Joshua Buatsi and Eddie Hearn will have to settle for the fights already ordered by two separate sanctioning bodies.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the WBA has rejected a request submitted by Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing to grant an exemption for WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol. The hope was for Bivol to bypass a mandatory title defense against Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez and instead face Buatsi, though to no avail per an official ruling made Tuesday—a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.com.
“The WBA Championships Committee ratified the mandatory fight between light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol and his mandatory challenger Gilberto Ramirez,” Carlos Chavez, chairman of the WBA Championship Committee confirmed Wednesday afternoon. “After receiving a request for special permission to fight Joshua Buatsi from the champion and after an extensive study of the same, the WBA denied such permission.
“Bivol and Ramirez will have until August 10 (as originally planned) to reach an agreement or the fight will go to Purse bid.”
The ruling comes as camps for Bivol and Ramirez are up against the 30-day negotiation deadline to reach a deal for their previously ordered title fight. Bivol is represented in talks by Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and manager Vadim Kornilov, while Golden Boy Promotions and manager David Suh have negotiated on Ramirez’s behalf.
Bivol (20-0, 11KOs) is coming off a career-best win. The 31-year old Kyrgyzstan-born, Russian-based champ thoroughly outboxed undisputed super middleweight champion and then-pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez this past May 7 in Las Vegas. The WBA waited out Alvarez’s considering a decision to enforce an immediate rematch clause in the contract; the Mexican superstar instead moved forward with a trilogy clash against Gennadiy Golovkin.
Ramirez (44-0, 30KOs)—a former WBO super middleweight titlist from Mazatlan, Mexico—advanced to the mandatory position following a fourth-round knockout of Dominic Boesel in their final eliminator on May 14 in Ontario, California. The fight was placed one week after Bivol-Alvarez, to keep both fighters on the same schedule.
One week after Ramirez’s win, Buatsi (16-0, 13KOs) furthered his credentials with a twelve-round win over Craig Richards on May 21. The win allowed the unbeaten Brit—who claimed a Bronze medal for Great Britain in the 2016 Rio Olympics—to advance to the number-two position in the WBA rankings. It was just far enough to not disrupt the due mandatory title fight, despite the best efforts by Matchroom to get the WBA to change their mind.
Plans called for a Bivol-Buatsi fight to potentially take place this fall in Abu Dhabi had the request been approved by the WBA. Instead, Buatsi’s team will have to revisit talks with former champ Jean Pascal for an already ordered IBF final eliminator, with that deadline fast approaching later this month.
“The last time a mandatory fight was held in the 175-pound division was in March 2018, so the lapse is expired for the champion and he must face the mandatory challenger as established by the rules,” explained Chavez.
“It should be noted that WBA Rule C.47 dictates that ‘the Committee and the President, in their sole discretion, shall consider the best interests of boxing, the purposes and policies of the Association and such other factors as may be relevant, and shall use their best efforts to balance the competing interests. The WBA is not obliged to grant a request for special permission.”
With the ruling coming as the 30-day negotiation period is set to run out, it seems highly likely that Bivol-Ramirez will head to a purse bid hearing. That announcement is expected to come as early as Thursday morning.
Bivol has held his version of the WBA title since November 2017, having made eight successful defenses. His lone mandatory title fight came in his first defense, a 12th-round stoppage win over Sullivan Barrera in March 2018.
Ramirez is 5-0 since moving up to light heavyweight in 2019. Prior to that, the 31-year-old Mexican southpaw held the WBO super middleweight title dating back to his April 2016 points win over Arthur Abraham.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox