The WBA will crown its fourth active ‘world’ welterweight champion when Venezuelan Gabriel Maestre meets Canadian Cody Crowley for the vacant Interim belt at The Armory in Minneapolis on August 7.

The winner will join Manny Pacquiao (Champion In Recess), Yordenis Ugas (Super champion) and Jamal James (Regular champion) in the WBA’s ever-growing 147lbs championship family. Rising star Vergil Ortiz also holds the WBA Gold belt in the division.

Pacquiao, who meets WBC and IBF king Errol Spence in Las Vegas on August 21, is widely regarded as the WBA’s true champion after defeating Keith Thurman in July 2019 before the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Earlier this week, President of MP Promotions Sean Gibbons took issue with the Panamanian sanctioning body’s demotion of Pacquiao to ‘Champion In Recess’ – due to a lack of activity – in January, as Cuban Ugas was promoted to ‘Super’ title holder without a punch being thrown. Ugas hasn’t fought since winning the WBA Regular belt with a split decision over Abel Ramos in September 2020.

“I can tell you what Manny didn’t receive – due process and respect,” said Gibbons.  “It took two years to get the world title belt he earned inside the ring by beating the undefeated Super Champion Keith Thurman.  Hell, Manny only received that belt on Saturday.  The WBA never inquired about Manny’s title defence plans.  The WBA never warned us Manny’s Super Champion status could be in jeopardy.  The WBA never informed us that Manny had been designated its Champion in Recess.  We had to read the WBA’s press release on that on the internet.  

“And speaking of Keith Thurman, the WBA had no concern about his lack of activity when he went over 22 months between title defences (Danny Garcia on March 4, 2017 and Josesito Lopez on January 26, 2019).  Recess is over.  The two best fighters in the welterweight division are facing each other [Pacquiao and Spence].  It should be celebrated and properly recognised.  The Ring is even blessing the winner as its welterweight champion.  This is not a sanctioning group.  It is a used car lot.  Take my advice.  Before paying the WBA a sanctioning fee, kick the tires and read the warranty.  Perhaps their new slogan should be Caveat Emptor [let the buyer beware].”

Yet the sanctioning fees continue to roll in. Venezuelan Maestre (3-0, 3 KOs) brings a rich amateur pedigree but at 34 really has no time left to waste. The two-time Olympian beat the likes of Brian Castano, Carlos Adames, Alexander Besputin, Oscar Molina and Brian Ceballo in the unpaid ranks and halted veteran Argentine contender Diego Chaves (WTKO4) in just his second bout.

“I am very happy to make my US debut on August 7,” said Maestre. “This is a wonderful opportunity for me. I have the chance to show the whole world what class I’m in and that I’m a great boxer. I’m excited to begin this journey in the US on my way to becoming a world champion.”

Canadian southpaw Crowley (19-0, 9 KOs), aka ‘The Crippler’, returns to action after a September 2020 points triumph over Josh Torres. 

“On August 7, the world will discover a new welterweight force in the division in Cody Crowley,” said Crowley. “I know that they call Gabriel Maestre the ‘Venezuelan Lomachenko’, but after I beat him for the crown, he will return to Venezuela known as the man who put me in position for my first world championship. I want to thank my team for giving me this huge opportunity. And, most importantly, I want to thank my fans in Canada, the United States and the world who have stuck by me as I’ve awaited this chance to shine in front of a worldwide audience on FOX.”

The Maestre-Crowley card will also feature WBA No.1 contender Eimantas Stanionis against former Ricky Hatton foe Luis Collazo and the return of two-division champion Devon Alexander against Luke Santamaría in welterweight 10-rounders.

Main image: PA images/Alamy.