Chinese brawler's big-money Canadian bout postponed indefinitely
Meng Fanlong's $460,000 (3.3 million yuan) payday is officially in limbo.
The 32-year-old southpaw from Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, was scheduled to challenge Russia's Artur Beterbiev for the IBF and WBC light heavyweight titles on March 28 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada, but the fight has been postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus.
Bob Arum, president and CEO of promoter Top Rank, announced last week that his company's cards scheduled for the remainder of March and all of April have been postponed indefinitely due to the worldwide pandemic.
Cards slated for the next two months will be rescheduled "as soon as it's safe and reasonable to do so", according to a Top Rank statement.
"The health and safety of our fighters, staff and ESPN's incredible production team is the most important thing as we plan our next steps," Arum said. "We look forward to the day when we can bring our loyal fans world-class boxing once again, but exercising caution is the most prudent thing to do at this moment."
Before postponing the Beterbiev-Meng fight, Arum explored the possibility of moving it from Quebec to an isolated studio setting in Las Vegas, but the logistics proved too daunting.
Meng (16-0, 10 KOs), who represented China at the 2012 London Olympics, said two weeks ago he hoped his title challenge would provide the nation with a much-needed morale boost.
"Parts of my country have been shut down for weeks," the 32-year-old told boxingscene.com. "My fellow citizens need something to help them escape from this very difficult time. I hope to bring some positivity, happiness and joy to them with this fight. I want to put pride in their hearts.
"My country needs me. We will get through this."
The 35-year-old Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs), a Russian who lives and trains in Montreal, is boxing's only current champion with a perfect knockout percentage. He unified the title by stopping Ukraine's previously unbeaten Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October.
Meng won a lopsided unanimous decision over Germany's Adam Deines last June in Macao to become Beterbiev's mandatory challenger. In his last outing, on Oct 5 in the US, Meng stopped Mexico's Gilberto Rubio in two rounds.
Meng was guaranteed the largest purse of his career for the title bout after Beijing-based Longjoy Sports won the initial purse bid, offering $1.9 million to beat Top Rank's $1.315 million offer.
After Longjoy defaulted on its bid last month, Top Rank took over the promotion and guaranteed Beterbiev 65 percent ($854,750) while Meng was guaranteed 35 percent ($460,250). The bout was scheduled to be televised live on ESPN in Canada and the US.
"I am truly honored to be fighting Beterbiev for the championship belts; I have worked very hard to earn the mandatory position and I plan on being the first Chinese light heavyweight champion in boxing history," Meng said when the deal was finalized. "This is just the beginning."
Top Rank's postponements will impact other world champions.
Japan's Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) was set to face the Philippines' Johnriel Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs) in a highly anticipated bantamweight title unification bout on April 25 in Las Vegas, with Inoue's IBF and WBA 118-pound titles and Casimero's WBO belt up for grabs.
Another April card Top Rank planned to promote in Las Vegas would have showcased IBF super flyweight titleholder Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. The Filipino champion (32-1-2, 22 KOs) was slated to defend his crown against Mexico's Jonathan Rodriguez (21-1, 15 KOs) on April 11.