I don't usually give too much credit to the WBA but when it's due...
The worst of the four sanctioning bodies recently refused requests from long-reigning champions to delay mandatory bouts against contenders who have been more than patient in waiting for their turn.
WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz hasn't fought at that weight in over three and a half years or defended against a mandatory challenge in four and a half, and despite his promise to fight "regular" champion Leigh Wood to dispose of another WBA regular title, Santa Cruz asked for an exemption to fight newly crowned WBC champion Rey Vargas.
Normally, I'd be all in favor of a unification fight but this clearly was another dodge by Santa Cruz and his promoters, who also promote Vargas and just as importantly do not promote Wood, a Matchroom fighter, in order to keep things in the PBC house.
Considering Santa Cruz's blatant disinterest in the division, it's pretty easy to see what would happen if the WBA would grant the exemption and Santa Cruz would defeat Vargas- rather than fight Wood, Santa Cruz would likely keep his newly won WBC title and vacate the WBA belt.
The WBA's refusal and order for a purse bid for a Santa Cruz-Wood fight was the right thing to do and it forced PBC and Matchroom to work together to get a deal completed.
The camps have come to terms and although the network and date are yet to be decided, the floated date is November 12th or 19th, which is very interesting because those are the two dates that have been rumored as the target for an Errol Spence-Terence Crawford showdown and it seems that Santa Cruz vs Wood could be the co-feature on PPV.
That would be a welcome change to have an important and exciting fight on a PPV card as the secondary fight to a great main event- Good for PBC for placing it there if that is the plan!
The WBA also refused a waiver for their light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol to skip top contender Gilberto Ramirez in favor of another in-house fighter, in this case, Matchroom and Joshua Buatsi as Ramirez is signed with Golden Boy Productions.
While Buatsi is a deserving contender, Ramirez is even more so with a 168-pound title on his resume and wins in two WBA eliminators to secure the top contender spot.
Plus Bivol hasn't made a mandatory defense since a win over Sullivan Barrera in 2018, so he's far overdue for a mandated fight- especially one against the undefeated Ramirez which should be a good matchup between two undefeated fighters with championship backgrounds.
In both cases, the champions might have received their hall passes had they had a better background in being active against their best contenders.
I'm not against either Santa Cruz-Vargas or Bivol-Buatsi, neither is a bad fight at all but the mandated fights are even better with two deserving and patient challengers- Good for the WBA for making these happen.
As for that Errol Spence-Terence Crawford fight, it is rumored to be close to happening and it would likely take place in November in Las Vegas,
The long-anticipated fight between unbeaten welterweight champions had been held up for years by the promotional issues between PBC (Spence) and Crawford's then-promoter Top Rank but since Crawford's agreement with Top Rank ended with his last fight, a win over Shawn Porter, the fight is closer to being signed.
While the winner is likely to vacate the titles and move to 154 pounds, the problems in making Spence-Crawford may return like a bad case of food poisoning with two undefeated young stars that are likely to each collect one of the titles that are vacated in Jaron "Boots" Ennis and Vergil Ortiz.
Ennis is loosely affiliated with PBC and has a commitment to Showtime while Ortiz is promoted by Golden Boy and their broadcaster is DAZN, so I could easily see a few years move by before those two meet in the ring.
Hopefully, we won't have to suffer through another interminable wait before we do.
Josh Taylor has already vacated two of his four unified junior welterweight titles and it seems that he will shortly drop his third.
Taylor has dropped the WBA title rather than fight their undistinguished top contender Alberto Puello and the WBC belt instead of defending against the very deserving Jose Zepeda and soon will drop the IBF championship rather than defend against Jeremiah Ponce.
Ponce has won two stay-busy fights since stepping into the IBF's top contender spot with an impressive tenth-round knockout of favored Lewis Ritson in June 2021 in Ritson's hometown in England but while I like Ponce as a fighter and think he is deserving on ability, in the talent-packed division I'm not sure Ponce's wins are deserving of being in the top ten let alone a mandatory challenger position.
Taylor is keeping the WBO title in order to fight a rematch of his controversial win against Jack Catterall.
The answer to this mess could have been as simple as the three organizations giving Catterall credit for the fight that he deserved to win and installing him as the top contender in all three (along with the WBO) group's ratings and mandating the rematch everyone wants to see but that would take intelligence and cooperation- both traits that are seldom used in boxing.
I'm usually not thrilled with some of the cards that PBC and Fox have placed on PPV rather than on a free platform with the Keith Thurman-Mario Barrios and Luis Ortiz-Charles Martin shows this year alone coming to mind.
While I'm not sure of the price of the event or the need for it to be on PPV at all, the PBC card on Sunday, September 4th is a pretty nice slate.
The main event between former heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz and former title challenger Luis Ortiz could be a boom or bust bout as it could be an exciting slugfest or a clinch-filled bore but it still is an intriguing fight and should the winner do so with a conclusive knockout, it's not out of the question that they could be in position to challenge for a title again.
And the undercard is interesting as well with Isaac Cruz's comeback from his close loss to Gervonta Davis against rugged veteran Eduardo Ramirez in a lightweight eliminator, former champion Abner Mares returning from a multi-year layoff against former title challenger Miguel Flores, and talented prospect Jose Valenzuela battling former WBA junior lightweight champion Jezreel Corrales.
Maybe it should not be a PPV card but credit to PBC for putting together a strong event from the top to bottom.