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Manny Pacquiao loses WBA belt but remains 'champion in recess'

Manny Pacquiao has yet to return to the ring for 18 months now. John Locher/AP (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—The World Boxing Association placed eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao on "champion in recess" status after going 18 months without a title defense.

In effect, Pacquiao lost his welterweight super title.

"Rule C.22-24 states that when a champion is unable to defend the belt for medical, legal or other reasons beyond his control, he may be named champion in recess," the WBA explained in a statement on Saturday.

Pacquiao attained the WBA super belt after beating Keith Thurman on July 21, 2019 (Philippine Time) in Las Vegas.

However, Pacquiao never got to fight for the rest of the year.

Worse, the COVID-19 pandemic put all of his 2020 boxing plans on hold, eventually putting all the focus on his senatorial job.

Speculations are rife on who Pacquiao will fight next, the "likeliest" of which being Ryan Garcia, who publicly declared that he is going to battle him soon.

Meanwhile, the WBA elevated Cuban pugilist Yordenis Ugas to super champion status.

Prior to the development, Ugas, a former Olympic bronze medalist, was the regular champion, beating American opponent Abel Ramos on Sept. 7 (Philippine Time) in Los Angeles.

"Thank God, my agent, my team, family, and fans. Today is a great day for me. Thanks to the WBA for raising me to Super Champion and doing what is best for [the] sport," Ugas tweeted.

Despite being the undisputed WBA champ now, the 34-year-old Ugas expressed openness to fight the 42-year-old Pacquiao for the title.

"I don't want this position for easy fights. My team has my consent for my next fight to fight Pacquiao if he wants to show who is the true WBA champion," Ugas further said.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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