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Crawford Made WBC Champion-In-Recess At 147 Lbs, Winner Crawford-Madrimov To Become WBC Mandatory At 154 Lbs In Surprising Move

In a surprising turn of events, the WBC has ruled Terence Crawford's (L) upcoming August 3rd bout against Israil Madrimov as a final eliminator bout; leaving the winner to become the WBC mandatory challenger. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Terence Crawford has been stripped of his WBC welterweight title as he was made a champion-in-recess in anticipation of his upcoming August 3rd match against Israil Madrimov, which will see Madrimov defend his WBA 154 lbs titles―and will see the vacant WBO interim title become available to be won by the winner. In addition to the possibility of the winner winning two titles, Crawford or Madrimov can also be made the WBC mandatory challenger if they come out on top on August 3rd.

The decision by the WBC to strip Terence Crawford (40-0, 31 KO’s) of his WBC title and position him as a champion-in-recess suggests there is a small possibility for the former undisputed welterweight champion to return to 147 lbs, though the WBC’s additional choice to designate the winner of Crawford-Madrimov as the WBC super welterweight mandatory challenger makes it a much more intriguing offer for Crawford to stay at 154 lbs if he defeats Israil Madrimov (10-0-1, 7 KO’s).

The move by WBC comes as somewhat of a surprise, with the sanctioning body having proven numerous times to be more favorable towards Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) fighters, yet their recent slew of decisions work against a PBC-aligned fighter Sebastian Fundora (21-1-1, 13 KO’s). Earlier this year, following his victory over Tim Tszyu (24-1, 17 KO’s), Fundora had been warned of needing to face his WBO-appointed mandatory in Terence Crawford, but received an exemption due to an injury.

As Crawford was already designated as the WBO mandatory at 154 lbs prior to Fundora entering the ring against Tszyu on March 30th, the winner of their match was set to become the WBC and WBO champion; which would therefore obligate them to face the designated WBO mandatory in Crawford. However, though Fundora came out on top, the injury that he suffered during that match left him unable to meet his obligations to face Crawford in the short-term.

Subsequently, Fundora’s own manager came out to suggest Crawford was not within his interest and that he preferred Fundora to either rematch Tim Tszyu, or face Errol Spence Jr (28-1, 22 KO’s) in a potentially money-spinning fight. That, of course, would go directly against the WBO’s mandate for him to face Crawford, leaving him liable to be stripped for refusing to fulfill his obligations.

Anticipating Fundora was clearly attempting to avoid or stall a match with Terence Crawford, the WBO reacted swiftly to outmaneuver Fundora and allegedly his PBC handlers by deciding that Fundora would need to face the winner of Crawford-Madrimov or risk being stripped. In addition, the WBO also made the WBO 154 lbs interim title available for the Crawford-Madrimov fight, signaling their attentions to strip Fundora if he were to refuse to fight the winner, and thereby promote the winner of the August 3rd bout to full champion.

The WBC’s recent decision now suggests a similar instance can occur with Fundora’s WBC title if he refuses to face the winner of Crawford-Madrimov. With the sanctioning body deciding to turn the Crawford-Madrimov fight into a final eliminator bout, the winner is set to not only hold the WBA 154 lbs title in addition to becoming the WBO interim champion; but they will also be considered the WBC mandatory challenger. Given the recent turn of events, it also leaves open the possibility for the WBC to introduce their own interim title for the Crawford-Madrimov fight.

With the recent rumors that Fundora is set for an October fight with Errol Spence Jr, the WBC’s recent decision to turn Crawford-Madrimov into a WBC final eliminator can be seen as blatant way to force Fundora to fight the winner of Crawford-Madrimov instead, or risk losing both the WBC and WBO world titles; ironically forcing the recently-unified champion to fulfill the mandatory obligations he was seeking to avoid by facing Spence or Tszyu.

Alternatively, the WBC’s decision could be made in anticipation of a Fundora-Spence fight, suggesting that the winner of that match-up must face the winner of the Crawford-Madrimov bout or risk being stripped.

The WBC’s decision further speaks of what may be a rift with PBC who they have helped numerous times in the past. Roughly a month ago, the WBC stripped PBC-associated fighter Jermall Charlo (33-0, 22 KO’s)―who had remained a WBC middleweight champion for over two years all while remaining inactive. Their recent decision to designate the winner of Crawford-Madrimov also suggests this potential conflict; as the WBC could have simply appointed Errol Spence Jr―or any other ranked fighter affiliated with the PBC―as the WBC 154 lbs mandatory challenger. Instead, the WBC’s decision to grant the mandatory status to Crawford or Madrimov, both of whom are not aligned with or signed to PBC, is quite telling.

In regards to the welterweight division, WBC interim 147 lbs champion Mario Barrios (29-2, 18 KO’s) can possibly become the full champion with Crawford needing to decide whether he will remain at 154 lbs following his match against Madrimov, or return to the welterweight division. Brian Norman Jr (26-0, 20 KO’s), who recently defeated Giovani Santillan (32-1, 17 KO’s) to become the WBO interim welterweight champion, is also in line to potentially be promoted to WBO world champion following August 3rd.