While Leo Santa Cruz is the poster child for inactive WBA champions, cruiserweight titlist Arsen Goulamirian is a close second. He knocked out Ryad Merhy for the interim belt in 2018, which then transformed into the gold belt for his subsequent knockout of Mark Flanagan. That turned into the “world” belt when Beibut Shumenov got stripped, then the “super” belt when Denis Lebedev retired, all without Goulamirian stepping into the cage. He made two voluntary defenses in the span of 1.5 months, then vanished. He hasn’t fought at all since December 2019.
The saga gets sillier. Last year, he was all set to return to action against mandatory challenger Aleksei Egorov, only to withdraw due to COVID on fight day. Shortly thereafter, Russia invaded Ukraine prompting the WBA and other sanctioning bodies to announce sanctions on Russian athletes; as a result, Goulamirian was ordered to rematch Merhy, who’d gone from interim to world titlist in similarly nonsensical fashion. Merhy declined, in favor of moving to heavyweight, but while the war in Ukraine is still raging, the WBA has ditched its sanctions and ordered the Egorov fight again.
I guess they technically ditched the sanctions for Canelo vs Bivol, but yeah, still stupid.
It’s a perfectly decent fight on its own merits, pitting two largely unproven against one another, but it’s also a sad reminder of what’s happened to the cruiserweight division. It wasn’t long ago at all that it was among the most electric in the sport, and now look at it; Ilunga Makabu only has his WBC belt due to a robbery, the WBA title hasn’t been defended in almost three years, and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of WBC champ Lawrence Okolie since he stank out the joint in February.
Really needing that Okolie vs Opetaia unification once Jai’s mouth works again.