With Spence out, IBF orders interim title fight

With unified welterweight world titlist Errol Spence Jr. sidelined until at least the spring following an Oct. 10 car accident and due to make a mandatory defense of his WBC belt, the IBF has ordered Kudratillo Abdukakhorov and Sergei Lipinets to meet for its interim title.

After Abdukakhorov, Spence’s IBF mandatory challenger, and former world titlist Lipinets, ranked No. 3 in the sanctioning body, notified the IBF in writing that they would be willing to participate in the interim title bout, they were ordered to meet for the interim belt.

The IBF sent a recent letter to Carl Moretti of Top Rank, Abdukakhorov’s promoter, and Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, which represents Lipinets to advice them of the situation.

“IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. has sustained an injury and is unavailable,” IBF champions chairman Carlos Ortiz Jr. wrote to them. “Errol Spence Jr. is also the WBC welterweight champion. Based on a mutual agreement between the IBF and the WBC, Errol Spence Jr. has an obligation to make a mandatory defense of his WBC welterweight title. Errol Spence Jr. is further obligated to make a mandatory defense of the IBF welterweight title within 90 days of his WBC mandatory defense. The IBF is ordering a fight between the leading available contenders for an IBF welterweight interim title.”

Ortiz noted that negotiations should begin immediately and be concluded by Feb. 9 or a purse bid will be ordered.

The letter further said “should either contender decline to participate in negotiations, his ranking will be dropped to below No. 10 for at least six months and the next boxer in line will be offered the opportunity to enter the elimination process. Neither fighter can take an intervening fight until the elimination process is concluded.”

Moretti and Brown have begun discussions in an effort to make the bout.

Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9 KOs), 26, an Uzbekistan native fighting out of Malaysia, won a unanimous decision over Keita Obara on March 30 in Philadelphia in a title elimination bout to become Spence’s mandatory challenger. He risked that position on Oct. 18 when he faced former world titlist Luis Collazo and won by 10th-round technical decision in a fight he had dominated.

Lipinets (16-1, 12 KOs), 30, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Los Angeles, lost his 140-pound world title by unanimous decision to Mikey Garcia in March 2018, after which he moved up to the welterweight division and has won three fights in a row, including stopping former world titlist Lamont Peterson in the 10th round and sending him into retirement last March.

Spence (26-0, 21 KOs), 30, of DeSoto, Texas, was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from his Ferrari, which eventually flipped over several times, in the one-car accident in Dallas. Spence was transported to the hospital and was initially in intensive care, but he escaped without any major injuries. He stands charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.

Spence, who was just 2 1/2 weeks removed from the biggest win of his career on Sept. 28, when he won a split decision against Shawn Porter to unify two 147-pound world titles, said last month he has returned to training and plans to return to the ring to fight in May or June.