Undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk’s planned title defense against Tony Bellew had just hit a roadblock.
The WBA, which has Usyk as the “super” world champion, has ordered the consensus No. 1 cruiserweight to defend his title against Denis Lebedev, who is currently labeled as the WBA’s “champion in recess,” according to Lebedev’s manager.
The unorthodox label to the title comes after the WBA and Lebedev, the previous “super” champion, agreed to allow the WBA title to be on the line for the World Boxing Super Series. Yunier Dorticos, who entered the tournament as the WBA “regular” champion, lost his title to Usyk in the semifinals and by the point Usyk defeated Murat Gassiev to win the tournament, the “regular” title was then elevated to “super” version of the title.
As such, the previous ruling would be the that the WBSS winner would then fight Lebedev to crown to unify the two “super” champions’ titles.
The ruling is part of an effort by the WBA to decrease the number of world titles per weight class. The cruiserweight division has a ludicrous four WBA world champions at cruiserweight: Usyk holding the “super” title, Lebedev being “champion in recess,” Beibut Shumenov as the “regular” champion and Arsen Goulamirian as the “interim champion.”
But the order to have Lebedev fight for the “super” title could put a halt to a potential fight between Usyk and Bellew, a fight that has been under negotiations for weeks now. The fight, which could be Bellew’s retirement bout, has not been signed yet, but the plan is to have it take place in November in England.
In regards to the Usyk vs. Lebedev fight, the deadline to finish negotiations is October 3. Lebedev won the WBA “super” title in July 2017 when he defeated Mark Flanagan by unanimous decision. Lebedev has yet to fight since then but is currently scheduled to face Hizni Altunkaya on September 7.