Jermell Charlo was already forced to sever ties with one major title.
The unified and lineal junior middleweight champion could now end the year two belts short of his former undisputed status.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the IBF has enforced a long overdue mandatory title defense between Houston’s Charlo and unbeaten number-one contender Bakhram Murtazaliev. Charlo was previously given until Wednesday to confirm his plans to return to the division and will now have 30 days to work out terms for the contest.
The bout will mark Charlo’s first mandatory title defense during his second title reign, should he agree to proceed with the fight. He already relinquished the WBO junior middleweight title in lieu of a previously scheduled—and ultimate;y canceled—clash versus Australia’s Tim Tszyy. He insead moved up two weight divisions for a bigger payday versus fully unified super middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (60-2-2, 39KOs).
Charlo (35-2-1, 19KOs) entered the ring under an agreement that he would be announced as the recognized undisputed champion before the WBO would strip him of the title. He then proceeded to drop a landslide decision defeat to Alvarez, though he was able to retain his remaining junior middleweight titles.
Now comes the part where he has to revisit very old business.
Russia’s Murtazaliev has long had in his possession verified documentation that he was owed a title shot. The written agreement was in place as Charlo entered the last of three consecutive unification bouts in his tenth-round knockout of Brian Castano in their rematch last May 14 in Carson, California. The two previously met in July 2021, when their full unification bout ended in a split-decision draw.
Charlo’s team agreed to next face Murtazaliev following his desired rematch with Castano. However, those plans were compromised when the WBO trumped the IBF in the mandatory rotation order and instead instructed Charlo to next face Tszyu, which led to the titles being splintered once again.
Murtazaliev has been the mandatory since a November 2019 win over Jorge Fortea in their title eliminator. He has since four times, all buried on Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) non-televised undercards and on at least three occasions with a step-aside package to allow Charlo to fully unify the division.
Charlo is officially out of Teflon as he has exhausted all prior exceptions.
IBF rules state that all parties must commit to a fight once ordered by the sanctioning bodies. Ranked challengers who refuse are demoted in the rankings and barred from participating in sanctioned bouts for a minimum of six months. Defending titleholders who refuse to honor an ordered fight are relieved of their title reigns.
If that were to occur, Boxing Scene has learned that Murtazaliev (22-0, 15KOs) would next face Germany’s Jack Culcay, whose team has confirmed the former interim titlist’s willingness to enter such a fight.
Charlo’s current reign dates back to his revenge-fueled December 2019 eleventh-round knockout of Tony Harrison to regain the WBC title he lost exactly 52 weeks prior. He since added the WBA and IBF belts in an eighth-round knockout of Jeison Rosario during their September 2020 unification bout and the WBO strap in his aforementioned stoppage of Castano, which marked his last fight at the weight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox