He then proceeded to drop a landslide decision defeat to Alvarez, though he was able to retain his WBA, WBC and IBF junior middleweight titles.

That list is whittled down to just two and with a WBA mandatory title defense looming versus Uzbekistan’s Israil Madrimov (9-0-1, 6KOs). The fight has yet to be ordered but is expected to come up during the WBA’s annual convention this December 11-15 in Orlando.

There was no wiggle room for Charlo to avoid the mandatory versus Murtazaliev without having to vacate. A written and verified agreement was in place that he was due to face the winner of the Charlo’s rematch versus Argentina’s Brian Castano last May 14 in Carson, California. The two previously met in July 2021, when their full unification bout ended in a split-decision draw. Castano held the WBO title at the time.

Charlo’s team agreed to next face Murtazaliev following his desired rematch with Castano. However, those plans were compromised when the WBO trumped the IBF in the mandatory rotation order and instead instructed Charlo to next face Tszyu, which led to the titles being splintered once again.

Murtazaliev became the mandatory after a November 2019 win over Jorge Fortea in their title eliminator.

Charlo has held the WBC title on two separate occasions. His second and current reign dates to his revenge-fueled December 2019 eleventh-round knockout of Tony Harrison to regain the WBC title he lost exactly 52 weeks prior. He added the WBA and IBF belts in an eighth-round knockout of Jeison Rosario during their September 2020 unification bout and the WBO strap in his aforementioned stoppage of Castano, which marked his last fight at the weight.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox