The WBO's play in the Welterweight and Light Heavyweight divisions.
The WBO made two significant announcements this week. First, pound for pound king Terrance Crawford has been promoted to mandatory challenger for WBO Welterweight champion Jeff Horn. Jeff Horn must first defend his belt on December 13 against England’s Gary Corcoran, which he is widely expected to do. He must then schedule a bout against Crawford within 90 days. In theory, the negotiations between Horn and Crawford should be simple because Top Rank promotes them both. But Horn most likely doesn’t have the motivation to make a fight in which he will surely lose the belt and be relegated to a trivia answer: name the unknown Australian fighter who upset an old and out of shape Manny Pacquiao. On the other hand, the fight will anoint Crawford as a force to be reckoned with in a third weight class. While Crawford has announced that he will take on all comers in the welterweight division, once he has the WBO belt, he will no longer be ranked by the other sanctioning bodies, giving others in the division an excuse to avoid him as they fight their mandatories instead of moving to unify.
The second announcement is that the November 25, 2017 bout between Sergey Kovalev and Vyacheslav Shabransky will now be for the vacant WBO Light Heavyweight belt.
The WBO Light Heavyweight belt was the first of three championships Kovalev owned before his controversial first loss to Andre Ward in November 2016, so the announcement may have some personal significance to Kovalev. Despite being currently ranked #2 by the WBO behind Oleksandr Gvozdyk, it appears by all likelihood that in November Kovalev will once again become the WBO champion. Unless of course, Shabransky manages to go to Kovalev’s body as Ward did. Because of Ward’s retirement, should Kovalev win in November as expected, he will once again be considered the man to beat in the division and still avoided by Adonis Stevenson.
With the announcements the WBO has effectively gifted two of its belts to two great fighters. Arguably, these will be the easiest belts either Crawford or Kovalev have won. But the gift is a smart marketing move by the WBO. It essentially guaranteeing that two of the biggest names in boxing will be promoting the organization around their waists.
Feature photo: Kelly Owen @k.o.fotos / Frontproof Media