Josh Taylor is slowly stepping away from his junior welterweight throne.
The oft-postponed purse bid for Taylor’s WBC mandatory title defense versus Jose Zepeda is permanently off the table, as BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Scotland’s Taylor has formally vacated the title.
The development comes after three separate delays to determine promotional rights for the title fight that was ordered more than two months ago.
“The WBC has just received a letter from Josh [Taylor’s] attorney in which he confirms his decision to relinquish The WBC super lightweight championship,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman confirmed Friday morning. “The WBC truly regrets having lost so much time and having mandatory contender Jose Zepeda frozen as well as other fighters in the division.
“We wish Josh Taylor success in his future inside and outside the ring.”
Not is all lost for California’s Zepeda (35-2, 27KOs) who remains in the hunt for the vacant title. The WBC formally ordered a fight between Zepeda and former WBC/WBO champ Jose Ramirez, in what would be a rematch to their February 2019 affair in Fresno. Ramirez edged Zepeda via majority decision as part of a three-year title reign from March 2018 through his narrow, unanimous decision defeat to Taylor in their undisputed championship last May.
The ordered Zepeda-Ramirez fight will come with a 30-day free negotiation period to come to terms, before an August 1 purse bid hearing will be called. Top Rank promotes both Ramirez and Taylor, and has worked with Zepeda for the past several years in partnership with Fernando Beltran’s Zanfer Boxing.
Taylor (19-0, 13KOs) has now relinquished two of the four major titles he held following his win over Ramirez. The Scottish southpaw entered the fight as the reigning WBA/IBF champ, claiming the WBC/WBO titles from Ramirez in a fight where it was made known that a swarm of mandatories would await the winner.
The win by Taylor came with two inherited mandatories. WBO number-one contender Jack Catterall was first in line as per an agreement by the Brit to allow the undisputed championship to proceed with the assurance that he would land the winner. Taylor made good on that promise, only to suffer an injury that delayed their planned December 18 clash in Glasgow. The bout was rescheduled for February 26, with Taylor surviving a knockdown to claim a highly debatable split decision win.
Demand came for a rematch, though Taylor was pressed with having to clear a path with the WBA and the WBC. He’s done so the hard way, first severing ties with the WBA in lieu of a mandatory title defense versus unbeaten Dominican contender Alberto Puello.
The Puello fight made its way to a purse bid, won by TGB Promotions on behalf of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), who planned to stage the bout on a then-scheduled July 16 show in Las Vegas. In all likelihood, it was a calculated bluff as Taylor seemed to have little interest in moving forward with the date and was more focused on his upcoming wedding and honeymoon which conflicted with the time frame.
Puello will now face Batyr Akhmedov for the vacant WBA title.
Taylor was still left with the prospect of working out terms with Zepeda to defend the WBC title. Instead came the perception of stalling for time, as the WBC drew a line through purse bid dates scheduled for May 24, June 24 and now Friday’s affair.
Zepeda worked his way to the number-one spot following his sixth-round knockout of Ivan Baranchyk in their epic October 2020 slugfest that saw both boxers hit the deck four times each. Zepeda was the last one left standing, delivering a highlight reel knockout in the universally acclaimed 2020 Fight of the Year.
The win was part of his current six-fight unbeaten streak dating back to his narrow majority decision loss to Ramirez, who was the unbeaten WBC titlist at the time of their February 2019 clash in Fresno, California. Included in the mix is a first-round knockout of The Bronx-bred, streaking Puerto Rican prospect Josue Vargas in hostile territory at Madison Square Garden Hulu Theater in New York City last October.
Zepeda since added a second-round knockout win over Francisco Perez this past March 19 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The fight came as a stay-busy affair while waiting out the WBC to sort out his mandatory title challenger status due to Taylor having been ordered by the WBA to next face Puello.
Ramirez rebounded from the loss to Taylor with a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over former two-division titlist Jose Zepeda this past March in Fresno.
Taylor’s next move is unknown. A rematch with Catterall remains the most-oft suggested course of action, though unclear if such a fight will be made next and for any of Taylor’s remaining titles. The 31-year-old Scot is still the recognized lineal, IBF and WBO champion, although the IBF title could be next. The New Jersey-based IBF sanctioning body approved an interim title fight between top contenders Jeremias Ponce and Subriel Matias, with the expectation that the winner will either next face Taylor or receive an upgrade to full champion should he vacate.
Ironically, the disputed win over Catterall remains Taylor’s lone satisfied mandatory title defense which means he can retain the WBO strap at least through his next ordered title fight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox