Shannon Briggs, Fres Oquendo ordered to fight for vacant heavyweight title

Although they are both about a decade past their best days, heavyweights Shannon Briggs and Fres Oquendo have been ordered to meet for a vacant world title.

The WBA announced that it has mandated that the fighters meet for the organization's vacant "regular" belt while world titleholder Anthony Joshua and former unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko will have the vacant so-called "super" title on the line for their mega matchup on April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London.

Briggs (60-6-1, 53 KOs), 45, of Brooklyn, New York, and 43-year-old Oquendo (37-8, 24 KOs), of Chicago, have until Feb. 1 to make a deal or a purse bid will be ordered. As part of the order, the WBA also said that the Briggs-Oquendo winner must make a mandatory defense against Alexander Ustinov (33-1, 24 KOs), 40, of Belarus.

The belt became vacant because after Lucas Browne scored a comeback 10th-round knockout of Ruslan Chagaev to win it in March, Browne tested positive for a banned substance and was stripped of the title, which was given back to Chagaev. However, Chagaev was later stripped for his failure to pay delinquent sanctioning fees to the WBA.

Australia's Browne (24-0, 21 KOs) was then due to fight Briggs for the vacant belt on Dec. 31 but the fight was canceled after Browne failed a second random drug test in eight months. He is under suspension from participating in any WBA-sanctioned fight, according to the organization.

So Briggs will face Oquendo, who has been out of action since a majority decision loss to Chagaev for the vacant belt in July 2014. Oquendo is in the picture because of what happened in the wake of the loss to Chagaev.

Oquendo had a rematch clause in the contract, but Chagaev's team attempted to set up another title defense first. It got even uglier when Oquendo claimed he was not paid for the fight and the Chagaev team claimed Oquendo failed a drug test.

Ultimately, Oquendo sued Chagaev in United States federal court to force the rematch and won an injunction to stop Chagaev from defending the belt against anyone other than Oquendo. But Oquendo has been idle since because of a shoulder injury that required surgery in November 2015. Now that Oquendo is clear to fight again, the WBA still owes him a title bout.

Briggs, a two-time world titleholder, last fought for a title in 2010 and absorbed a frightening beating at the hands of Vitali Klitschko, who so severely punished him a shutout decision that Briggs wound up in a German hospital for about two weeks. A four-year retirement followed, but Briggs returned in mid-2014 and has won nine fights in a row, although all have come against low-level opposition.