The quest for an undisputed champion in the junior middleweight division has hit its second snag in less than a week.
The International Boxing Federation (IBF) has ordered a mandatory title fight between its reigning champion Jermell Charlo and number-one contender Bakhram Murtazaliev. The fight was formally ordered on Wednesday, as confirmed to BoxingScene.com by the New Jersey-based sanctioning body.
The two sides will have 30 days to negotiate terms to avoid a purse bid hearing. Charlo fights under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner and is represented by TGB Promotions in negotiations; Murtazaliev is represented by Main Events and manager Egis Klimas.
Houston’s Charlo (34-1-1, 18KOs) inherited the mandatory title defense following his eighth-round knockout of Jeison ‘Banana’ Rosario in their three-belt unification clash last September 26 on Showtime Pay-Per-View from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Charlo entered the bout as the two-time and reigning WBC titlist, defending that belt while claiming Rosario’s IBF and WBA titles along with recognition as the division’s lineal champion.
He also left with an overdue mandatory title defense. Rosario had to file an exception in order to move forward with the unification bout, while Charlo had to do the same in order to proceed with his four-belt showdown with WBO titlist Brian Castaño (17-0-1, 12KOs) on July 17 at AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The thrilling twelve-round affair ended in a split decision draw. Judge Nelson Vazquez (117-111) had Charlo winning a wide decision in a scorecard that drew heavy scorn. Steve Weisfeld (114-113) ruled in favor of Castano, while Tim Cheatham (114-114) saw the action dead even in producing the stalemate and with the bout failing to produce the first-ever undisputed junior middleweight champion in the four-belt era.
Overwhelming demand has called for an immediate rematch, to which both Charlo and Castaño are receptive. Such a bout would again have to come with the cooperation of Murtazaliev, who has already accepted two step-aside offers to all the aforementioned unification bouts to first take place.
Russia’s Murtazaliev (19-0, 14KOs) became the mandatory challenger following a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over Jorge Fortea in their November 2019 title eliminator at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The bout served in supporting capacity to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s eleventh-round knockout of Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO light heavyweight title.
Two fights have since followed for Murtazaliev, both coming on the undercard of Showtime-branded events headlined by Charlo. The 28-year-old from Grozny, Russia scored a fourth-round stoppage of journeyman Manny Woods on the non-televised undercard of Charlo-Rosario last September, and outpointed Khiary Gray over eight rounds off camera preceding Charlo-Castaño this past Saturday at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Both undercard slots came as per terms worked out with Murtazaliev’s team. Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events told BoxingScene.com senior writer/columnist Keith Idec post-fight of the desire to secure the unbeaten boxer’s due title fight, as he is next in the rotation of mandatory challenger.
The fresh round of negotiations will determine whether that fight first takes place, or if another deal can be reached to allow Charlo and Castaño one more crack at crowning one king.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox