Recognised title holders Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua were unlikely to wake up in a cold sweat on Saturday morning, but from the strange and baffling perspective of the WBA, Trevor Bryan is now a heavyweight champion of the world.
After a controversial and bewildering few days, New Yorker Bryan returned from a 29-month lay-off to halt faded, former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne in 11 rounds to claim the vacant WBA ‘Regular’ title at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on Friday night.
On a Don King promotion dubbed ‘Return To Greatness’, that felt in doubt until the first bell rang, Bryan had originally been supposed to face the WBA’s long-term ‘Regular’ king Manuel Charr in the main event. German-based Syrian Charr hadn’t fought since November 2017 yet in the mad, mad world of the WBA was still a recognised heavyweight champion.
But when visa issues and political manoeuvrings reared their head, the absent Charr was stripped on fight night and Canadian Stiverne, winless since 2015, was promoted from the undercard and somehow approved worthy of contesting the vacant WBA championship. Charr, 36, was demoted to ‘Champion In Recess’ and therefore curiously remains in the WBA’s heavyweight title picture after a three-year absence.
Despite his own long run of inactivity, Bryan (21-0, 15 KOs) was too fresh for 42-year-old Haitian Stiverne who was last seen losing to Joe Joyce in six rounds back in February 2019.
It wasn’t entirely plain sailing. The new title holder had some sticky moments in the second when he was buzzed by a Stiverne right hand. Veteran Stiverne caused some problems with his guile and greater experience, but eventually fatigue set in against a man 11 years his junior.
Gradually, Bryan softened Stiverne up with a solid jab and persistent bodywork, dropping his Las Vegas based foe with a volley of right hands in the penultimate round.
A gassing Stiverne (25-5-1, 21 KOs) doggedly rose for more punishment, only to be floored with another right hand in a corner. He clambered upright once more, but was being overwhelmed on his feet when referee Frank Gentile intervened later in the 11th.
“I want all the top guys,” the Florida-based Bryan told Jake Donovan of BoxingScene shortly after his career-best win. “Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, they are on my radar and I want to stay active until I get them. This fight was to show everyone that I’m back!”
The WBA can now lay claim to four heavyweight champions and the attached sanctioning fees. The full roll call of WBA heavyweight title holders is: Anthony Joshua (Super), Trevor Bryan (Regular), Manuel Charr (Champion In Recess) and Robert Helenius (Gold). The WBA ‘Interim’ heavyweight title is currently vacant after former champion Bryan stepped up to contest the ‘Regular’ crown.
The madness continues.