ON January 29, Beibut Shumenov will defend his WBA secondary cruiserweight title against the unheralded Raphael Murphy at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida on a Don King-promoted bill. This came as a surprise to interim belt-holder Ryad Merhy.

In November, the WBA sent a letter – seen by Boxing News – to Shumenov, instructing him to enter into negotiations for a mandatory defence against interim titlist, Ryad Merhy. The deadline for a deal was December 31.

Merhy’s team waited for negotiations to begin but nothing happened. On January 6 they saw an online report stating that Shumenov would be fighting Murphy instead.

The following day, Merhy’s team received notification from the WBA, alongside a copy of an application from Don King Productions (dated December 29) requesting special permission from the WBA to approve a voluntary defence against Murphy.

Murphy is 35 years old and his record, 14-1 (11), makes for bleak reading. Though ranked number eight by the WBA, he is inactive since August 2019. Back then, he defeated Larry Pryor (record, 11-20 and the loser of six of his last seven bouts) on a four-round decision. Before that Murphy stopped Oswaldo Ortega (3-11) in two rounds in May 2019, Juan Reyna (6-9-1) in one round in July 2018 and, in February 2017, Hugo Trujillo (2-0-1) beat Murphy in five. Needless to say, none of those opponents were ranked by the WBA.

Topping the bill in Florida is Manuel Charr – inactive since 2017 – defending his secondary WBA heavyweight belt against Trevor Bryan.