Rey Vargas has shifted his goal from unifying the featherweight titles to become a three-division titlist.
The WBC Board of Governors unanimously approved a request filed by Vargas, its current featherweight champ, to challenge for the vacant WBC junior lightweight title. The unbeaten two-division title claimant will have to face number-one ranked WBC contender O’Shaquie Foster, with a 30-day negotiation period expected to be ordered in the coming days.
Vargas is represented by Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), while Foster fights under the Probellum banner.
The WBC and WBO belts became available when Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9KOs) was stripped after failing to make weight ahead of a September 23 unanimous decision win over Robson Conceicao.
Vargas (36-0, 22KOs) was previously rumored to next face WBA ‘Super’ featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz in a title unification bout targeted to take place this fall. The bout was presented to the WBA as a done deal, as means for Santa Cruz and WBA ‘World’ featherweight titleholder Leigh Wood to avoid a title consolidation clash. Those plans backfired when Wood suffered an injury which canceled his planned fight with Mauricio ‘Bronco’ Lara, while Santa Cruz-Vargas never made its way to the schedule.
With the fallout, Vargas now moves onward and upward.
The 31-year-old from Otumba, Mexico previously held the WBC junior featherweight title from February 2017 through August 2020, when he was downgraded to Champion in Recess after a broken leg kept him out of the ring for all of 2020. He officially moved up to featherweight beginning with a ten-round win over countryman Leonardo Baez last November 5 in Las Vegas, then going on to outpoint unbeaten Mark Magsayo to win the WBC featherweight title in his most recent fight on July 9 in San Antonio.
Foster (19-2, 11KOs) is currently riding a nine-fight win streak dating back to 2017. The 29-year-old Houston native has advanced to the number-one position in the WBC junior lightweight rankings following a knockout win over Miguel Roman in November 2019 and a lopsided points victory over then-unbeaten Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov on March 18 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Assuming a fight between Foster and Vargas sees the light of day, the winner will be required to make two mandatory title defenses per WBC by-laws covering vacant title fights.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox