Light heavyweight contender Eleider “Storm” Alvarez on Wednesday withdrew from participating in a purse bid for a vacant interim title against Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
The promotional rights for the bout were scheduled to be auctioned to the highest-bidding promoter on Friday afternoon at the WBC offices in Mexico City, with Alvarez in line for 60 percent of the winning bid.
It was headed to a purse bid because Alvarez promoter Yvon Michel and adviser Al Haymon and Gvozdyk promoter Top Rank never engaged in any negotiations for the bout, not a surprise given the years of rancor between Haymon and Top Rank.
Alvarez has won three WBC title elimination fights but has yet to fight for the title against world champion Adonis Stevenson because he has agreed to step aside — though Michel claims he has never been paid for his trouble. It is typical for a mandatory challenger to receive a payment from the champion if he steps aside to allow him to fight another bout first.
The WBC recently ruled that Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs), who is also with Michel and Haymon, could bypass Alvarez yet again and defend against former world titlist Badou Jack (21-1-3, 13 KOs), with Alvarez ordered to fight Gvozdyk for the interim title. The winners of the two bouts would then have to fight each other. But by pulling out of the fight with Gvozdyk, Alvarez probably will be dropped from his position, making his decision surprising.
“The WBC has received official notification from Alvarez in which he has withdrawn from the fight for the WBC interim title, consequently the purse bid scheduled for this Friday is now cancelled,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman wrote to both camps on Wednesday. “The WBC will now take the matter back to the WBC board to review and make a ruling on the division.”
Top Rank had hoped to put the bout on one of its February or March ESPN cards had it won the purse bid, but now it will have to wait to see what the WBC rules before it can move forward with another Gvozdyk fight. The WBC could simply elevate Gvozdyk to the mandatory position for a shot at the Stevenson-Jack winner.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that once again a fight disappeared for Gvozdyk after being ordered. We know Gvozdyk is a solid fighter, we just didn’t realize we have the second coming of Bob Foster,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti sarcastically told ESPN, referring to the all-time great former light heavyweight world champion and one of the biggest punchers in boxing history.
Ukrainian contender Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KOs), 30, who fights out of Oxnard, California, has been in training camp preparing for the fight he thought he would have against Alvarez.
On Wednesday, he sparred with super middleweight world titleholder David Benavidez, who is preparing for his own title defense against Ronald Gavril in a rematch on Feb. 17.
Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs), 33, a Colombia native based in Montreal, has been the No. 1 challenger for Stevenson since winning a majority decision in a title eliminator against Isaac Chilemba in November 2015.
He subsequently won elimination fights against Lucian Bute last February and against Jean Pascal in June. Michel said he, Haymon, manager Stephane Lepine and Alvarez all decided together to withdraw from the bout.
“He is the No. 1 WBC contender because he has earned it in the ring and we can see no logical reasons to fight a fourth final title eliminator,” Michel told ESPN, though the Gvozdyk fight would be for an interim title, which, with a win, would guarantee Alvarez a higher percentage of the money in the full title fight if it were to go to a purse bid. “His goal is to fight the champion.”
Stevenson, who won the title by first-round knockout of Chad Dawson in June 2013, has not made a mandatory defense in more than four years. Mandatory defenses are supposed to take place once per year. The only mandatory defense of Stevenson’s title reign, during which he has made eight defenses, was when he knocked out Tony Bellew in the sixth round of his second title defense in November 2013.