Lebedev, Kalenga, Shumanov. Who is the Recognized WBA Cruiserweight Champion?

Editorial By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent


On Friday, May 20, 2016, at Palais des Sports Porte des Versailles, in Paris, France, Youri Kayembe Malinga of The Congo will fight Cuban defector Yunier Dorticos of Miami, Florida, for the vacant interim World Boxing Association World Cruiserweight title.


On Saturday, May 21, 2016, World Boxing Association World Cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev of Russia will seek to unify the belts, fighting for the International Boxing Federation and WBA Super World Cruiserweight titles against IBF World Cruiserweight champion Victor Emilio Ramirez of Argentina at Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow.


Meanwhile, also on May 21, 2016, interim WBA World Cruiserweight champion Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan will fight for the regular World Boxing Association title in Chelsea Ballroom at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, against last minute challenger Junior Anthony Wright, the former Chicago Golden Gloves champion (in his second cruiserweight world title challenge).


How is it possible the World Boxing Association will have three world champions in the same 200 pound cruiserweight division? Worse, how is it possible the World Boxing Association could do three world title bouts in the same division within a 24 hour stretch?


The answers are as strange as they are fantastic. The unique situation is in fact real. Why?


Since fighting for more than one world title belt at a time upgrades the WBA status to ‘super champion’, the lower belt is immediately vacated. Likewise, if the regular WBA world title is not defended regularly of often enough, the WBA can order a vacant interim title. Rare it is when all three theoretical world title possibilities in the same division collide in the same weekend all at once. The general public would not have a clue as what it means.


Denis Lebedev is a Russian fighting in the face of the Olympic doping scandal, and the positive steroid test of Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin. Lebedev himself is clean. Victor Ramirez feels he can beat Lebedev, and he might-if Lebedev is not ready to fight a world class war. This happens to be a great matchup on paper, a great unification bout, and the best thing in 2016 short of the as yet mythical proposed middleweight championship bout between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez versus Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin.

Youri Kalinga and Yunier Dorticos are fighting each other for the vacant WBA regular title in reality for a shot at the winner of Lebedev versus Ramirez. Since their fight is on Friday night, and Lebedev versus Ramirez is on the Saturday following, the winner of Kalinga versus Dorticos will be known first in the sequence of the three WBA world cruiserweight title bouts. Therefore, the winner of Lebedev versus Ramirez will immediately know their next opponent-unless the IBF declares the winner of Lebedev versus Ramirez has to fight a mandatory opponent next-instead of the winner of Kalinga versus Dorticos.


Beibut Shumenov was known as a fighter who trained without a trainer, but now he has a trainer. A blown up light heavyweight fighting in the wrong division, Shumenov’s greatest enemy has been activity. His last bout last July 25 against B.J. Flores was 10 months ago. Against the limited and overrated Flores, Shumenov won unimpressively. His opponent, former Chicago Golden Gloves champion Junior Anthony Wright, has roughly 13 months left on his contract with promoter Dmitriy Salita. Unfortunately, Wright is a work-study fighter, meaning he has had to keep his day job while training after work. Without the promise of a sponsor or another fight anywhere, Wright took this last minute bout and made weight. To do so, he had to have been working out and sparring all along.


Likely in all three locations sports fans who will watch these bouts on sports television and the internet will believe the six cruiserweight fighters were all fighting for the WBA cruiserweight world championship. Lebedev is the best of the punch bunch. Ramirez has the best chance of rising to the occasion and winning, and challenging Kalenga or WBO cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Glowacki if he wins. The cruiserweight road is tough.


Denis Lebedev is the recognized WBA World Cruiserweight champion. His heart will be tested this weekend. However, who wins, who you cheer for, and who you believe is the champion is a matter of one’s personal viewpoint. The confusing matter over who the rest of the world considers the champion to be is a matter best left to the soul of Confucius.





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