Adrien Broner and Khabib Allakhverdiev are both coming off losses, and Allakhverdiev has not boxed for 18 months. Yet they are going to fight for a vacant junior welterweight world title -- unless Top Rank's protest is upheld.
Broner and Allakhverdiev will meet Oct. 3 (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) at the U.S. Bank Arena in Broner's hometown of Cincinnati, the network announced.
The bout is slated to be for the vacant WBA 140-pound title, which was recently relinquished by Danny Garcia because he moved up to the welterweight division on Aug. 1.
However, the WBA, which typically crowns multiple titleholders in the same weight class, also recognizes Jose Benavidez Jr. as its interim titleholder.
Top Rank, which promotes Benavidez, expected he would either be elevated to the organization's full titleholder or, at the very least, be ordered to fight a challenger to be determined for the vacant title, as per the organization's rules.
Instead, the WBA ordered Benavidez (23-0, 16 KOs), of Phoenix, to make a mandatory defense of his interim belt against Italy's Michele Di Rocco (40-1-1, 18 KOs). It further ordered that the sides should make a deal by Sept. 25 or the fight would be put up for a purse bid.
Top Rank attorney Harrison Whitman wrote the WBA a letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com, asking for an explanation and for it to "revisit" its order for Benavidez to defend the interim belt.
"We request the WBA revisit this instruction and, consistent with its rules, order a bout with Mr. Benavidez for the vacant [title]," Whitman wrote.
He pointed out the WBA rules covering what happens in the event a title is vacant.
"Section C, Rule 28 provides that the WBA's championship committee may elect to elevate the interim champion or will generally order the two highest ranked available boxers to compete for the championship," Whitman wrote. "Mr. Benavidez is the highest ranked [junior welterweight] boxer, and he rightfully should be competing for the vacant championship.
"For reasons we do not know, and none have been offered, the WBA circumvented Mr. Benavidez and ordered [Broner] the No. 2-ranked contender [loser of two of his last five fights, including his last fight] to compete against [Allakhverdiev] the No. 5-ranked contender [also the loser of his last fight] for the championship. There is no legitimate reason for the WBA to depart from its protocol to the detriment of Mr. Benavidez. In case there was any confusion, Mr. Benavidez is ready, willing and able to compete against any opponent for the vacant championship and we request the WBA order as much."
Broner (30-2, 22 KOs), 26, has won belts at junior lightweight, lightweight and welterweight, so he will be seeking a title in his fourth weight division. However, on June 20, he lost a clear decision to Shawn Porter in a fight in which Broner was out of shape and appeared to put forth very little effort. His reward for the defeat was another title shot.
"I'm excited to be back in Cincinnati taking on a tough world-class fighter who is going to bring it," Broner said. "This fight means the world to me. It's a huge deal to have the chance to be a four-division world champion at 26 years old."
Allakhverdiev (19-1, 9 KOs), a 32-year-old southpaw from Russia, is getting the title shot, even though he has fought only twice since 2012.
He won a vacant belt by eighth-round technical decision against Joan Guzman in 2012 and made one successful defense, an 11th-round knockout of former titlist Souleymane M'baye in July 2013. Allakhverdiev lost the belt by unanimous decision to Jessie Vargas in his second defense in April 2014.
"Broner is a good boxer, he is a fast and talented guy, but as a man I don't have anything good to say about him," Allakhverdiev said. "I am looking forward to a world championship-winning performance and I know that if he tries to do something to get in my head, to approach me or to push me -- that I will be as restrained as possible and save my anger for fight night."
In the co-feature, junior lightweight titlist Jose Pedraza (20-0, 12 KOs), 26, of Puerto Rico, will make the first defense of his belt against Edner Cherry (34-6-2, 19 KOs), 33, a native of the Bahamas from Wauchula, Florida.
Pedraza won a vacant 130-pound world title with a virtual shutout decision against Russia's Andrey Klimov on June 13 on Showtime in Birmingham, Alabama.
"I'm very excited to be back on Showtime defending my title," Pedraza said. "This is another step in the direction of becoming a superstar in the sport of boxing. I will be victorious and make my island proud."
Cherry, 10-0 with a no contest since 2009, will be getting his second shot at a world title. In 2008, he lost a unanimous decision challenging then-140-pound titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. Cherry is unbeaten at 130 pounds.
"I'm in a tough fight on Oct. 3, but I'm very excited for this opportunity," Cherry said. "This is nothing new for me. I'm not taking Pedraza lightly. He's a champion for a reason. This is something that comes once in a lifetime and I'm going all-in to win this title."