As a result of the WBO pretending to care about this sort of thing and refusing to sanction Erick Ituarte as an opponent for featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez on June 8, Ituarte is out and Jason Sanchez is in.
The WBO wouldn’t sanction Valdez-Ituarte because Ituarte wasn’t in their top 15 contenders. This is fine on paper, makes perfect sense, but it’s not as if this were some unheard-of situation, either.
When the rumors of a fight between WBO 130-pound titleholder Masayuki Ito and Jamel Herring came up a while back, the WBO said early that Herring wasn’t in the rankings, thus not a qualified challenger for the title.
So what happened? Somehow, despite fighting nobody in the meantime and doing nothing to change his standing in the sport, Herring wound up ranked No. 9 by the WBO in their last update. So Ito-Herring is on for May 25.
In all reality, it sounds like nobody had enough time in this case to make sure Ituarte got a ranking. That’s a lot more “boxing” than the idea that a sanctioning body suddenly had great, new standards.
Anyway, Jason Sanchez is now Valdez’s opponent for June 8 in an ESPN main event. Sanchez is the WBO’s No. 13-ranked contender, so he fits the bill on their end.
Other than that, this is absolutely no more competitive a fight on paper. Ituarte (21-1-1, 3 KO) is ranked No. 118 at featherweight in the world by BoxRec. Valdez-Ituarte was not a good title fight. Sanchez (14-0, 7 KO) is ranked No. 124 in the same division by BoxRec. The only actual difference is that Sanchez had gotten himself into the WBO rankings and Ituarte had not.
But good for Sanchez, tough break for Ituarte. I have nothing against Jason Sanchez, who will surely come and do his best, and hey, it might be an entertaining fight. Valdez (25-0, 20 KO) is one of the most purely exciting fighters in the entire sport these days, and Sanchez has the chance of a lifetime at age 24.
The show’s co-feature will be Sullivan Barrera, who just signed with Top Rank, against Michael Seals, which could also be entertaining. Seals had a great TV war with Edwin Rodriguez in 2015.
Lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr (13-0, 6 KO) will also be on the card in Reno, Nevada, coming off of his monster KO in his hometown of Stockton, California, on the May 4 ESPN show.