The show will go on for Oscar Rivas and the bridgerweight division.
A new opponent has been secured for Rivas (27-1, 19KOs), who will now face unbeaten Ryan Rozicki in the inaugural World Boxing Council (WBC) bridgerweight title fight. The event will take place October 22 at L’Olympia in Rivas’ hometown of Montreal, Canada.
Canada’s Rozicki (13-0, 13KOs) was approved by the WBC mere days after originally scheduled foe, Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings—a former heavyweight title challenger—was removed due to a dispute surrounding Canada's quarantine policy for visitors not who have not received the Covid-19 vaccination.
Yvon Michel, Rivas’ promoter and head of GYM Promotions revealed earlier in the week of Jennings—who is not vaccinated and was resistant to remaining in quarantine up until fight night—being removed from the show, with the plan of securing a replacement in the immediate aftermath.
That day has now arrived.
“To continue to fully support promoters of WBC events during the still ongoing world pandemic, and to help Groupe Yvon Michel to hold the event as scheduled, the WBC has agreed to sanction the WBC World Bridgerweight Title bout between Oscar Rivas and the #18 WBC-ranked Cruiserweight boxer Ryan Rozicki,” Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the WBC declared Friday. “Ryan is willing and able to satisfy all the governmental and commission-established safety requirements the ongoing pandemic has imposed upon promoters and fighters.
“The WBC requires that Rozicki comply with all the medical and administrative requirements of the WBC and the local commission, as well as the laws of the country of Canada.”
Rozicki brings a perfect record and Canadian heritage into the ring, though not much more beyond that. The 26-year-old from Nova Scotia has been a knockout every time out, having never fought beyond the third round prior to the pandemic. His most recent fight was his deepest as a pro, stopping Sylvera Louis in the sixth round of their regional title fight this past April in Vancouver—just 38 days after Rivas stopped Louis inside of three rounds this past March.
The upcoming showdown with the vastly more experienced Rivas will mark the first above the cruiserweight limit for Rozicki. The heaviest Rozicki weighed for a sanctioned pro bout came in his pro debut when he checked in at 200 ¾ pounds. He has since come in lighter than 200 pounds for twelve straight fights.
Rivas has moved in the opposite direction before trimming back down to the 224-pound bridgerweight limit. The veteran contender represented Colombia in the 2008 Olympics before relocating to Montreal prior to his August 2009 pro debut, for which he weighed 225 ¾ pounds.
Rivas weighed 223 pounds one fight later—his career lightest at the time before gradually putting on weight, including his weighing a career-heaviest 251 ½ pounds in April 2015. Rivas has not weighed more than 244 pounds since that point, and was a fighting fit 234 pounds for the biggest win of his career—a 12th round stoppage of Jennings in January 2019.
Six months later came the lone defeat of Rivas’ career, dropping a twelve-round unanimous decision to Dillian Whyte whom he managed to knock down in the ninth round of their July 2019 WBC interim heavyweight title fight. Rivas weighed 239 ¼ pounds that night, 18 pounds more than a career-low 221 ¼ pounds for his aforementioned knockout win over Louis—a fight which came just three months after the WBC’s official launch of the bridgerweight division.
Plans were in place for months for Rivas and Jennings to collide in a rematch, with both expressing a willingness to vie for the newly created title. The fight was delayed by several months before landing on the October 22 date. Things became problematic once it was learned that Jennings (24-4, 14KOs) is not vaccinated and was not receptive to remaining in quarantine for the final two weeks prior to the opening bell. The American theorized that doing so would hinder his ability to properly conclude training camp, though Michel insisted that Jennings would have enjoyed exclusive access to his own facility.
It’s an unfortunate development, as Rivas-Jennings II was clearly the preferred fight by all parties.
“As an organization, the WBC respects the beliefs and decisions of our fighters,” notes Sulaiman. “However, the WBC must also respect and abide by the governmental laws and regulations of each country where WBC-sanctioned events take place. While we are very sorry that Bryant Jennings is no longer one of the contenders for the world title of the newly created WBC Bridgerweight Division, our commitment to minimize the risks the pandemic presents continues.
“The WBC family is excited and thrilled about the prospect of crowning the first WBC World Bridgerweight Champion”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox