IF any boxing fan needs evidence that the vast majority of WBA belts aren’t worth the synthetic leather they’re made from, one should take a look at the contest the sanctioning body are peddling as a world heavyweight title fight this weekend. Promoted by Don King (more on that old rogue in a bit) and starring Manuel Charr [above] and Trevor Bryan, this bout – and the road to it – should be used as Exhibit A in the case against the World Boxing Association.
The lineage of the WBA secondary heavyweight title – also known as the ‘regular’ belt – can be traced back to 2011 when the organisation decided to create a ‘super’ belt as David Haye, then WBA boss, took on WBO and IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko in a unification showdown. One month after Klitschko outpointed Haye to become WBA heavyweight champion, the WBA sanctioned a bout between Alexander Povetkin and Ruslan Chagaev for the vacant ‘regular’ heavyweight championship.
So in 2011, and I appreciate this is hard to follow, the WBA recognised Klitschko as their super world heavyweight champion and Povetkin as their regular world heavyweight champion. Two years later, in a battle of WBA heavyweight titlists, Klitschko dominated Povetkin over 12 rounds to briefly restore order of sorts. It didn’t last; despite Klitschko being active, the WBA put Chagaev in with Fres Oquendo in 2014 to crown another regular champ. Chagaev beat Oquendo who in turn failed a post-fight drug test which he disputed before eventually securing a federal court order for another title chance.
Meanwhile, the WBA added the ‘interim’ title to their collection of world heavyweight baubles. Two months after Chagaev became regular champion, Luis Ortiz knocked out Lateef Kayode inside a round to win dubious interim recognition. After the bout, Ortiz failed a drug test. Atop the WBA ladder, clear from the carnage below, Klitschko remained active as super champion – thus making any other WBA heavyweight title claim completely nonsensical.
On we go into 2015. Chagaev notched a successful defence of his regular strap and Ortiz – the same Ortiz who the year before had failed a drug test – returned to make a successful defence of his interim belt. At the end of the year, Tyson Fury took the real title from Klitschko – though the notion that any WBA belt was ‘real’ or credible at this point is up for debate.
In 2016, Lucas Browne beat Chageav to become regular belt-holder and then tested positive for banned substance clenbuterol after the fight. In June of that year, Fury was ‘baffled’ by reports stating nandrolone had been found in his system the previous year.
Fast forward to April 2017. The WBA, perhaps concerned that all of their sanctioning fee-paying titlists had hit the skids, said the winner of Klitschko versus Anthony Joshua would be their new super champion. Joshua won in 11 rounds. Ortiz – yes, still the same Ortiz who failed a test in 2014 – failed another test later in 2017. In November, and despite Joshua defending the WBA belt, the body threw together Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov for their vacant regular gong (after Shannon Briggs versus Oquendo, the original choices to contest the horror belt, was scuppered when Briggs failed a drug test). Charr won and was ordered to fight Oquendo.
But in 2018, ahead of what would have been Oquendo’s first fight in four years, Charr became the latest WBA champion to flunk a test. Joshua, the real super bona-fide actual champ, was still active. Nevertheless, in November that year, the WBA made Trevor Bryan versus BJ Flores because they needed an interim champion again.
So, after 13 fights for tinpot WBA titles, a further 17 for the super belt, 60 sanctioning fees paid, and six imposters crowned since 2011, we come back to the start of the tale. This weekend, Charr – who has not fought since 2017 and has managed to ‘clear’ his name of any PED misuse because a representative of his was not present when his B-sample was opened – will defend (that’s right, he was not stripped) his WBA regular strap against Bryan (inactive for two-and-a-half years) in Florida. Well, that’s the plan; as we went to press it emerged that Don King had asked the WBA to approve Bermane Stiverne as Bryan’s opponent instead after concerns that Charr wouldn’t be able to get a visa to fight in America.
Stiverne, by the way, has lost his last two fights by knockout and failed a drug test in 2016. He’ll fit right in.