In a move that has been expected for months, Oleksandr Usyk's reign as the undisputed cruiserweight champion comes to an end after vacating his WBA "super" title.
The undefeated champion made the move official today, one day before he was set to have a purse bid against mandatory challenger Denis Lebedev. While Usyk still technically holds the WBO, WBC and IBF titles, he is expected to vacate those titles soon as he is preparing for his heavyweight debut later this year.
As for the status of the title itself, it is possible that the WBA could reinstate Lebedev, currently listed as "Champion in Recess," as the "Super" champion once more or the WBA would order Lebedev to fight the highest-ranked available contender in the WBA rankings, which could likely be No. 4 Yury Kashinsky. Yunier Dorticos and Andrew Tabiti, ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, are facing each other in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals on June 15 in Latvia while Ryad Merhy, ranked No. 3, is scheduled to defend his WBA International title in Belgium on May 4.
Lebedev was once the WBA "Super" champion at 200 pounds, but had an extended lay-off from the ring that lasted roughly 14 months from 2017 to 2018. In that time, Lebedev was named "Champion in Recess," which virtually guaranteed a shot at his title at a later date.
While Lebedev was having his 14-month break from the sport, the title was put up for grabs in the first season of the World Boxing Super Series. Murat Gassiev won the WBA "Super" title in the semifinals, but lost it to Usyk in the WBSS finals last year with all four major alphabet titles on the line. Lebedev returned to the ring last September with a third-round knockout win over Hizni Altunkaya and last fought in November when he won a 12-round decision against Mike Wilson.
The WBA also has a "Regular" cruiserweight champion in Beibut Shumenov, but he is currently slated to face off against Arsen Goulamirian later this year. No date or venue has been announced, but promoter Don King is looking to have the fight take place in Kazakhstan in May.
Usyk is the first-ever undisputed cruiserweight champion to hold the WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF and Ring Magazine titles at the same time. Usyk defended his titles last November when he knocked out Tony Bellew in Manchester.
Even though Usyk's heavyweight debut has yet to be formally announced, it is likely to take place in Chicago in mid-May. A number of opponents have been mentioned, but the latest name linked to a fight against Usyk is former title challenger Carlos Takam, whom Mike Coppinger reported has agreed to terms with the undefeated Ukranian to a title bout.