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Tszyu verified as WBO No.1 contender

Tim Tszyu’s position as the WBO’s No.1 contender at 154lbs has been confirmed by the Puerto Rican sanctioning body, placing him at the head of the queue to face reigning champion Brian Castaño – in theory at least.

The timing of that title shot, and the opponent, will depend on whether Argentine Castaño proceeds with a rematch against WBA Super, WBC and IBF king Jermell Charlo, following their 12-round draw in July.

Russia’s No.2 contender Magomed Kurbanov (22-0, 13 KOs) had also petitioned for the No.1 slot with the WBO following his disputed points win over ex-champion Liam Smith in Ekaterinburg in May. The WBO reviewed the status of both fighters before siding with Australian Tszyu (19-0, 15 KOs)

“[After] carefully examined the parties’ submissions, the uncontested facts stated herein and having reviewed the ‘WBO Regulations of World Championship Contests’ and applicable provisions, we are of the position that Tim Tszyu best satisfies the required criteria for the designation of mandatory challenger in the Jr. Middleweight division,” said Luis Batista Salas, Chairman of the WBO Championship Committee, on the sanctioning body’s website. 

“The Committee believes that Tszyu’s activity has been significant considering that upon winning the Vacant WBO Global Jr. Middleweight Championship Title on August 14, 2019, Tszyu has successfully defended his regional championship on five occasions within a two-year term.

“Bear in mind that although Kurbanov’s total combined record of his last five opponents is similar to Tszyu’s, there are particular distinctions we must address. [Including] the level of opposition faced by Kurbanov is questionable, with only the former WBO Jr. Middleweight champion Liam Smith being a legitimate opponent. Further, this Committee cannot overlook that the Kurbanov/Smith bout decision was considered highly controversial, including Team Smith filing a request for [a] “return fight”, which the WBO denied.

“This ruling shall not be understood as an automatic enforcement of the mandatory title defence obligation as such obligations may be subject to modification or extension by the WBO World Championship Committee for a good cause, including but not limited to, granting sanction approval for a unification championship bout(s) as such terms and conditions determined by the Championship Committee. Furthermore, this ruling shall not be interpreted to grant nor create additional rights to Tim Tszyu. The scope of this “resolution” is hereby limited to the designation of mandatory challenger in the Jr. Middleweight division.

“Therefore, in the event that the Jermell Charlo/Brian Castaño rematch bout is agreed, the WBO World Championship Committee reserves its right to grant sanction approval considering that unification championship bouts trump WBO mandatory title defence obligations.”

A Castaño-Charlo rematch is no certainty with the IBF ruling that the Texan should negotiate with its long-time No.1 contender Bakhram Murtazaliev. An agreement between those parties has apparently been reached, but it’s unclear if that will result in a fight or another step-aside agreement for the California-based Russian. The IBF has already allowed Charlo to have two unification fights rather than face its unbeaten No.1 contender. If Charlo does meet Murtazaliev next, then the WBO will likely order Castaño-Tsyzu.