Belgium’s Ryad Merhy (28) has now become the World Boxing Association (WBA) light-heavyweight boxing champion following the refusal of Beibut Shumenov to fight him, which caused the Kazakh boxer to be stripped of his crown.
Merhy, who has 29 wins, including 24 by knockout, is Belgium’s first boxing champion. His challenger is Cuba’s Yuniel Dorticos.
The WBA, one of the world’s four main boxing federations, instructed 37-year-old Shumenov, who resides in Las Vegas, to hand over the belt to Merhy.
Shumenov (18 wins, including 12 by K.O., and 2 losses) had recovered from the injury that had enabled him to enjoy the status of ‘Champion in Recess” but continued refusing to fight interim champion Merhy even after the WBA’s intervention. As a result, the association awarded the title to the Belgian pugilist.
The new champion will have to defend his title against 34-year-old Dorticos, who has 24 wins, twenty-two of them by K.O, and two losses.
“After months of patience, it is my pleasure to announce to you that I am officially the regular WBA light-heavyweight champion,” Merhy wrote on his Facebook page. “I’m etching my name a little more in history and this is only the beginning,” he added. “Thanks to everyone! Thanks to my team and my trainer Alan Vanack!”
The champion’s belt will be sent to Belgium in the next few days.
The Merhy team hopes to organise his fight against Dorticos in Belgium. “We’ll probably get help from the Walloon authorities,” Vanackère said, “but that won’t be enough. I also need to find private partners…”
Merhy had won the title of interim world champion by beating Hungary’s Imre Szello by KO in the 7th round on the 19th of October 2019 at the Charleroi Dome.
No other Belgian boxer has ever become world champion, although Gustave Roth (midweight) and Felix Wouters (welterweight) were crowned champions in 1936 and 1938 respectively by the IBU. At the time, the IBU was a minor, exclusively European, federation that was not recognised by the Americans.
There have been five challenges, all unsuccessful, by Belgians: Jean-Pierre Coopman in 1976 against the great Mohammed Ali, Jean-Marc Renard in 1989, Alex Miskirtchian in 2014 and Stéphane Jamoye in 2013 and 2014.