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New WBO rankings set stage for Emanuel Navarrete vs Jessie Magdaleno

Magadaleno was bumped from #4 to #2 at featherweight after a DQ win over Yenifel Vicente

Pro Boxing Night During Coronavirus Pandemic in Mexico City Photo by Jaime Lopez for Zanfer/Jam Media/Getty Images

The WBO has two fresh vacancies to fill after 122-pound champion Emanuel Navarrete and 126-pound champion Shakur Stevenson vacated their respective titles to move up in weight. Per WBO regulations, a titlist can be named “super champion” and receive immediate mandatory status upon moving up or down in weight if they fulfill certain criteria; as a result, “Vaquero” and “Fearless” get shiny “#1” tags in their new weight classes. This makes Navarrete eligible to fight for the vacant 126 pound belt and gives Stevenson an eventual crack at 130-pound champion Jamel Herring, at least if Herring’s ongoing string of misfortune actually lets him back in the ring at some point.

Right away, WBO #4 featherweight Jessie Magdaleno (28-1, 18 KO) became the premier option for Navarrete (31-1, 27 KO); both men are signed with Top Rank, so there would presumably be no issues putting the fight together. There were, however, obstacles in the form of #1 Michael Conlan, #2 Ruben Villa, and #3 Ryan Walsh. Luckily for Magdaleno and Top Rank, however, the WBO just churned out a fresh set of rankings that moved Conlan to the super bantamweight list and allowed Magdaleno to leapfrog Villa and Walsh into the #2 slot.

This obviously screws Villa, who finds himself overtaken on the strength of Magdaleno’s DQ win over unranked Yenifel Vicente. Expect to see them announce this one soon.

I feel like this is a good time to talk about the WBO’s “super champion” system. It’s fine when someone has truly distinguished themselves in their original weight class, like Oleksandr Usyk unifying the entire cruiserweight division, granting the status to Navarrete when he didn’t face a single legitimate challenge after the Dogboe rematch and to Shakur Stevenson when he didn’t even defend the title is bogus. The regulations explicitly cite “quality of [the champion’s] opponents and their records” and claims that if a champion has fewer than 10 defenses, they’ll have had to have faced “opponents of high recognition and high skills.”

Yes, “the boxer’s amateur history will be considered,” but it’s hard to justify allowing fighters to forego a suite of waiting challengers in favor of just jumping ship. It’s also hard not to feel for #3 super featherweight Jeremiah Nakathila, who saw both Stevenson and Oscar Valdez cut in line.

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