In a rather interesting but certainly not unwelcome move, the WBO has put together a four-man tournament to determine its next light heavyweight champion, ordering Gilberto Ramirez vs. Eleider Alvarez and Umar Salamov vs. Maxim Vlasov as semifinals before the winners square off for the belt Canelo Alvarez vacated.
Rankings-wise, these matchups put #1 vs. #4 and #2 vs. #3.
Ramirez (40-0, 26 KO) looked like a beast in his division debut last April, torching Tommy Karpency in four rounds, but has yet to compete since. Mike Coppinger reports that “Zurdo” turned down a spot on the Fury-Wallin card and is looking to buy out his contract with Top Rank, which could complicate the negotiations here.
Which is a shame, because this is a really great potential matchup. Alvarez (25-1, 13 KO) proved he’s still a threat at 35 years old this past weekend with an early Knockout of the Year candidate at Michael Seals’ expense. There had been rumblings of him facing another dangerous puncher in Joe Smith Jr. for the belt, but I like this idea better.
While Salamov (25-1, 19 KO) vs. Vlasov (45-3, 26 KO) doesn’t have the same level of name value, it’s another good bit of matchmaking. Salamov is in need of a major win to validate his high ranking and Vlasov consistently does well against everyone but the top of the division. This might also have a complication, though, as Vlasov has been in talks to meet Anthony Yarde on April 18th.
I wouldn’t put money on the mini-tourney happening as planned. Sure hope it does, though.