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Chris Algieri forced to vacate 140 pound belt for Pacquiao fight

Chris Algieri is no longer the WBO junior welterweight champion, a surprising move that could signal the sanctioning body hedging their bets at 140 and 147 on Manny Pacquiao.

ChinaFotoPress

The WBO announced at its convention this week that junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri would have to relinquish his title because of his welterweight title fight with Manny Pacquiao on November 22 in Macau, which will air on HBO pay-per-view.

Algieri (20-0, 8 KO) won the belt from Ruslan Provodnikov in one of the year's more notable upsets, which opened him up to the Pacquiao bout, and eventually landed him the opportunity of a lifetime.

The move by the WBO to strip Algieri of the belt without allowing him to defend, while also sanctioning the welterweight title fight with Manny, is controversial at best. Usually in a circumstance like this, where the sanctioning body controls both of the belts in question, the fighter in Algieri's position would be given time to decide which belt to keep, at the very least, should he beat Pacquiao and win a title in a second weight class.

And more often than not, that fighter is also then open to return to defending the title in the lower weight class. Floyd Mayweather currently holds the WBA and WBC junior middleweight titles, but hasn't defended his WBA belt at 154 pounds since he won it against Canelo Alvarez in September 2013. The WBA does have a "regular" titleholder in the division, which is Erislandy Lara, who fought Alvarez at a catchweight in a non-title bout in July. Lara still has his belt, and will defend it on December 12 against Ishe Smith.

The WBA and WBO are not the same, of course, but it's worth noting that back in 2010, Pacquiao was in a similar spot. He held the WBO welterweight title, which he'd won from Miguel Cotto in November 2009. He defended that in March 2010 against Joshua Clottey, then moved up for a junior middleweight title fight against Antonio Margarito in November 2010.

The Pacquiao-Margarito fight was contested at a 150-pound catchweight, with the vacant WBC title at stake. But Pacquiao was never stripped of his title, and after winning and immediately vacating the WBC 154-pound title, Pacquiao returned to defending his WBO welterweight belt in 2011.

Pacquiao's fights are worth a lot more money than Algieri's, of course, so the feeling might be that since Algieri is likely to lose to Pacquiao -- those are the odds, anyway -- they might as well move the 140-pound title belt off of him, too. It's a pretty surprising move overall, and one that kind of screws Algieri, but hopefully at the very least, he'll get a shot to regain that belt if he does lose to Pacquiao and wants to move back down.

Of course, Pacquiao's team has also talked about moving down to 140 pounds again if he beats Algieri and feels good at the 144-pound catchweight, so it's also very possible that if Manny beats Algieri and moves down, he'll immediately fight someone for the vacant WBO junior welterweight title.