In a first for Belgian boxing, Ryad Merhy was crowned Interim WBA Cruiserweight (90.7 kilos) champion at Spiroudôme Charleroi on Saturday.
26-year-old Merhy knocked out his opponent, previously undefeated Hungarian Imre Szello (36), in the 7th round. This leaves Merhy with 29 wins and only one defeat. Szello suffered his first defeat in 25 fights. He had won all his previous fights by KO.
Szello was in trouble in the 6th round as Merhy picked up the pace. He voluntarily chose to take the count, but ultimately survived the round. After being knocked to the floor in the 7th round, the referee finally chose to stop the fight after a second count in the round.
Merhy is now the interim champion. Kazakh Beibut Shumenov is considered “Champion in Recess” as he was injured shortly after winning the title. He will theoretically have the possibility to win it back from his successor.
Merhy, from Brussels, suffered his only defeat at his first World Championship. This was at the Sports Palace in Marseille on the 24th of March 2018.
French boxer Arsen Goulamirian beat him in the 11th round after the referee opted to stop the fight. Goulamirian has since gone on to win the super-champion belt.
As he is now a WBA champion, Merhy could choose to take on Goulamirian again, this time for the title of WBA super-champion. He could even go for the WBC (World Boxing Council) title, which is currently vacant.
Merhy’s manager Alain Vanackere, who organised Saturday’s gala at Charleroi cathedral, will have to ensure he makes the rights moves so Merhy can move forward in the world boxing scene.
Visibly moved, Ryad Merhy thanked the large audience at the arena. They had not stopped chanting his name throughout the fight. “I felt an enormous amount of warmth, which really helped me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all.”
The Brussels Times