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The WBA says it's working to reduce number of champions

Under the direction of new WBA president Gilberto Mendoza Jr., the sanctioning body says they'll begin whittle down the number of titleholders they have in each division - starting with the welterweight, super welterweight, and heavyweight divisions.

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Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

The WBA might finally be moving in a new direction under the leadership of new WBA president Gilberto Mendoza Jr., who just recently took over after his ailing father stepped down from the position. Mendoza Jr. assures ESPN's Dan Rafael that the sanctioning body is working to reduce the number of titleholders in a division -- which can be up to four!

Mendoza admits that the elimination of numerous titleholders in each division won't happen overnight, but says he's working to that end.

"I am working to reduce the titles," Mendoza told [Rafael] on Tuesday. "At first some promoters [might] complain. I just tell them it is my final decision. They would have to live with it."

Despite it being blatantly ridiculous for there to be as many as four champions per division from one organization, it's a practice that has long benefited both the WBA and promoters -- allowing the WBA to collect more sanctioning fees from fighters, and allowing promoters to parade more of their fighters around as "champions." One hand washes the other and so forth.

But it's one step at a time on the road to change...

This week's WBA ratings finally saw Floyd Mayweather removed as champion at 147 and 154lbs, only four months after announcing his retirement from the sport. The move now makes Keith Thurman the No.1 man at welterweight and Erislandy Lara No.1 at super welterweight, according to the sanctioning body.

And while there are still interim titleholders at both weight classes, Mendoza Jr. says that David Avanesyan and Jack Culcay won't be bumped up to "regular" titleholders, nor will Thurman and Lara be promoted to "super" champion status. Mendoza Jr. claims that he'll eventually order both Thurman and Lara to fight the interim titleholders in mandatory defenses, which will leave only one champion at welterweight and super welterweight. Imagine that.

Mendoza Jr. also has immediate plans to bring the WBA's heavyweight titleholders to one as well, where they currently recognize three champions -- Tyson Fury, Ruslan Chagaev, and Luis Ortiz.

Chagaev is already slated to face Lucas Browne on March 5th, and the winner of that fight will have to immediately take on Fres Oquendo as ordered by a federal court (resulting from an Oquendo lawsuit). These fights will essentially make up one side of a tournament-style bracket.

On the flip side we have the rematch between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko, with the WBA acknowledging that they will honor the stipulated rematch clause from the fighter's original contract, making it a sanctioned title defense (something the IBF didn't do). While those two are settling their score, Luis Ortiz will have to face Alexander Ustinov on or before June 19th. Mendoza Jr. says that the Fury-Klitschko II winner will be ordered to fight the Ortiz-Ustinov winner, effectively eliminating the interim title and making up the other bracket.

Ultimately, the last man standing from the Ortiz/Ustinov/Fury/Klitschko bracket will take be mandated to face the survivor of the Chagaev/Browne/Oquendo bracket. And voilà -- only one champion!

"The winners of the two groups will fight for the world championship," Mendoza said. "And the WBA will have only one champion, as everybody expects."

If the WBA adheres to its plan to reduce its number of "champions," it could be a good start in restoring some the credibility of the oft-criticized organization.

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